Studio Art Tour

Switzerland, Ohio County
artisans to showcase their talent

Weaver Stepleton to exhibit
her colorful fiber creations

By Laura Goodwin
Contributing Writer

VEVAY, Ind. (April 2011) – Melodee Stepleton found her passion when she inherited a floor loom from her husband’s grandmother. Studying weaving and spinning was a natural progression. From that point, she discovered that she was an artisan weaver.
Stepleton will showcase her art at the annual Studio Artist Tour with other local Ohio and Switzerland County artisans. This year’s tour will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 23.

Melodiee Stepleton

Photo by Laura Goodwin

Melodiee Stepleton uses a variety
of looms and other equipment to
create her variety of fiber art.

Stepleton has attended the tour every year since its inception in 2008. Along with the scarves that she has made, she will be bringing other woven wares. Aside from weaving and spinning, she enjoys all things fiber, including dyeing, felting and rug hooking. Her fiber offerings at the tour will be colorful and varied.
When asked how she creates her art, she said, “I use floor and table looms and related equipment, spinning wheels, fibers and yarns. I prefer to weave and spin with wool, wool fleece, silk, cotton, linen and the newer ‘green’ fibers of soy and bamboo. Fiber dyeing utilizes both natural and chemical dyes on a wide variety of fibers.”
Stepleton said she enjoys creating Temari Balls and making Kumi Himo braids, both Japanese traditional arts. She also favors rug hooking with her own hand dyed wool fabric and hand felting. “I enjoy experimenting with new techniques to create usable items from felted fleece.”
She has her own studio and dye house, selling her articles at a handful of art shows. “I am proud to be a fiber artisan working in any related media,” she said. “I enjoy creating everything from towels and rugs, to clothing and wall hangings. My foremost love has always been traditional weaving. I strive for beauty through simplicity and quality of workmanship. To live and work in the family home on the Ohio River is a dream fulfilled.”
Natasha Turner, the operations manager for Switzerland County Tourism, also heads the Creative Spaces Rural Places Studio Artist Tour. “We really strive to seek out artists with unique crafts, encompassing all different mediums.”
Turner said that they do feature artistic mediums that people regularly see, such as painting or photography, but that the attending artisans are the top in their field and may execute these skills with a unique perspective. Many of these artisans have won awards in their particular medium.

Jay Benzing

Photos by Laura Goodwin

Artwork by Jay Benzing (above) and
Mike Danner (below) will also be on
the art tour that runs throughout
Switzerland and Ohio, Ind., Counties.

Mike Danner

Another local artist, Mike Danner, has created his own oil painting style with a 3-dimensional feel. “I use lots of paint on the canvas. I love texture.” He said that he utilizes both brushes and artist’s painting knives. These knives are specifically for painters, with a flexible steel blade that is not sharpened.
Danner started painting in high school, continuing on to study art at Indiana University. After college, however, he found himself managing the family hardware store and business. In August 2010, he sold the store so that he might retire.
“My wife asked me what I wanted for retirement. I told her, time to paint,” he said.
He has been painting in his own studio since then, although he enjoys painting outdoors during bright, warm weather. “When you spend over thirty years inside a store, it’s time to get outside.”
Danner’s time spent outside is apparent, with many of his creations featuring packet ships and river boats, as well as landscapes. Colder weather finds him indoors painting portraits.
In addition to the upcoming Studio Tour, he participates heavily in the local wine festival, building parade floats. Some of his floats have been featured in the past in national magazines. “I love to be involved in the community,” he said.
Jay Benzing is also a painter, but with different materials. Benzing prefers watercolors to oils. He studied art in college, becoming an elementary school art teacher for Boone County, Ky. He retired after 30 years in the Kentucky school system, moving to Patriot, Ind., and reviving his love for painting. His favorite subjects to paint are lighthouses and old, weathered barns and buildings.
Benzing’s art work is regularly displayed in the Madison Art Gallery, where he is member. He also attends the Rising Sun Art Show, as well as being a member of the Kentucky Water Color Society of Louisville, based at the Mellwood Art Center. Wanda, his wife, proudly boasts, “He is a (multi) award winner.”
His awards were received from shows sponsored by the Kentucky Water Color Society. This is Benzing’s fourth year to attend the Studio Art Tour.
In February, Benzing was featured in a “one man show” art showing, in conjunction with the Madison Art Club, at the Java Bean Café on Main Street in Vevay.
Benzing is now building his own art studio, calling it the River House Art Studio.
Marty McGraw is an artisan who evolves her own materials in order to construct her art. She is a jewelry maker who creates her own beads from polymer clay. Not all of her jewelry features her handmade beads, but many of her necklaces and earrings do.
McGraw said she loves the variety and enjoyment that polymer clay offers. According to the artist, it comes in approximately 10 colors that can be mixed to create any number of hues desired. It can even be manipulated to make faux gemstones, as well as being sculpted or molded as desired by the artist.
“I found it in 2007 and started using it. It’s fun to play with the colors and designs,” she said. McGraw started with the tour in 2009.
McGraw said that in addition to having her jewelry on display and for purchase, she will demonstrate how the clay is used and plans to have displays of the clay on-hand.

• For more information on the Studio Artist Tour call the Switzerland County Tourism Bureau at 1-800-435-5688 or visit: www.CreativeSpacesRurualPlaces.com.

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