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Living Stone Studio

     Five years ago, Sue Thomson was a recently-arrived artist who wondered where she could show and sell her multi-faceted work. As word of her talent spread, customers began to visit her studio, one of the small log cabins at the Rustic Villa, the elfin tourist retreat built by master boatbuilder Karl Felix during his first sojourn on Beaver Island fifty years ago. She was glad to pick up the sales, but as the activity increased, her productivity declined.
     The solution to this dilemma occurred to her the following year, when she converted the second largest of the Villa cabins into an Arts and Crafts store for the summer months and began producing her own work during the long off-season, sometimes off the Island (this past off-season, she worked in Elgin, Illinois, where she also helped run a co-op gallery.)  The contacts she had developed with artists all over the world gradually allowed her to fill the space not being used to show her own work, and soon there two rooms were bulging with a wide variety of colorful and surprising material.
     Now in her fourth year, her store contains work produced in Michigan, Minnesota, Florida, the Philippines, India, Bali, and Indonesia, as well as the art of several Beaver Island craftsmen. There is stonework, masks, candles, Thai hand-made paper, stained glass, a variety of bowls, lamps, soapstone containers, jewelry, willow-and-glass furniture, paintings, postcards, collages, small tapestries, cloth purses, tripley-fired metal-dust-impregnated glass, painted driftwood, small iron animals, lacquered wood containers, incenses and body oils -- a dizying variety, and too much for the eye to take in during a single visit.
     Local artist Ruth Denny has her spalted wooden boxes here; Ed Casper's landscapes are on the wall; Fran weeks exhibits her sand-cast stoneware; and Cindy Ricksgers is showing dozens of her wonderfully engaging recent paintings and collages, including a few that she has deconstructed, rearranged, and put back together for greater effect.  But perhaps the most appealing collection on display is the work of Sue herself, an artist proficient in seemingly every conceivable media. In addition to paintings, cards, and dramatic sculptured figures, Sue has been perfecting a unique kind of papier-mâché that involves recycled bills and other junk mail as the base mulch, held together with various resins, and given body with esoteric items like left-over drywall compound.  She works this secret compound into such shapes as bowls, lizards, faces, and fish, and then paints the finished product to produce something vivid, exotic, and unique.
     Through the efforts of Sue and a handful of others, a kind of Renaissance in art is taking place here. If it continues, she may be forced to expand.  In and of itself, that's a mixed blessing: greater income, but also more paperwork, and probably less time to express her variegated artistic impulses.  But perhaps she and her friends could answer this need together, gradually converting all of the Rustic Villa cabins into a "Beaver Island Arts and Crafts Compound."  That would certainly be a splendid addition to our traditional economic ambiance.
(2008: Livingstone Studio now has a much larger website & online shop.)





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