Sunday, October 10, 2010

Arts: Blue Coast Tour

For Kalamazoo Gazette, 09-26-10, with my photos
The art of soft
Fabric artist in Blue Coast tour

FENNVILLE — When it comes to making fabric into art, Suzie Jenkins says, it’s all about the color.
“I love color,” says the owner and operator of Lakeshore Textiles in Fennville as she shows off her scarves, shawls, sweaters and other work she dyes, spins, weaves and designs in the studio just down a gentle hill from her house.
When she and her husband, James, decided they were going to move from New Jersey back to Michigan — they met as Dearborn High School students — Jenkins knew she wanted to be near the Lake Michigan shore. She had spent childhood summers in Saugatuck, and much of her art today bears a lakeshore theme.

But when they arrived in Fennville in last October, she says, “I didn’t know where to begin. My goal was to set up a studio,” similar to the one she’d operated elsewhere. By chance, brochures from their real estate agent included information about the Blue Coast Artists, artists and craftspersons with studios along or near Blue Star Highway in Allegan County.
“It was serendipity,” she recalls. She applied to join the group and hustled to transform her barn into a working studio and retail site. Lakeshore Textiles opened its doors this past May.
Jenkins is one of seven artists whose studios will offer demonstrations of their work during Blue Coast Artists’s 21st annual fall tour, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. this coming Saturday and Sunday — “the creative process in action,” potter Dawn Soltysiak of nearby Khnemu Studio calls it. Pottery, sculpture, jewelry, paintings and other mediums will be on view.
Lakeshore Textiles will demonstrate dyeing, spinning and knitting as well as felting, as Saturday will be National Felt Day. Also on hand will be Jenkins’s own sheep, a pair of California reds named Spot and Slick.
Jenkins, a former operating-room nurse, keeps her tools — scissors, needles, slotted spoons and the like — laid out with OR precision. Old Jessica McClintock perfume bottles that now hold her dye are lined up in marching order near large grey kettles in which she dyes spaghetti-like skeins of yarn. Stickers on the wall above the pots read, “HOT!!!”
She’s been working with fabric since she first witnessed yarn being spun at a Howell crafts show in 1997, she recalls, and has noted “a surge” in knitting and fiber crafts since 9/11.
These days, she says, “I can’t keep the hand-woven (yarn) in the shop.
“… Back east, spinners are open to a variety of fibers. In Michigan, they want something soft,” she says, so she carries some 100 different fleeces.
But why the growth in interest with hobbyists and professionals?
“Sitting down with a ball of yarn and a knitting needle is so therapeutic,” Jenkins says with a satisfied smile.

Who’s who on the tour

The seven artists whose studios will be open for the 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Oct. 2-3 21st annual Blue Coast Artists fall tour include:
• Jessica Bohus, Blue Roan Studio, flame-worked glass bead sculpture and jewelry
• Suzie Jenkins, Lakeshore Textiles, fabric
• Suzi Lattner Zwissler, Lattner Studio, paintings, drawings
• Damian Koorey, Greenfire Studios, sculpture, jewelry, photography
• Lee McKee, Lake Effect Pottery
• Dawn Soltysiak, Khnemu Studio, ceramic pottery. Also features 20 other Michigan artists’ work.
• Mark Williams, Blue Star Pottery, handmade stoneware.
For a map of the studios’ locations and phone numbers, go to or call Dawn Soltysiak at 269-236-9260.

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