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Yamhill County's artists open their studios to share the artistic process

Studio tour in its third decade shows an array of mediums from Newberg to Sheridan

For more than two decades, fall in Yamhill County has brought with it a chance to venture into the countryside and watch local artists work in their studio environments.

That’s the basic idea behind the Art Harvest Studio Tour and that simple concept attracts dozens of artists each year for the exposure and enjoyment of meeting other creators and art lovers.

The tradition continues again this weekend and next, although a relatively new aspect of the program has more fully evolved this year.

For several years the Chehalem Cultural Center in downtown Newberg has added a gallery feature to the Art Harvest program, putting some of the artists’ work on display as the tour approaches. But this year is notable as the first instance of all 35 participating artists displaying their work at the CCC. Each artist has one to three pieces on display in the main lobby gallery.NEWBERG GRAPHIC / GARY ALLEN - The Chehalem Cultural Center in downtown Newberg displays a preview of artwork by Yamhill County Studio Tour artists, including copper sculptures by Sheridan metal artist Dave Hanson.

The CCC component is designed to give attendees a chance to preview the artists’ work and decide which studios they would like to visit. But because the event draws artists from Newberg to McMinnville to Sheridan, it provides something of a snapshot of what artists are working on across the county.

“It’s interesting to see all of Yamhill County’s fantastic artists all in one space and how their artwork really influences each other or is diverse from each other,” CCC arts coordinator Erin Padilla said.

As always, the studio tour draws a mixture of new and returning artists, some who have been involved for many years.

Striking copper in Sheridan

Metal artist Dave Hanson has opened his studio to the public each fall for a decade now – almost as long as he’s been making metal artwork.

What keeps him participating each year? It's about sharing the artistic process with visitors.

“It’s a lot more meaningful, I think, for the tour visitors to see artists in their own element rather than a gallery,” Hanson said. “It’s a lot more personable and you recognize there are other parts of their life that are kind of intertwined with their art.”

Hanson lives in rural Sheridan, about 45 minutes from Newberg. His house, built 30 years ago, sits in a scenic place with gardens and a view. And his studio is basically his house right now, he laughed, as most of his artwork is created right in his living room using a “minimalist approach.”

Hanson’s work might be particularly suited for a demonstration event like the studio tour: he creates sculptures through hammering on flat slabs of copper, over and over and over again.

“I’ve got pieces that are in the 60,000 to 80,000 hammer blows,” he said. “It doesn’t happen very fast, it’s a long, slow, repetitive process. And you can’t really appreciate the final shape until you get there.”

It’s an ancient art technique and one that’s uncommon in the modern age, so much so that Hanson said it’s close to being a lost art; technology has replaced the handiwork with streamlined production.

He’s in the middle of a few pieces, so visitors will have a chance to see what a hammered copper sculpture looks like mid-process. It’s a loud activity (“you’re beating with a metal hammer on a piece of copper over a metal stake,” Hanson noted), and is generally a fairly solitary art form. But he described it as also surprisingly meditative – as well as “wearing your body out” with the physicality involved.

Primitive firing in the hills

Linda Workman-Morelli is also a longtime participant in the tour, displaying the process of wood-firing pottery.

Her art falls into the category of “primitive firing,” similar to techniques used in the Southwest to make black ware. The process begins with setting up the fire pit and preparing the pottery for the nearly day-long heating process.NEWBERG GRAPHIC / GARY ALLEN - Local pottery artist Linda Workman-Morelli displays a method of primitive firing to create her artwork, which she demonstrated during the 2015 Art Harvest Studio Tour.

Pieces of pottery, in the form of bisque ware (that is, unglazed but fired once, and still relatively porous), are partially filled with wood pellets that will ignite and burn at a high temperature during the process. On top of the pellets Workman-Morelli will place straw inside the pottery as well.

On the floor of the fire pit she puts down a layer of peat moss to keep moisture out and to help keep the heat in. On top of the peat moss goes a layer of straw. Then the pots go in. Some are placed inside of other pots, called saggars, which act as a sort of kiln-within-a-kiln. The saggars get used in multiple firings.

Many of them she paints prior to the fire pit burn, coating the pottery with a burnish wash made with copper oxide that gives it a matte black finish.

Once they enter the pit, though, there’s no telling what they will look like in the end: it’s a process full of variables, from the temperature to the heating time to the simple mysteries of combustion. Sometimes additives can be used to give the pieces distinct colors.

“There are so many variables that I cannot control,” she said. “The way the wind blows is going to be an influence.”

Like Hanson, there are certain elements of the studio tour that keep her coming back each year.

“Being together with the other artists is stimulating, you work alone in the studio for weeks at a time and so it’s fun to come out and converse, swap stories,” she said.

Other participating Newberg and Dundee area artists include acrylic and watercolor painters Kathleen Buck, Jeanne Cuddeford and Gary Buhler, digital media artist Wes Cropper, wire-wrapped sterling silver jewelry maker Adele O’Neal, ceramist Peter Snow, and tile-maker and mosaicist Kathy Thompson.

The artists’ work is on display now at the CCC. The studio tour runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. this weekend through Sunday, as well as Oct. 7-9.

To read more about the participating artists and to find directions to their studios, visit the studio tour's website or stop by the CCC to pick up a pamphlet.

Studio tour visitors must purchase an $8 button that allows admission to all the participating studios. Buttons can be bought in Newberg at the CCC (415 E Sheridan St.), Pulp & Circumstance (117 S College St.), Cusick Picture Frame (  608 E 1st St.), in McMinnville at Currents Gallery and Pacific Frame and Gallery, and in Sheridan at the Lawrence Gallery, as well as at any of the participating artist studios on the tour days.