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‘Cruise’ on in: Bemidji artists open doors for annual Studio Cruise

Les Sanders chips away at a wood statue of a dragon in his studio on Saturday during the Bemidji Studio Cruise. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 1 / 3
Kathy Sanders uses a propane-oxygen torch to heat and form glass beads on Saturday during the Bemidji Studio Cruise. When red hot, the beads can reach up to 2,000 degrees. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 3
Kathy Sanders uses a propane-oxygen torch to heat and form glass beads on Saturday during the Bemidji Studio Cruise. When red hot, the beads can reach up to 2,000 degrees. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)3 / 3

BEMIDJI -- As the second day of Bemidji’s annual Studio Cruise kicked off, Les and Kathy Sanders were already hard at work in their converted garage.

Kathy, a realtor by trade, was absorbed in the construction of a single glass bead when the first visitors began to arrive at her home. The process is a delicate one -- if she had removed the bead from her propane-oxygen torch for too long, it would crack.

“It’s been heated, it’s been played around with, it’s actually kind of volatile,” Kathy said. “But when I put it in the kiln, it ramps up to 960 degrees and cools down slowly, so then it’s very durable.”

As Kathy put the finished bead -- destined to become part of a fork -- into her kiln to cool, her husband Les worked on carving a wooden dragon in the next room. The couple has been involved in the arts for decades, and enjoy giving the community a behind-the-scenes look into their own projects.

“I just think it’s a great opportunity,” Kathy said of the cruise. “We just really love that you can come in and talk to the artist, actually watch the work and have them demonstrate their crafts, so that you can see their process. And I think people really appreciate my beads a lot more.”

Kathy sells her gourd art, along with paintings and a variety of beaded products. Les occasionally sells his wood carvings, though sales are not his primary motivation.

“My wife kind of wanted to open it up,” Les said of the studio, which is split into two parts: one section for his wife, one section for his carving. “I don’t carve to sell, I carve for myself, but it’s nice to kind of share that, if you do get something that’s halfway decent.”

The 2017 Studio Cruise runs through Sunday and features 25 locations within a 40-mile radius of Bemidji. Attendees choose which studios to visit and can purchase works of art along the way. For a map, visit the Watermark Art Center’s website at https://watermarkartcenter.org and click on programs, then click on the “Studio Cruise” link near the bottom of the page.

The Sanders’ studio, located at the 3600 block of Birchmont Drive NE, sits almost directly across Lake Bemidji from Lara Dybing’s home and workspace at the 3900 block of Riverside Drive NE.

Dybing’s home is full of her work, from hand-knitted pillows to Norwegian landscape paintings to the floor of her studio itself, which she painted. Dybing’s studio has been in place since February; she decided to convert it after her daughter moved to England.

“It’s kind of an inspirational space up here, overlooking the river and things,” Dybing said. “The light is great.”

Dybing chose to open her home for the Studio Cruise because she hopes to eventually teach classes out of her house.

“It’s just an opportunity to get people here to kind of see what we’re doing,” she said. “Anybody that has ideas that wants to use it, we can work that out.”

For Dybing, the Studio Cruise is symbolic of Bemidji’s support of the arts.

“Bemidji is so artistic,” Dybing said. “I think in Bemidji you are able to be your authentic self.”

Grace Pastoor

Grace Pastoor covers crime, courts and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. Contact her at (218) 333-9796 or gpastoor@bemidjipioneer.com

(218) 333-9796
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