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Artist forges her raw talent

Metal artist and sculptor Paula Jensen is at work at her studio, Earth Eagle Forge. ?Pioneer Photo/Patt Rall1 / 2
An eagle fabricated by metal artist Paula Jensen recently returned from a three-month display in the Canton Museum of Art in Canton, Ohio.2 / 2

Paula Jensen started her artistic career with two-dimensional painting: egg tempra, watercolor and colored pencil while a student at Bemidji State University studying fine art with Marley Kaul.

Personal demands on her life changed the direction of her career and later it was her husband, Larry, who recognized her raw talent.

Paula will welcome visitors to her Earth Eagle Forge studio in Guthrie today through Sunday as part of the First City of Arts Studio Cruise '10.

"Larry was a welder fabricator and suggested that I try my hand at it," Paula said. "So he taught me how to weld and work with metal and it kind of took over. Larry thinks I'm talented but I think he's a little biased. It takes time to get good. He knew me before I was good, and he saw something."

Jensen worked for a local fireplace company and dabbled in metal art, but she and her husband agreed that she should resign and focus on her art work. In between orders for railings, signs, wall sconces, furniture and door knockers, she would dabble at a piece of artwork. That piece was recently on display for three months at a museum in Canton, Ohio.

"There was a gentleman in Akeley who wanted me to create this eagle, something I had never done before," she said. "I went to my scrap pile of sheet metal and started to make a sculpture," said Jensen. The eagle is the first real sculpture that I've ever made, and even though at the end it was out of his price range, I'm glad he asked me to make it. I don't know if I would have done anything like that. He got me going."

The curator at the museum in Ohio was putting together a show of scrap metal artists, and Jensen was asked to participate. It put a timeline on the piece, for it had to be finished in time for the show. The eagle feathers were individually made and then welded onto the piece.

Museum workers came and picked up the piece and then returned it to the Jensens', where it now resides on the trailer waiting for another site to be displayed. Perhaps it will find a permanent home in the new airport extension building -- a symbol of life in the north woods, a spread eagle.

Jensen confided that ideas come to her all the time and then she must work on them. It is "artist speak" heard time and again about how a piece of stone, a piece of steel in Jensen's milieu, will let the artist know what it wants to be if one listens hard enough. Artists seem to be able to enter this other dimension and abide there. "Getting into the zone" is another phrase used.

"The only way I can describe it is that I get this image, it's only a split second vision, a fuzzy picture," said Jensen. "And the moment I see it, I say yes and it's still there until I make it and once I make it, it's gone (the image). I believe that I am meant to be an artist for we are all here on this earth to do something. So it's not really about you anymore, it's about doing the thing you were meant to do, it's just so much fun."

A visit to Jensen's workshop with the various size anvils, hand tools, presses, welding supplies and such will show an artist who not only listens well, but is enjoying what she is doing. Jensen works at her craft every day either in designing, fabricating or searching on the computer for communities that have art in public places. Some of the pieces she will have on display and for sale are consumer friendly: the repousse copper leaf or the copper rendering of a branch with leaves. Samples of her work can be seen on her website:

To get to her studio, drive south on Highway 71 to County Road 16. Make a left and drive three miles to stop sign, make a right on County Road 36, and drive two miles to the big gray house with an eagle in the front yard. It would probably be a good idea to visit both Earth Eagle Forge and Blue Sky Beads the same morning and then double back to see potter Josh Boock and wood turners Kathy and David Towley as they are all south of Bemidji.