Mary Lou Strode, a member of Valley Artisans Market since 1981, is a painter from Argyle, New York. Here is her journey in art in her own words. The painting shown is titled, Snowmobile Trail.
In the Beginning I Drew
“My earliest memory of drawing was sitting on the floor of my grandparents’ home in Rutland, Vermont looking at the “funny papers” and drawing an X. How that simple maneuver could have spawned a lifetime of art remains a mystery to me. However, at the time, I was amazed at being able to control the pencil or crayon and make it go the way I wanted it to. I think now that it was a realization of being able to make something that I had thought of making and to have it coming out the way I had envisioned it.
“All through my childhood I drew. I never thought of painting and was always content to just draw. Always with pencil, I drew people mostly. Being an avid movie-goer I bought movie magazines and drew the stars — at first just the faces, but later the bodies as well. The pin-up artists of those years were my idols. In high school my art teacher, Lucy Doane, encouraged me to paint. As an older chiId, I had once done an oil painting under the tutelage of an amateur artist, Elmerine Bove Finn. She gave me her oil paints, brushes and a new canvas board to use and for subject matter I chose a photograph of sailboats that advertised Seagram’s whiskey. I still have that painting!
“Having decided that I wanted to be an artist I majored in art in college. This was during the 1950s when abstract expressionism was the prevailing style. Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Willem De Kooning, and Helen Frankenthaler were the artists of the slashing brush stroke that occasionally resulted in recognizable subject matter but more often the result was impenetrable. It was the overall composition and the energy expressed that did it for them and, at the time, for me. Encouraged to paint this way, we did not use expensive oils but cans of enamel paint. After graduation I married and moved to rural Washington County, New York, and learned to look and paint all over again. How and what I should paint now that I was on my own away from the mentors of my youth and living surrounded by nature became my preoccupation. Should I continue to reject the living world and paint what the canvas and the colors dictated? Or should I embrace the world around me giving in to its beauty and wonder and attempt what at the time was nearly impossible. I really had to begin again but at the same time I had learned a facility with brush and paint that gave me a head start in the process of looking and painting what I saw.
“I am also a printmaker and my medium is silkscreen printing. A fine Dacron mesh, oil-based inks, wax paper stencils and a squeegee are the materials I like to use. Once, when I was teaching a class of kindergarteners, I was illustrating the assignment for the day. They were to simply paint some shapes and then turn the paper upside down and see what was there. As I was doing this for the class I turned my painting upside down and saw two happy figures prancing with banners. This serendipitous moment later inspired a design for a silkscreen print and a valentine.
“My studio, located on the upper floor of our house, beckons, welcomes and more often than not admonishes me for not getting in there and buckling down. Once I enter and begin to work the hesitancy evaporates and I enter a realm of mystery and revelation and curiosity and contentment. I am working and I am at peace.”
One of Tom Hutchinson’s toy trains takes about 8 hours to make. It’s not just all the cutting and measuring that is so time-consuming. He must visualize how all the pieces fit together once they are assembled so that he doesn’t sand the sides of the wood that must eventually be glued to another piece of wood. (If they are sanded smooth then they won’t hold glue well enough). Multiple sandings are the most time-consuming aspect of making a toy — there can be no splinters for little fingers and all the corners must be rounded and very smooth. Nontoxic mineral oil coats the wood and any small pieces are permanently attached to prevent a choking hazard.
Tom has only recently “branched” out (pun intended) into making toys. He has been mentored by former VAM member/toymaker Warren Stoker for the last year or so and feels he has elevated his toys and they are now a superior quality to sell. Tom uses native wood like oak, poplar, walnut and cherry for his woodworking, which he purchases each September at the wood auction through the Adirondack Woodworkers Association, of which he is currently president. His toys include airplanes, dump trucks, trains, tractors, cars, tops and even yo-yos for older kids. But, of course, he also continues to make bowls, cutting boards, peppermills, pens, rolling pins and other wooden objects. He also welcomes special requests from customers looking for something particular that he doesn’t have for sale or a specific change to what he does offer. (And speaking of special requests, he was recently commissioned by the Saratoga County Fair to make 100 pens with “175” engraved in them for the fair’s 175th anniversary.) We hope you will stop in and see everything created by Tom, one of multiple talented woodworkers at Valley Artisans.
Naomi Faltskog has only recently learned her whimsical craft. Her felted wool creations sprung from her daughter’s time attending the Waldorf School in Saratoga Springs where artistic expression and creativity are deeply explored. But Naomi has been heavily involved in art ever since high school and is drawn to many media. Felting is the easiest because it is accessible and compact and she doesn’t need extensive time, space or concentration to do it, which is in short supply since Naomi home-schools her daughter.
Naomi creates her work with needles, by repetitively stabbing the wool to tangle and felt it together. It is a labor-intensive process and, you guessed, a lot of pin pricks in unwanted places. Much of the inspiration for her work comes from children’s stories. The piece she has at VAM with tree roots was inspired by the German tale, “Story of the Root Children.” Her intention for the play set was as a lap toy for long car or plane trips without electronics, so that a child’s imagination could be awakened. (There are also no little pieces to be lost or bothersome electronic sounds or electromagnetic rays.) Naomi recently began “wool painting,” a process where she builds up layers and layers of wool to create a picture, just like painting with oils. She hopes to explore this art form more in the future as well as wet felting. Naomi is proud that all of her wool is locally sourced, some of it already dyed but some that she dyes herself. She uses onions skins (for flesh tones) and turmeric (for golden-red hair) – and we imagine it is a great science home-schooling lesson, too!