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Beacon Archive

August 2003
PDF Version

PABI Launches a Revised Plan

PABI Sunset Picnic Update

AMVETS sponsor Lake Geneserath Fishing Tournament in September

Washington Islanders visit Beaver and suggest Exchange Trips

Chamber has Big Plans: 2nd Annual Bite of Beaver Island Expanded Fall Events

Weather or Not

On This Date

Studying Art in an Artist's Paradise

The Freedom Schooner Amistad Pays a Call

Nels Peter Sorensen, Jr.: 1938-2003

Aleta Doris Kenwabikise: 1955-2003

Proposed Downtown / Public Beach Parking Lot

Museum Week 2003

Wildlife Club News

Charlevoix County Commissioners Meeting Report

News From the Townships

A Challenge to the BIRHC Board

The Opposition Organizes

Letters to the Editor Regarding the BIRHC

From the Board: About the Current Controversy

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Studying Art in an Artist's Paradise

Beaver Island and its unique landscape has always captured my imagination and spirit. Somehow it just gets my creative juices flowing. My background in the arts has included dance, graphic arts, painting, pottery, sculpture, creative writing, sewing, and also teaching art (full-time during the school year.) So when I had the time and chance to take an art class here last summer, I was overjoyed. Two weeks to completely immerse myself in the arts! I signed up for the Sculptural Papermaking class CMU offered, taught by Sally Rose. Let me tell you how the Island influenced, and continues to influence, my work.

The class was intense and energizing. We learned what natural fibers make up paper, and mixed up dyes, fiber and mordant to put into the vats we would pull our paper from. Sally Rose inspired us in many ways, challenging us to do our best. Her own work was awe-inspiring as well; primal and vibrant. We were encouraged to experiment and pull ideas from around us in the environment.

As I wandered, I beachcombed, starting to form ideas. I found items on various shores, sometimes after storms had blown through and whipped grasses into small fibers and threads. The materials gave me ideas for embellishments for my paper sculptures. Creating stick cradles from gray, silvery sticks of driftwood, I would then form the wet paper over forms created from window screen or other materials turned into organic shapes.

I collected what would be considered worthless debris and turned it into something of value. As the class went on, I became more and more influenced by the Island, and gave myself up to its wonders. I fabricated a beach book by casting a collection of objects laid on the sand (as I found them.) From this plaster casting, I pressed layers of wet paper together to create a sculptured piece that became the book cover. Onto this I attached rusty nails a friend found for me while out painting. The cover included three-dimensional pieces like shells, beach glass, feathers, stones, small pieces of driftwood and other found objects. Inside I bound a sample of each paper I had pulled, including some with pieces of embedded birch bark.

One day on a field trip Dr. Gillingham showed us a vireo nest built in a tree on the CMU grounds. Woven into it were small pieces and strands of birch bark. It was the most exquisitely built nest I had ever seen. I patterned my own nest after this model, weaving in fibers and birch bark, leaving the original nest for the bird (it's against the law to collect bird nests.)

And still the ideas came. I walked the woods, fields, and beaches for inspiration. I dredged up old memories of the Island and places I'd been. The ancient oak forest, the apple trees of Barney's Lake, the big birch, the music of the Island, making rock sculptures on my grandmother's porch as a child, swimming at the back beach, the tree-house we built, the rope swing – on and on, like a living tapestry.

The leaves on the forest floor inspired cocoon-like constructions of paper. The water and waves brought about a boat-like craft in a stick cradle. The nest piece belonged to the air and the sky. The class was absolutely incredible. All of us seemed to bond and help each other out a lot with ideas as we shared our stories. I only wish I could take another class this year.

Since the class last summer, I have continued to work on pieces influenced by the Island. I just finished a painting of the big birch that I started here in early June. I've done several watercolors of the shoreline on my side, at Wilderness State Forest and up by the Mackinaw Straits. I am working on a quilt idea that will have the big birch done in fabric, and other subjects from nature (leaves, bird nests.) My clay sculptures and writing reflect on Beaver Island as well as the woods I live in and the shores I'm near. I plan to do several more paintings on the Island over the late summer and fall.

The clay classes I'm teaching this summer are all nature-related. Bowls shaped like leaves, or pressed from the shapes of rocks. Tiles with leaves pressed into them, or animal and plant designs in relief, animals and their habitat, etc. All these interests were nurtured from seeds planted on Beaver Island as a child. Now I'm harvesting what has grown.

Not too long ago I received a call for entries for a Beaver Island Retrospective show to be held this fall at CMU. They are looking for work inspired by Beaver Island that was done here or afterwards. I will have a hard time picking which pieces to send on slides. And I just got some more great ideas when riding on the beautiful new bike path out Donegal Bay Road!

–Julie Runberg

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