Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

On ARTour: Up close with two artists inside their Northfield studio November 4, 2013

Artist Sue Hammes-Knopf of Full Bloom Beadworks at work beading.

Artist Sue Hammes-Knopf of Full Bloom Bead Work beading.

HANDCRAFTED BEAD BRACELET dangling from her left wrist, Sue Hammes-Knopf slips specks of orange beads onto a needle and then onto a matching orange string.

An example of Sue's original earrings.

An example of Sue’s original earrings.

I marvel at her ability to do this—to work with the tiniest of beads in the spotlight of a long-armed lamp that looms over her work area. Natural sunlight from four floor to ceiling windows kisses her back.

A stunning beaded bracelet created by Sue.

A stunning beaded bracelet created by Sue.

I cannot imagine having the patience, steadiness of hand or vision to work with such fine beads, to create the beautiful bead work I see here, in this third floor studio in historic downtown Northfield during the South Central Minnesota Studio ARTour.

Beading supplies.

Beading supplies.

And when I speak my thoughts aloud, Sue muses that she’s developed patience in 35 years of marriage and that she “feels” the beads as much as sees them.

The beautiful studio space of MRG Arts and Full Bloom Beadworks, 101 E. 5th St., Northfield. Maryrose Gondeck is on the left, Sue Hammes-Knopf on the right.

The beautiful studio space of MRG Arts and Full Bloom Bead Work, 101 E. 5th St., #305, Northfield. Maryrose Gondeck is on the left, Sue Hammes-Knopf on the right.

Across the room, Maryrose Gondeck also creates art. She’s worked in numerous mediums—graphite, oils, acrylics, pastels, pen and ink, colored pencils, photography…

Maryrose Gondeck's original corn art grace posters and promotional materials for the South Central Minnesota Studio ARTour.

Maryrose Gondeck’s original corn art graced posters and promotional materials for the recent South Central Minnesota Studio ARTour. This sign directs visitors to her studio and two others on the third floor of an old building in historic downtown Northfield.

Her drawing of ripened corn on corn stalks was the visual symbol of this year’s Studio ARTour. A perfect fit for a tour of 20 studios featuring 44 artists in the rural region that encompasses Northfield, Faribault and Cannon Falls.

Among Maryrose's art supplies.

Among Maryrose’s art supplies.

Maryrose's graphite drawings showcased in a hallway.

Maryrose’s graphite drawings showcased in a hallway.

What a plethora of gifted artists we have here, in this area of Minnesota I call home.

I noticed this signage outside  Maryrose and Sue's studio as I exited. Theirs was the final studio I would visit during the South Central Minnesota Studio ARTour.

I noticed this signage outside Maryrose and Sue’s studio as I exited. Theirs was the final studio I would visit during the South Central Minnesota Studio ARTour.

FYI: This concludes my series of five posts on the South Central Minnesota Studio ARTour. To see previous posts showcasing selected artists on the tour, check my recent archives.

The work of 44 artists was shown in 20 studios during this annual October event. This year I chose to peruse the work of some artists I had not seen on past tours. And I know, in that selective process, I missed out on viewing other incredible art. Next year.

I’d encourage you to visit the Studio ARTour website to learn more about all of the participating artists.

Also, check out the upcoming Fine Craft Collective, a collaborative gallery show at 506 Division Street in downtown Northfield open from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday – Saturday and from noon – 4 p.m. Sundays from November 14 – December 24. You will find the works of 17 local artists for sale at this annual event. Click here for more info.

No matter where you live, I hope you will support local artists by attending events like the South Central Minnesota Studio ARTour and the Fine Craft Collective, by encouraging and asking questions, and, if you can, purchasing art.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s in rural southwestern Minnesota, with minimal exposure to the arts. It was the times as much as the distance and lack of money which isolated me from the art world. That is why, perhaps, I appreciate the arts as much as I do. Absence, as they say, makes the heart grow fonder.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

On ARTour: A peek inside Kip O’Krongly’s studio & art October 25, 2013

Cerarmic artist's Kip O'Krongly's second floor studio.

Ceramic artist Kip O’Krongly’s second floor studio.

HER ART STUDIO POSSESSES an almost industrial, spartan look. Clean lines. Tidy. Labels. Schedules. Everything just so.

Supplies and tools, all in their place.

Supplies and tools, all in their place.

Kip O’Krongly freely admits to her need for orderliness in the second floor ceramics studio of her Northfield home.

Gertie rises from her spot beneath the windows.

Gertie rises from her spot beneath the windows.

Here, in this slanted ceiling room with the tile floor she laid and with sunlight streaming in, Kip’s dog, Gertie, rests briefly on a blue and green plaid blanket below double windows. A short respite from visitors, like me, who have filtered into Kip’s studio and home during the South Central Minnesota Studio ARTour.

During this (last) weekend open house, I am visiting the studios of select artists I have not seen on past tours.

Cows also grace one of Kip's plates.

Art Kip creates on her ceramic plates sometimes makes statements about social issues, like the piece on the right.

I am drawn to Kip’s place by the tractors, wind turbines and corn I’ve seen showcased online on her ceramics.

Definitely a transportation themed piece going here.

Definitely a transportation themed piece going here.

She tells me that themes of food, transportation and energy run through her work. Once she points that out, I ask whether she was raised on a farm. No. Alaska.

We don’t get into details about the themes, but I mention that I grew up on the southwestern Minnesota prairie and am visually troubled by the wind turbines that populate the landscape, ruining, in my opinion, the aesthetics of the prairie.

More than tractors and corn...

More than tractors and corn… Corn grows from oil rigs.

Kip says she welcomes how her art opens up dialogue and the opportunity to hear differing opinions on social issues. And I sense her sincerity in stating that.

The door opens into Kip's studio.

