Home is where the Art Is
by Mary Zalmanek
October 1, 2013
Filed under Feature Stories
Sometimes rain clouds really do have silver linings. Three days of thunder-storms on last year’s winter vacation left me wondering what other people do when nasty weather confines them to their motorhomes — so I asked. The results of those inquiries were published in the August 2012 issue of MotorHome in an article titled “Portable Pastimes: 10 Ways to Enrich Your Life While On the Road.” These creative, generous and intelligent people inspired me to take up at least one new interest, and I’m still asking RVers about their hobbies.
1. Cro-Hooking for Angels
Cro-hooking has been around for ages, but the first I’d heard of it was from Frankie Cardinal. A retired musician and former music school owner, Frankie was in a horrible car accident. No longer able to play piano, she felt “creatively dead” for years. When her doctor suggested a hobby, she learned to knit, crochet and cro-hook. A special double-ended crochet hook is used to cro-hook double-sided, usually two-colored fabric for afghans, scarves and tablecloths. A longer hook is used to create the larger pieces. This hobby tapped into a creative vein and soon her husband said, “I’ve never seen you so alive, so happy.”
She now teaches cro-hooking to friends.
But what really makes Frankie happy is the knowledge that good comes from her hobbies. She sells the cro-hooked and other handcrafted pieces to buy yarn to make “angel gowns.” She donates these crocheted gowns, along with matching hats and booties, to various hospitals. When an infant, born to homeless or indigent parents, dies in the hospital, these precious garments are used as burial gowns. If you have extra yarn to donate to the cause, contact Frankie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Native American Flutes
Don Emrick has been playing the Native American flute for less than two years, but he’s already collected six of them. A longtime fan, he finds flute music relaxing. Three or four days a week, he loses track of time while practicing. He learns basic songs from tablature, sheet music indicating fingering rather than musical notes on a staff. He also learns embellishments, techniques used to enhance a melody with his fingers and breath.
Don lives full time in an RV resort in Arizona, which allows him to participate in weekly jam sessions with about a dozen other flutists. Because echoes create a different sound in each venue, whether it’s a living room or practice hall, the group decided to venture out. They booked a private tour at Colossal Cave Mountain Park near Tucson. I got goosebumps as he described the experience of being immersed in music surrounded by the stillness of the cave.
3. Wooden Pens
During the 25 years Bob Weil owned motorhomes, he hauled around a variable-speed wood lathe, finishing tools, and materials, including pen kits and raw stock of wood or acrylic. He estimates he’s made about 2,000 pens. Upon arriving at an RV site, he would pull tools and supplies from a side compartment and set up shop on a picnic table. When necessary, he would go to a lumber supply store to have raw stock cut to size.
His pens are works of art, many of the wooden ones inlaid with turquoise. The acrylic pens are richly colored. Bob sells his pens on eBay or gives them away as gifts.
4. Pampered Fossils
When Ann and Bob Winter plan road trips, they go where fossils can be found: remote sites identified in fossil guidebooks, rocky outcroppings and cuttings for new roads. Spring is the best time for finding fossils, after winter storms and runoff have uncovered long-buried treasures. That’s when Ann gets rid of her manicured “winter nails,” loads up her GPS, chisels and picks, and heads out with Bob.
Ann’s interest in fossils dates back more than 10 years. She took classes at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago to learn how to find and clean fossils. Finding her first brachiopod and realizing it was 450 million years old was a “significant emotional event” in her life.
When she’s not hunting fossils, she’s cleaning them. Tools she carries with her in their motorhome include a lighted magnifying glass, jeweler’s loupe, dremel rotary tool, etcher, files and dental picks.
5. Whimsical Woods
Eight years ago, when George and Billie Jo Moncsko became full-timers, George decided he needed a hobby, something relaxing that didn’t require a lot of space. He took a class from the Easy Bleeders, a woodworking hobby group in Tucson, Ariz. They even loaned him knives to get started.
George makes whimsical carved houses from cottonwood bark. There is no pattern; he starts at the top and works his way down. He said, “If I make a mistake, the design just changes.” A house with stained glass windows took him less than 40 hours to complete, and a cliff dwelling took him 12. He gives away some of his carvings as gifts, and keeps the rest.
His collection of tools includes 15 knives, 10 gouges and eight files, all of various shapes and sizes. These are stored, along with semigloss lacquer for finishing, in a carrying bag that is kept in an exterior storage compartment of his motorhome.
