Studio Tour: Peering Into Process

LIVING

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Georgianne Smolenski used to go to Old Salem Village where weavers demonstrated their craft on century-old looms. For years, she thought it was "boring."

Then, she saw a weaver in an antique shop who changed her mind. She was attracted by the most fascinating colors, fibers and designs the weaver used.

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"I still spend hours experimenting with fibers, including llama, alpaca and dog hair and creating fabrics that no modern factory could produce," said Georgianne Smolenski.

"I was hooked," she said.

These days, she can do anything with any fiber. She prefers the fiber from llama, alpaca and, surprisingly, dog hair.

"I have a Great Pyrenees dog who lives across the street from me and he gives me his fur and I can incorporate that into my work," she said.

Her chosen art allows her to design any fabric in the world that she wishes.

"First of all I figure out what I want to make," Smolenski said. "I see it in my mind. I go to a lot of fashion shows. I look outside my window at all the tall pine trees. I gather all the colors and fibers. I feel the piece before I weave it."

She has a friend who spins her natural fibers. She mixes those natural colors with dyed rayon and cotton she buys.

One favorite piece is a vest trimmed in white fur woven in an arts and crafts design with blocks of green, olive, black and white.

Creating alpaca ruanas is another favorite versatile garment she makes. "A ruana is simply two long rectangles placed side by side, sewn together half way up. You can wear it with a belt. You can take one of those fronts and flop it over your shoulder."

Her clothing can be found in Payson at the Past and Present Boutique.

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Peggy Gould says she tries to capture interludes in nature that lift our eyes to the creator of it all.

Smolenski is one of 33 artists whose work will be showcased in ‘Neath the Rim, the popular, annual self-guided art studio tour held May 5 through 7.

"Many of the artists will demonstrate in their medium of painting jewelry making, pottery or sculpture," said Peggy Gould, publicity coordinator for the event.

On the tour with Smolenski and 31 other artists is potter Linda Nannizzi.

Nannizzi does not throw pottery much on the wheel any more.

With her own studio she is free to create her own pieces and accept commissions rather spend all her time making production pottery bowls for galleries.

Now, even though it takes more time, she prefers to build her pieces from scratch using "stretched slabs" of clay.

"What I like to do when I am working on my own piece is have a loose idea (and a sketch) of what I am doing, but I like to keep it open to how the piece is going while I am creating it," Nannizzi said.

She calls a technique she has developed over the years working with clay a "textured slip."

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"My creative spirit is nourished by my passion for nature," Linda Nannizzi said. "Working in clay reveals my infatuation with color, texture, form, light shadow and patterns."

"It's very earthy and unique to my pottery," she said.

"When you are a potter you have to be a little bit of an engineer because clay is very malleable and workable and you can push it and pull it and that's one of the advantages.

"So I do change things as I go according to how I feel. I may have a drawing and the finished piece may end up being very different than what the drawing looked like."

She enjoys the look and feel of vessels that are asymmetrical, yet functional.

"I love to incorporate the Southwest into my vessels and pieces -- lizards, praying mantis, butterflies, botanicals," she said. "I did a big wall piece with Echinacea flowers, then I had a little lady bug hiding under the flowers."

She has huge notebooks and files of sketches of pieces.

"I don't even know if I will be able to finish them all in my lifetime," Nannizzi said.

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