Hollister, San Juan Bautista and Aromas artisans opened their studios to the public over the weekend, in the annual San Benito County Open Studios Art Tour, sponsored by the San Benito Arts Council. It was an opportunity to see first-hand the creativity and versatility of the participating artists.
On the opening day of the studio tour, and a busy day in Hollister, Amber Henderson owner of the Hollister Soap House, opened the doors of her studio at 719 San Benito St., Suite 1, to share how her soap is made from scratch.
“There are simple ingredients and the right combination of oils and fats to make a great bar of soap,” she said, noting that she teaches the method during Friday night classes in her studio.
“I love science and art. It is a perfect combination, for soap making,” she added. The soap, according to the ingredients and Henderson’s creative rendering, comes in a variety of colors, sizes and shapes.
Just down the stairs from the Soap House, in the Farm House Café, John Robrock and Bryan Proehi showed their artwork.
Robrock, a world traveler, and an award-winning art teacher at San Benito High School, exhibited pictures created with fine lines — Robrock calls “dip and scratch lines” — using ink.
Proehi’s work of old farms, in charcoal, hang on the wall of the restaurant. When he’s not drawing, he helps with the business, Eating with the Seasons, a produce delivery service. Proehi studied art at San Francisco State in the film and art department.
In the San Juan Bautista home of mixed-media artist Cindy Couling, she exhibited her ceramic work, and hosted some of her Bay Area friends, including Lauree Hill, Lisa Berry, Susan Worley and Falline Danforth.
Couling uses a kiln for her pottery, and turns out colorful and black-and-white dishes and other objects. She also creates linoleum block prints. Her display of whimsical work includes jewelry; one of which was a tiny cup and saucer hanging on a chain for a necklace.
Couling fires the clay object before and after it is painted and then fires it again for a glace treatment.
Lauree Hill featured dot painted rocks of all sizes. It is a style originating in Australia, she said, noting that she fell in love with the artwork while in Melbourne. “It was done on boomerangs and on canvas. I bought some and learned that each piece tells a story,” Hill said.
Lisa Berry is known for her Feltypants Business designs. She exhibited felted purses, cards and paintings.
Susan Worley brought clay designs, and got the attention of a visitor, Morgan Woods, 12, who was enthralled with how designs were pushed into the clay.
Falline Danforth, also an artist using clay, showed how one of her creations would hold flowers, or plants as a wall hanging.
Georgette Gomez’s home offered a fine art, museum view of her oil paintings.
“I enjoy capturing the quiet, simple and peaceful moments of daily life," she said. "These captured glimpses represent quiet corners, favorite places, and intimate moments.”
Gomez, who began painting after her children were grown, said, “I re-invented myself and started doing what I always wanted to do,” and she took 10 years to study art and earn a master's degree.
“I was age 43 when I made that decision," she said. "It began when reading the quote by George Elliott: ‘It’s never too late to be what you might have been.’”
The Aromas tour started with the Sally Diggory studio that begins as guests are greeted by ceramic busts in the garden, some with plants growing out of their heads, and some just hiding in the bushes. Diggory has created pottery and ceramic art for 35 years, and was happy to show how some of her sculptures are made in two pieces. It enables one to pick the head up off of the body, a process she learned in classes she took in Mendocino a few years back.
Linda Bjornson is a stained glass artist who, during the tour, taught people how to cut glass, something she has done professionally for many years.
SanDee Adams uses mosaic tile to express herself through art. The art objects cover frames, mirrors, welcome door signs, or wherever her imagination takes her.
Her studio is stocked with dishes, cups, saucers, teapots, and just about anything that may be utilized for her art. They are all organized according to color, pattern and texture.
“I saw mosaic done once and wanted to try it for fun," Adams said. "I started with a simple idea and it just grew from there.” She held up a mallet to show what she uses to break up the pieces.
On Rose Avenue, Shelly Trabucco showed how she expresses her creativity by planting succulents in unusual containers, such as a picnic basket.
Laurie Tholen showed her artistic skill in copper jewelry work, while Christine West featured artwork in greeting cards; some for framing, and some demonstrating 3-D decoupage.
Barbara Scoles, a wood carver, with an eye and talent for detail, has been turning out sculptures and other objects for more than 20 years. She has won awards for the wooden, hand-painted works of art.
The Cole Road artists Susan Shirley, Andrea McCann and Lesley Holtaway enjoyed a full house of enthusiastic art enthusiasts.
Shirley, when not teaching sixth grade in San Jose, does needle felting, using animal fibers. Some of the wool she uses is from the sheep on her property.
“It is a combination of science and art,” she said. Some her finished products were used as clothing items and displayed during the day.
Andrea McCann creativity is highlighted by artwork on her white horse, Casino. She uses food-grade activated charcoal and egg whites from her own chickens to paint designs on the horse.
Fresh water pearls in jewelry by Leslie Holtaway were also designed with semi-precious stones, crystals and glass.
The San Benito County Arts Council's headquarters are located at 240 Fifth St. in Hollister.
The next event sponsored by SBCA will be the Aromas Country Garden Tour on May 13.