Gresham: Carving her path through the pandemic
When a global pandemic forced everyone to isolate at home, one Gresham resident decided to learn a new skill and take on a transformative art project in her front yard.
Now visitors to Angi Vandenbos' home in Gresham travel along a pathway filled with nature and wildlife to her front door.
"I stood out front of the house and thought this was the opportunity to start a massive project," Vandenbos said.
She came up with an intensive landscaping project to keep herself busy and enhance the approach to her home. Though she had never carved stones, she drew on her basic knowledge of tools to take on a new challenge with the free time she had unexpectedly.
The walkway to Vandenbos' home is constructed with stone pavers shaped into animals and patterns she created using a wet saw. The overall plan transforms daily, at the whim of inspirational bursts. The beginning of the path near the street showcase creatures that call the dirt and marshlands home; the middle section is dominated by a pond, compass and flowers, which lead to trees; and finally, at the base of the front porch, is a tree canopy and the sky.
Scattered randomly acosss the path, which she is still working to complete, are designs made by Vandenbos. She has created hummingbirds and herons; dragonflies and butterflies; ladybugs and pill bugs; maple leaves and cattails; and near the bottom floats a massive turtle.
"I get inspired to make different things," Vandenbos said. "It's exciting to see it slowly come together."
Vandenbos works as a medical massage therapist in downtown Gresham. In March, the office she works in was closed, and she has not been able to safely return to work since. Stuck at home, she knew she had to come up with ways to stay busy.
Once she completed the standard cleaning and decluttering in the house, she focuss on her long-neglected backyard gardening shed.
"I learned, in quarantine, you have to be productive and stay positive," Vandenbos said. "I've kept an activity list as long as your arm."
It was a massive pile of stone pavers in her backyard that kept drawing Vandenbos' eye. The pavers had been gathering dust, leftovers from an an earlier project and an overly ambitious order.
"I started thinking about what I could do with them," she said. "I wanted to make a dent in that pile and do something physical."
So she began creating the pathway to her front door. She broke ground in June by ripping up a route through her front yard, and has been busy ever since.
The first major task was moving the pavers from the pile, a daunting roadblock as some weighed nearly 65 pounds. But once she got everything in place, she began carving the pieces with a wet saw.
"I'm handy with tools — I've remodeled my house — but I've learned a lot through the process," she said. "I now have better skills from working with the complicated pieces."
After finding a comfort level with the saw, Vandenbos learned how to carve unlocked the more complicated designs to expand how she worked with the tool.
Initially, she would place the paver and bring down the saw to make cuts. That limited her to large cuts that were unwieldy to work with. Now she brings the pavers up to the spinning saw, making precise cuts.
Not much has stopped Vandenbos. At her busiest she was completing 10-17 designs a day. When it was blistering hot or pouring rain, she put up a canopy to allow her to work in relative comfort. The only major break she had to take was when poor air quality from wildfire smoke made it too unhealthy to be outdoors.
The path is still a work in progress, though Vandenbos is worried because she is starting to run out of room for new designs.
"Eventually you just have to start filling in the gaps," she said.
She expects to be finished in late spring.
Vandenbos is also creating a dry river bed that will run alongside the pathway. She is using stones dug from her front yard when she laid the framework for the path. Water will trickle down from her roof using a rain chain — another form of downspout — and cascade along a pile of rocks to mimic a waterfall.
"I love to do hardscaping, so this is another way to be creative," she said.
Vandenbos is also already eyeing her next project with the decorative pavers. She wants to transform the parking strip by the road in front of her home. The idea is to stick to an underwater theme, mainly so she can carve her favorite animal — a seahorse.
"I am so happy I started this project when all this began," Vandenbos said. "It's been wonderful building strength while working in the fresh air."
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