The door opens into Kip’s studio.

I am intrigued, too, by her name. Kip O’Krongly. It possess a certain snap, a certain strength, a certain ruggedness. I never ask. But I don’t need to. Her work, talent and confidence as an artist define Kip O’Krongly.

FYI: The works of two other ceramics artists, Joel Froehle and Juliane Shibata, were also showcased in Kip’s home. However, they were not in-house when I visited.

Please click here and then here to read previous posts from the South Central Minnesota Studio ARTour. And check back for more posts in this five-part series.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

On ARTour: Inside an old milkhouse October 23, 2013

I FEEL COMFORTABLY AT HOME in the old milkhouse, Kittens underfoot. The smokey scent of a wood burning stove warming a kettle of apple cider. Pipelines, that once carried fresh milk, poking through the wall.

Some of Lessing's ceramics displayed outside The Milkhouse Studio.

Some of Glynnis Lessing’s ceramics displayed outside The Milkhouse Studio.

This is the studio of ceramics artist Glynnis Lessing. This weathered building forked off a circular farm drive along Minnesota Highway 3 just north of Northfield. This land the artist’s home since relocating from Chicago with her family about a year ago.

Tools of the trade on a milkhouse windowsill.

Tools of the trade on a milkhouse windowsill.

I have come here, to The Milkhouse Studio, on a Sunday afternoon for the South Central Minnesota Studio ARTour, a once-a-year opportunity to meet local artists where they create.

A sign advises visitors of chickens on the farm.

A sign advises visitors of chickens on the farm.

This rural setting reminds me of my childhood, growing up on a southwestern Minnesota dairy farm where I labored many hours in the milkhouse and barn.

Milking equipment remains in the milkhouse.

Milking equipment, right, remains in the milkhouse next to Lessing’s creations.

Although I never imagined a milkhouse as an artist’s studio, for Lessing it seems the perfect fit—creating in this place where her grandfather milked cows in the adjoining barn. Worked with his hands, just like her. In these aged buildings, on the land.

Love these nature-themed mugs.

Love these nature-themed mugs.

Love these bowls, too.

Love these bowls, too.

And then I noticed the leaf that had settled inside the mug. So fitting.

And then I noticed the leaf that had settled inside the mug. So fitting.

I can see the influence of rural life in Lessing’s pieces. Branches and birds. Leaves and blades of grass. An earthy quality that appeals to me and causes me to reflect on my rural roots.

The Milkhouse Studio front door. Lots of history and memories here.

The Milkhouse Studio front door. Lots of history and memories here.

My memories: Felines circling around a battered hubcap to lap warm milk fresh from the cows. Frothy milk dumped, through a strainer, into the bulk tank. Sudsy water swished inside a milk bucket with a stiff brush. Yellow chore gloves drying atop an oil burning stove in the milkhouse…

Tucked into a corner of a milkhouse windowsill.

Tucked into a corner of a milkhouse windowsill.

FYI: To learn more about the history of the old milkhouse, click here to read Lessing’s blog post on the subject.

And for more info about Lessing the artist, click here.

To read my first post about the South Central Minnesota Studio ARTour, click here. Please check back for more posts from artists’ studios.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Meet 52 South Central Minnesota artists during weekend ArTour October 19, 2012

Faribault artist Julie Fakler’s paintings will be displayed in her JMF Studio at 1212 First Ave. N.W., Faribault, along with the textile art of Deb Johnson. Fakler specializes in animal portraits. Her cow painting graces promotional materials for this year’s South Central Minnesota Studio ArTour.

FIFTY-TWO ARTISTS. Twenty-four studios. And all showcased right here in the Faribault-Northfield-Cannon Falls area this weekend during the eighth annual South Central Minnesota Studio ArTour.

If you’ve never taken this studio tour, I’d encourage you to do so as a) You’ll meet a broad spectrum of talented local artists. b) You’ll view incredible art in wood, glass, photography, textiles, painting, ceramics, jewelry and more. c) It’s free, unless you purchase art, which, of course, you should consider doing. d) You’ll visit three charming communities.

I can’t attend this year’s tour. But I have in the past and here are the photos to prove it.

Just look at the talent we have, right here, in Greater Minnesota.

Meg Jensen Witt will showcase her ceramics at Lillart, 101 E. Fifth St., #209, Northfield, along with the paintings of Lilla Johnson. I photographed this example of Witt’s art in 2011.

At Holmquist Pottery, 11780 90th St. E., Northfield, you will find Lucky Rimpila’s glass art, like this photographed last year. Chris and Sue Holmquist will also display their ceramics and Marsha Kitchel will showcase her paintings.

Last year at Sunset Studio, 10754 Farrel Avenue, Northfield, I photographed the ceramics created by Tom Willis. You will find the work of six other artists at Sunset Studio.

During the 2010 ArTour, I visited Somers’ Studio & Gallery, 9775 Dennison Blvd. S., Northfield, where Fred Somers paints on his rural acreage.

In 2010 I photographed this wood block art created by Carla Thompson. This year she will exhibit her painting, along with Julie Free Heart, at Revisions, 101 E. Fifth St., #302, Northfield.

Animal paintings propped on the floor of Julie Fakler’s JMF Studio during the 2010 ArTour.

FYI: The South Central Minnesota Studio ArTour runs from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday, October 20, and Sunday, October 21. Select studios will also be open from 4-8 p.m. today.

For details, including studio locations and participating artists, click here to reach the ArTour website.

I photographed this scene from the 2010 ArTour marking a Northfield studio.

Click here to read about my visit to Fred Somers’ gallery/studio during the 2010 tour.

Click here to see Faribault artist Julie Fakler’s studio, one of my stops on the 2010 tour.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Cow image courtesy of Julie Fakler