By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Broken shower doors and grimy cigar boxes might not appear to be likely candidates for artistic creations, but Stephanie Etzel has a knack for finding beauty in unexpected places.
“Walking down the street, I might see a bike reflector or a metal hair barrette that’s been run over by a car,” Etzel said. “Any of that could make its way into my art.”
She creates mixed-media mosaics utilizing polymer clay, rubber stamps, beads, wood, tile, mirrors, and more.
“I’ve dug foam out of the dumpster at work,” Etzel laughed. “Everything is a potential resource for me.”
Etzel’s wall hangings and sculptures are brimming with eye-catching colors, exciting shapes, and intriguing textures.
She plans to display some of her treasures (mainly small, affordably priced creations) at Room to Breathe during Delano’s Old-Fashioned Christmas art walk, Saturday, Dec. 4 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“I come from a family of artists, and I’ve always had a need to create,” Etzel said.
Crazy for clay
Sixteen years ago, she was looking for a medium she could do at home with her two young children. While visiting her mother in Portland, OR, Etzel saw a light switch plate decorated in polymer clay.
“I was inspired by that, and in a month, I had made 40 of them,” Etzel said.
She fell in love with polymer clay, a versatile material based on the polymer polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Soon, Etzel became adept at forming tiny, detailed objects for her children.
“I made ‘thanksgiving dinners’ for my daughter’s Beanie Babies, and military things for my son’s GI Joes,” Etzel said.
Etzel’s daughter is now an art student in Portland, and her son, a Marine, recently returned from Afghanistan.
Now that both children are grown up, Etzel’s artistic pursuits have shifted into creating fun tribute boxes for them. In early 2011, she plans to teach a community education class on how to make the detailed keepsakes.
Tuesday, Jan. 25, Etzel will also teach a class through the Delano Public Library on how to create mixed-media mosaics using polymer clay. Participants will have the opportunity to design their own handmade tiles.
Art can be good therapy, according to Etzel.
“You can’t create art when you’re thinking negatively,” she said. “It forces me to think peaceful thoughts.”
One of Etzel’s favorite creative endeavors is cigar box art.
“I found a cigar box that was more than 30 years old, greasy and dusty and filled with nails,” she said. After a thorough cleaning and bright adornments, the box has entirely new life.
“It tickles me that it probably sat in someone’s workshop or garage for decades, and now it’s a piece of art,” she said.
Etzel’s husband, Jeff, has grown accustomed to seeing her come home with all kinds of unusual “art supplies.”
“He helps me find things, too,” she added.
Jeff has an “engineering mind” and is very good at helping Etzel with the technical aspect of her projects, she said.
“He taught me how to solder and use power tools,” she said. “I’ve definitely taken over his workshop.”
Some of the items that regularly show up in Etzel’s art include commercial tile, Wedi board substrate, millefiori, jewelry, and mirrors.
“I love thrift shops,” she said. “You just start to look at the world through a different lens.”
To learn more about Etzel’s art, go to her blog, www.sketzel.blogspot.com.