Artists work in all sorts of spaces, but the waiting room of an airport has to be one of the more exceptional studio venues. Recently, while fellow travelers absorbed themselves in cell phones and digital notebooks, jewelry maker Anna Steinhoff settled back in a coffee-shop rocking chair and created wearable accessories until her flight boarded.
“I keep my supplies organized in tackle boxes,” the Dayton artist explains, “and I have one tackle box that has a little bit of everything for traveling.”
Jewelry making, while it is intricate and detailed, is highly portable, an aspect Steinhoff discovered at the age of 13, when she originated her sideline career in yet another unusual place: the hospital room where she was receiving treatment for lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of blood cancer.
“I had almost three years of chemotherapy treatments, so I needed something to do,” Steinhoff says. “I started making jewelry because I needed a good distraction — you can only watch so much TV.” When a local leather-craft store offered Steinhoff supplies in exchange for her creating projects and displays for their windows, the teenager used her time well: she fashioned intricate seed bead projects, bags, and moccasins, as well as tooled carved leather into wallets, purses or belts.
Out of hardship grew something beautiful, with the skills Steinhoff developed during adolescence growing and flourishing into adulthood and a business, Blue Mountain Made, which she advertises primarily through her Facebook page of the same name. And while leather and beads still factor into the supply list, Steinhoff has added extensive variety to her material stockpile, scouring antique shops, outdoor stores, and the proverbially treasure-laden family attic for unusual design elements.
“I’ve used parts from bicycle chains, antique pocket watches, fish hooks, fishing flies, bullet cases, old belts, rocks, and flowers,” Steinhoff says. “A lot of my materials are recycled. Almost all of the leather I use are scraps from upholstery stores or even motorcycle chaps.”
An especially impressive find unfolded in her grandparent’s attic, where she stumbled upon a jar filled with brass buttons. A note within described the buttons as from Steinhoff’s great, great Uncle Frank Jobe’s World War I uniform, and it didn’t take long to incorporate this memorabilia into a leather bracelet.
Steinhoff loves leather, it being a major component in many of her pieces. A highly natural, organic element, leather adds a sense of the mountains and countryside, not to mention its ability to impart beauty without being “girly-girl,” an appellation Steinhoff avoids.
“I like wearing something that comes from nature and/or reminds me of the olden days when things were hand forged and simpler,” she says.
“It’s important to me that I make quality goods, but I want them to have a hand-crafted, simple beauty to them — things you can tell that someone put a lot of time and love into.”
In addition to the wearers of her jewelry, Steinhoff has another, unusual fan named Tikka, the family Labrador with a leather addiction. Because the artist’s primary place to work is the kitchen table, she keeps a watchful eye out for Tikka, but sometimes the dog’s muzzle is quicker than the human eye.
“I have to keep leather put away, or she’ll eat it every time. She has actually eaten a lot of things I’ve made.
“I have some dangly leather earring’s I’ve made, and every time I wear them she nuzzles my neck/ears and it tickles. The more I giggle, the more she nuzzles and tries to nibble the earrings.”
Freeloader. But a fetching one.
With a day job in human resources at the Walla Walla Penitentiary, Steinhoff balances family time with commercial endeavor, and launched her business officially last year at Dayton’s Blue Mountain Station. She has recently been invited to share store space at Azure Mountain Botanicals in Dayton.
“I never know what I will make next,” the artist says. “I just like things that are simple, pretty, rustic, and handcrafted.”
Anna Steinhoff is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery, 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA from Monday, October 5 through Saturday, October 31.
Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.
Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists. Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.
This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.