Celebrating Gresham's art scene
Haley Wigent's art is inspired by her surroundings, and often her next piece comes from what she discovers.
Last Christmas, she was clearing out some things and found her father's old guitar that he had built himself. The instrument was in beautiful condition, though it wasn't able to be played. So she decided to take her father's work and combine it with her own talents, turning it into a sunset glass lamp.
"If something strikes me I will turn it into glass," said Wigent, who crafts lead-free stained glass jewelry. "Glass mirrors other things in life, and I can incorporate designs and colors into my pieces."
Wigent first began working with glass because of her grandmother, who made stained glass windows as a hobby out of her home. Wigent loved to watch her work, and made her first piece at 10 years old. It was a hummingbird sun-catcher that hung in her window. Because she was too young to use all of the tools, her grandmother helped solder the glass and finish the piece.
In 2017, the Gresham-business owner and musician created her own glass studio.
"If something strikes me I will turn it into glass," (this quote is up at the top. Do you want to omit it here or replace it?) she said. "Sometimes you find that perfect color to capture an image."
This summer, Wigent was set to finally have a booth showcasing her work at the Gresham Arts Festival — the largest annual event in East Multnomah County. She had attended the past three years and fell in love with exploring the work being done by other artists, and she was ready to share her passion for glasswork.
But those plans changed with the spread of COVID-19, pushing her debut to next year. The city of Gresham made the decision to cancel the 2020 festival last month, shuttering an event that would have brought more than 140 artists into downtown in July for a multi-day celebration.
"It was disappointing to hear it was canceled," Wigent said. "It is always great exploring all of the artwork at the festival."
The Gresham Arts Festival would have attracted more than 20,000 visitors to the community. The celebration would have included special deals from downtown small businesses, a Kid's Zone with games, an annual attempt to set a Guinness World Record, and a music festival to conclude the festivities.
But safety was on the forefront of city leadership's minds, and in compliance with Gov. Kate Brown's orders that no events or festivals take place through September, the festival had to be canceled.
So in lieu of the traditional festival, the city has created another way to showcase the painters, potters, sculptors, woodworkers, photographers, jewelers and more, who would have flocked into the community. (could we say "who had signed on as vendors for this year's event")
"While we can't be together in person this year for the Gresham Arts Festival, we've still been brainstorming ways to keep the spirit of the festival alive," said Sasha Konell, community branding specialist.
"Supporting our local artists is the heart and soul of the event," Konell said.
Ancient braids, colorful metal
Kim Tamarin was also set to attend the festival, showcasing her necklaces crafted using an ancient Japanese method.
The Sandy-based artist makes jewelry following kumihimo, a 2,000-year-old braiding method that was initially used by samurai as both a functional and decorative addition to their armor. The technique is constantly being innovated by master craftspeople in Japan, allowing for artists like Tamarin to try new methods and innovate her own pieces.
Kumihimo was traditionally done via a form of finger-loop braiding, but more commonly is crafted with a marudai instrument — a wooden stand that allows for intricate patterns.
Tamarin uses a marudai for crafting her jewelry. She had prior experience with beading before diving into the medium of kumihimo about 6 years ago, drawn by the relaxing process of working with the device.
"It's rhythmic, and the wooden marudai makes peaceful sounds as you work," she said.
Tamarin makes her necklaces using a variety of materials. There are TOHO seed beads — Japanese glass beads made in Hiroshima that she used to import to businesses around the globe; semi-precious stones; crystals and other textural elements that make her necklaces unique.
Tamarin first attended the Gresham Arts Festival in 2018, and was looking forward to returning this year. But she said she understands why it was canceled, and already has marked her calendar to return in 2021.
"I encourage people to explore and discover kumihimo — it is an interesting and fun way to get creative and make things with fiber and beads," she said.
Brothers Ethan and Elton Davis, of Gresham, made their first metal sculpture on a commission from their mother.
Elton was restoring old cars, doing body work, while Ethan works as a fabricator. Both love playing with metal, so when their mother requested a flower to go in her garden, both enthusiastically dove into creating art.
Since then, the two have been mainstays at the Gresham Arts Festival, manning a booth for the last 5 years.
"It's one of my favorite festivals," Ethan said. "I love the atmosphere, and all the visitors are interested in the artistic process. It's fun to have things on display and talk with them."
Their process begins with a design on paper, mapping out a guideline. Once things are how the brothers want it, they cut out the shape on sheet metal using a plasma cutter. For more intricate 3-diminsional designs, they join the components with a hammer and weld everything together.
The vibrant colors are achieved with a powder coating, using a custom in-house blend to get the intense shades and fade effects.
Most of their work is inspired by nature, as the pair grew up playing in the woods around Gresham. They also make more fantastical (fantasy-inspired?) sculptures, with a series of dragons.
And though it is disappointing not to have all the summer shows this year, Ethan is using the time to perfect his craft.
"I've taken the opportunity to work on my skills and make more complicated pieces," he said.
Contact the artists
Learn more about and explore the work done by the three artists highlighted:
- Haley Wigent, glass jewelry, https://www.etsy.com/shop/2GreenBirdsBoutique
- Kim Tamarin, kumihimo necklaces, https://www.etsy.com/shop/tambrookcreative/
- The Davis brothers, metal sculptures, https://www.etsy.com/shop/Davisbrothers
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