Due to the isolation that living through a global pandemic has inflicted upon us, many are discovering – or re-discovering – their artistic side. People around the world, including right here in Corvallis, are finding it easier to express their creativity and find their niche. From woodwork and taxidermy to quilting and candle-making, here is a rundown of some of our area’s most unique crafters and their work.
Brandy Damm-Winningham was introduced to the craft of making suncatchers through her family. Damm-Winningham spends time by the river creating these suncatchers, which she makes out of various beads and tiny glass bottles.
“My favorite part of making them is that we do it outdoors by the river; it’s always great to be outdoors when doing this craft so you can see your finished product in the sun.”
Damm-Winningham is not currently selling her suncatchers but plans to once she builds more product on Facebook Marketplace.
Bri-chan Lewis sews homemade décor pillows with felt, creating a variety of designs and patterns for her Etsy shop, PillowPeaceBoutique. Lewis started participating in this type of art because of YouTube craft videos she stumbled upon, which inspired her to create her own pillows.
“I think my favorite part is coming up with designs that look simple and intricate at the same time.”
Early Modern Hats
Rachel Kohler’s craft is making early modern hats out of other inferior hats and broken jewelry.
Kohler discovered her ability to make hats when she was in a theatre show called Mort in 2017 and needed to create wizard hats for the cast. Since then, she has become the resident “Hat Person” for local thespians, making the costume accessory for multiple community theatre productions.
Kohler does not sell her product – rather, when she makes a hat for a theatre production, the theatre keeps it, or it gets added to her personal costume collection. Kohler also uses these skills to make period costumes for her drag persona.
Cold Porcelain Creations
Contessa Nguyen considers herself a seasoned artist, having practiced with many different mediums for years. More recently, she has been creating three-dimensional art with her grandkids out of cold porcelain – an air-drying modeling material. This material allows Nguyen and her grandkids to create small sculptures and jewelry.
Nguyen does not sell her work. “I just love creating it, and if someone expresses a desire for the piece, or asks me to make one for them, I will.”
Nguyen also expressed how therapeutic art can be for everyone, especially during trying times, “Art is as important to the well-being of people as food is.”
Joel Reed creates his own archery tackle with only logging and hand tools.
“I’ve always liked woodworking…I also really enjoy using something I’ve made with my own hands.”
Reed has considered creating a business with this skill, but ultimately decided it wasn’t feasible due to modern equipment being more popular among archers.
However, he really enjoys being able to create these tools for himself. “I like the idea that I can take some sticks, take a tree I cut down and shave it to size, put a string on it, and shoot other sticks [arrows] to feed my family with. Also, it’s fun.”
When the Corvallis Hospice Center announced that they were in need of fidget quilts for some of their residents, Jennifer Wybenga Buchanan answered the call for help and quickly became hooked on the craft.
Fidget quilts can be used by patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia, or brain trauma. The blankets feature attachments of varying items and textures, which keep patients’ fingers busy and can spark memories or awareness while playing with them. Since the items are attached to the quilts, they won’t fall off as the patient “fidgets” with them.
Buchanan said her favorite part of building these quilts is the creative process. “Once each square is sewn, I try out different embellishments for each square until I find a combination I like. I find this to be a lot of fun and very relaxing.”
Buchanan donates her creations to hospice centers, but she also sells them on her Etsy shop, BearAndPeeps.
Taxidermy and Skeletal Processing
Corvallisite Erica Heath is a taxidermist and skeletal processor for local farmers, hunters, and collectors. She also uses animal by-products – bones, leather, and feathers – to create jewelry, clothing, and home décor.
Heath turns raw materials into magnificent works of art, creating a variety of products which she sells on her Etsy shop, Badass Bones Taxidermy. The Etsy shop is closed for a short break but will be back up and running soon.
Shou Sugi Ban Woodwork
Albany resident Aron Rosenthal’s work with Shou Sugi Ban woodwork was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Like others I’m sure, the coronavirus pandemic meant that I was spending more time at home. And because of the existential anxiety, I think I was naturally drawn to a process that requires deep concentration and a meditative state. Shou Sugi Ban allowed my creative side to blossom in ways it hadn’t to this degree in the past.”
Shou Sugi Ban is a technique which preserves and finishes wood using fire. The method originated in Japan in the 18th century and is still used in woodworking today.
Rosenthal does not usually sell his work, but he is willing to create custom projects for those not limited by a more expensive price tag, and is also prepared to teach others if they are interested in the craft.
Philomath citizen Maegan Reynolds puts a twist on traditional candles by strictly creating natural, soy candles and selling them with creative, custom labels.
Reynolds makes unique candles based on various themes – selling products based on TV shows and movies – like Friends and Hocus Pocus, the smells of different seasons, and greetings – such as “Get Well Soon” or “Congratulations.”
Every candle is handcrafted with soy wax and wooden wicks. Reynolds has begun promoting her new small business, Earthy Little Scents, on Facebook and plans to open an Etsy shop September 11.
Colleen Jess practices the ancient craft of woodburning, or pyrography. Using fire, Jess creates various picturesque scenes on pieces of wood.
“I love the quiet, calming effect of woodburning. It takes a great deal of time to accomplish so it requires you to be still and focused for long periods. It’s taught me a lot about patience.”
In non-pandemic times, Jess sells her work at events like the Northwest Art and Air Festival, the Town and Country Christmas Bazaar, and renaissance fairs. Now, Jess provides these products for sale via her Facebook page, Great Jesspectations
About 15 years ago, while taking classes at the Benton Center, Marcie Wolf combined her passion for ceramics with her passion for edible mushroom and truffle hunting and began to create nature sculptures.
“Nature is sacred. My relationship with the outdoors is reflected in my work.”
Wolf has been able to create various nature sculptures for her personal enjoyment and for sale on Craigslist and Facebook.
By Cara Nixon