6. Pencil Drawings
Billie Jo Moncsko, meanwhile, started oil painting when she had young children. Eventually life got so busy that something had to give, so she quit painting. When she was finally able to express her artistic side again, she took up pencil drawing and pastels. Many of her drawings were donated to a hospital in Silver City, N.M., and others were given to her daughter. Animals are her current favorite topic, but she’s ready to move on to landscapes.
Billie Jo considers drawing a perfect hobby for her lifestyle. It’s something she’s enjoyed for years, and since few supplies are required, it’s quite portable. The steering wheel in the motor-home serves as an easel when they are parked.
7. Fused Glass
After 35 years as a stained glass artist, Sydney Ryan decided to give fused glass a try in 2003. After one class,she was hooked. She makes jewelry from fusible and dichroic glass, and often embellishes the pieces with beads. She has become so proficient that now she teaches classes in fused glass and beading. Most of the time she works at a fused glass hobby shop, but she can work in her RV when the mood strikes. She has an abundant supply of glass, a Morton board for cutting glass, cutters, pliers and a tabletop kiln. Since the internal temperature of the kiln reaches 1,500 degrees, she places it on a heat-proof mat, approved by her husband, Bob, a former fire fighter.
In addition to jewelry, she has used her RV kiln to make “yard bird” garden art, wind chimes and refrigerator magnets. Creating art glass pieces is something she does primarily for the pleasure it gives her, but occasionally she does commissioned work. She also gives several expensive pieces each year to charity auctions.
8. Chair Webbing
Larry and Bernice Richeson are full-timers at an RV resort in Kentucky. A “self-taught perfectionist,” Larry weaves new life into old chair frames, about 50 of them in the last five years. His interest in chair webbing started when his parents passed away and left behind some ladder-back chairs. Since none of his siblings wanted them, he took them home and fixed the seats. Not only did Larry enjoy doing this, friends and family were so impressed with his work that they started asking him to re-web their chairs. People bring Larry their chair frames and pick out colors of nylon rope he uses to fashion his projects. With several hundred feet and a lot of patience, Larry makes the chairs look better than new. His masterpiece is a swing that took him three months to finish. A typical chair can be re-webbed in about 10 hours. What started as a hobby has turned into his “retirement business.” He recently received an order from a restaurant to repair 40 chairs.
9. Feline Fashion Designer
Bernice Richeson’s cats, Mouse and Pebbles, are surely the best-dressed pets at their RV resort. Bernice makes outfits for all occasions, whether it’s a grass skirt for a Hawaiian luau or a bumblebee costume for Halloween. She got the initial idea from a picture in a magazine. A seamstress since the age of 5, she had no problem constructing her own pattern. With her humane designs, leashes can be attached to the clothing rather than to a collar, which won’t hurt the animals’ necks if they try to pull away.
Through word of mouth, Bernice sells her designs to other pet owners. On the Fourth of July, when residents and guests at the RV resort decorate their golf carts, many of the dogs and cats will ride in style, dressed in festive, sparkly clothing.
10. Turning Wood Into Art
Soon after Larry Fox sold his retail store and screen-printing business, he realized he needed a hobby. Intrigued when his teenage son brought home a wooden bowl he’d turned in wood shop class, Larry signed up for an adult education class in wood turning from his son’s shop teacher. Five years later he had perfected his technique enough that his hobby grew into a business. Now he makes about 500 bowls a year and sells them at retail stores and juried art shows in Colorado and Florida. His best sellers are beetle kill pine bowls inlaid with turquoise, although he also makes urns, vases and ornaments in a variety of woods. Christmas ornaments made from trees given to Larry by people who lost everything in the devastating Waldo Canyon Fire are sentimental favorites in Colorado Springs.
In 2010, he bought a 32-foot, two-bedroom travel trailer. He gutted the back bedroom and turned it into an 80-square-foot shop, equipped with a Jet 16-by-42-inch wood lathe, tool grinder, buffing wheels, and an assortment of gouges. When he and his wife, Linda, leave their Colorado home, he takes between 80 and 125 bowl blanks with him to finish while wintering in Florida. Each day he spends a few hours turning bowls, although he does find time for golf and fishing.
Whether it’s for personal satisfaction, altruism or profit, these folks have found their passions. At home or on the road, creativity flourishes. On second thought, maybe they’re always at home. After all, home is where the art is.