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Eclectic Artisans 

Love it or loathe it, everyone has to agree that the Arcata Plaza is an eclectic place: from the people to the shops and restaurants, the Plaza runs the gamut. On the Plaza's west side, there is a shop that embodies the spirit of its location. Arcata Artisans has been displaying and selling the work of a diverse group of local artists and craftspeople for more than nine years. For July, Arcata Artisans features a collection of artists that shows the variety of its membership: printmaker Marsha Mello, jeweler Kris Patzlaff and ceramic artist Michael Pearce.

Marsha Mello, a member of Arcata Artisans since it began, has been a printmaker for more than 30 years. Mello employs the age-old intaglio method that involves drawing images on copper plates that are then etched in acid. It's a medium she finds well suited for capturing the detail in the variety of natural subjects she explores: Birds, marine animals and insects are among her favorites.

Mello's latest exhibition focuses on birds. "I am endlessly intrigued by their grace, elegance and variety, and strive to show their connections to their surroundings and place in the world," she writes in her artist statement. Those connections are evident: The patterns and movement of the lines that describe the background in each scene seem connected to the patterns and lines in the birds themselves. The birds are part of their environment and the environment is part of the birds. Mello hopes that her work will inspire people to learn more about that environment and, as a result, help to protect it.

Kris Patzlaff, another longtime Artisans member, has been making and exhibiting jewelry for over 35 years. Patzlaff is showing some recent carved acrylic, jet, bone and carved black coral pieces reminiscent of organic shapes like branches and stones combined with formed and fabricated silver components, often covered with intricate patterns and textures. Looking at her work, one gets a strong sense of parts coming together to create an even more interesting, often unexpected, whole. She speaks of her work as a discovery process with pieces evolving as she puts them together. "For me, that keeps it refreshing and fun," she said. "A lot of jewelers, and I have great respect for them, will design something and then they'll make it and you can look at their drawing or their design and go, 'Yup, that's it!' None of my jewelry has ever been like that; I've always had this element of assemblage," said Patzlaff.

A set of necklaces she titled "Curios" was inspired by the idea of 16th and 17th century cabinets of curiosities. "Early travelers would bring back odd things from their travels and then put them into these cabinets. They were sort of like the first museums before museums existed. My house is similar to that," said Patzlaff with a laugh, "I have a lot of cabinets with different things in [them], different things I collect."

While making and displaying the jewelry brings its own rewards, Patzlaff sees the end of the process as something a bit more personal. "It's so important for me for someone else to own it, enjoy it and wear it. And for the jewelry -- when those necklaces are on the body, that's their home, that's where they should be."

Ceramic artist Michael Pearce is the newest member of Arcata Artisans and this is his first featured exhibition with the collective. While he is the newcomer to the group, Pearce certainly isn't a newcomer to his chosen medium. He started working with clay in 1970 with wheel thrown pieces. More recently, he's been focusing on slab-built forms using high-fire techniques with porcelain and stoneware clays including asymmetrical vases and teapots of various sizes. Something about the irregular shapes makes you want to pick them up to feel the edges and curves. Colors range from strong blues to more muted, natural tones.

"I like stuff that's asymmetrical -- it kind of gets more of a movement going," explained Pearce. "I started distorting my thrown forms a little bit, I just liked it better when they weren't perfectly symmetrical, and then [using slab-built forms] just launched [the work] into a new dimension."

The teapot is one of Pearce's favorite forms. In addition to providing numerous elements to manipulate (spout, handle, lid, body), the form allows Pearce to highlight another aspect of his work: whimsy. The lids of Pearce's teapots are home to a variety of figures and scenes, from surfers to dogs and cats. "I love being able to stick a little element of humor in and I can't really do that [with a standard vase]. They're very expressive, teapots are, for me -- it's just fun," Pearce said, "I'm just kind of addicted to it, really."

There will be a reception for the artists at Arcata Artisans (883 H Street) on Friday, July 13, from 6-9 in conjunction with Arts! Arcata.

 

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Jason Marak

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