Tehama Art Studio Tour
● By Melissa Mendonca
By Melissa Mendonca
Photo courtesy of Folkhearts, pottery by Yellie Lawrence
The popularity of home tours, magazines and TV shows has proven that we have a deep desire to witness the spaces in which others live. For those of us seeking creative inspiration, a tour of art studios offers something even deeper. “People can see how artists operate,” says Vicki Allwardt, organizer of the second annual Open Studio Tehama County. “They can ask questions.”
This year’s studio art tour encompasses two weekends – December 3-4 and 10-11 – and welcomes the public to the studios of more than eight Tehama County artists free of charge. “You can go to one or you can go to all,” adds Allwardt. “And you can come back.”
Vicki and her husband Dennis, also an artist, will open the doors to their home studio created through renovation of their garage. Vicki is an award-winning folk artist certified through the National Society of Decorative Artists, and has taught across the country.
“I do mostly functional art, mostly in watercolor and acrylic,” she says. “But I prefer to work on things that are functional.” Just about everything is game for her to paint, from sundials to tea sets.
Husband Dennis works in acrylics on canvas and does mixed-media art featuring affirmations. The couple have been in their home for 47 of their 50 married years.
Also on tour will be Jay Murphy of Sculptural Eccentrics and Western artist Jamie Means, both of whom have renown in their respective mediums. Murphy’s entire house is a gallery, showcasing not only his own art, but pieces he has lovingly collected. His downstairs studio offers a delightful insight into his process of creating aptly named eccentric sculptures. A drive to Means’ studio will require some backroads navigation but will pay off in a close-up look at works that have been exhibited and sold through the C.M. Russel Museum Auction and prestigious art auctions in Santa Fe and Scottsdale.
A cheery orange door welcomes visitors to the home studio of Frances Gonzales Becker in the Surrey Village neighborhood of Red Bluff. “It used to be my family room,” she says. “I took out the couches and the TV. I grew out of my kitchen table and needed a place to call my studio.” Becker is eclectic in her subject matter as well as her mediums. “I change,” she says. “I’ve done different mediums, but right now I’m really into oils. I love the feel, the texture, how they spread. It’s like spreading butter on bread.” If she finds herself in need of inspiration for a painting, she goes out to cut glass for mosaic pieces, which gets her creative juices flowing again.
Right around the corner from Becker is Patty Tompkins, a weaver and spinner who has also converted her living room into a studio. Hers, however, holds six looms of various sizes and five spinning wheels. “About 45 years ago I read an article about handwoven rugs,” she says. “Six months after I got married, my husband bought me a loom.” He may not have realized the interest would take over the front of his house. Eventually he built her a Navajo loom, which is vertical. “I’ve always been enamored of their weaving,” she says of Navajo artists.
Tompkins makes rugs, yarn, dish towels and scarves and teaches both spinning and weaving. She also participates in annual events to promote spinning and weaving, such as the week-long spinathon known as Spinzilla and the Sheep to Shawl competition at the Black Sheep Gathering in Eugene, Oregon. At the latter event, a weaver and five spinners compete to card raw wool, spin and weave it into a shawl in a set period of time.
While most of the studios are in Red Bluff, a few, including Blynne Froke’s, can be found elsewhere in Tehama County. A short drive to Los Molinos will bring you to the retired English teacher’s studio and her interpretation of the birds she sees on her weekend runs and hikes in nearby hills. In 2012, she was the Iditarod Teacher on the Trail and blogged her adventures through the Alaskan wilderness to students around the world as she traveled by bush plane on the race trail.
Other artists on tour will be potters Yellie Lawrence and Noni DeFour, jeweler Priscilla Aragon and metal sculptor Bill Randberg. Bruce Ross will also open the studio where he creates wood and ceramic bowls.
“The purpose to give people an idea of the diversity of art in Tehama County,” says Dennis Allwardt. With a warm smile, his wife Vicki adds, “It’s really pleasant because everyone agreed that we’d all get our places all cleaned up.” •
Open Studio Tehama County
December 3-4, 10-11
Maps and directions available at Red Bluff’s Enjoy the Store, Dale’s Carpet, the Green Room and the Tehama Country Visitor Center