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Circles in art, circles in life

By on January 31, 2018 in Arts with 0 Comments

Amber Zimmerman’s multimedia talents and her full time artist-and-mom schedule mean ramped-up organizational skills (see “orders”). This big owl was almost ready to be delivered the next day to the Confluence Gallery.

By Susan Lagsdin

Within the cozy confines of Amber Zimmerman’s studio, circles are everywhere.

Since 2015, when she designed a commemorative artwork after the death of a friend, her focus has been mostly on the mandala.

That intricate spherical design originated as a Buddhist and Hindu emblem of the cosmos, but many of Amber’s designs, rich with symbolism, depict the central Cascade Mountains that she knows and loves. One is where her grandmother’s ashes are buried, one is where she got engaged, one is a favorite backpacking destination.

 “The circle is a comfortable shape for humans,” she said. “It’s the only shape our brain doesn’t need to interpret. Mandalas are essentially meditative; they symbolize the earth and the feminine. But these seem to have a lot of meaning for any age, any gender.”

Her buyer-friendly mountain mandalas are a perfect embodiment of her artistic vision. Some creative people disdain the reality of the marketplace, but Amber, a third-generation artist, is refreshingly frank about it.

 This is a career. She wants to sell her work, and she does, in galleries and stores from Twisp to Leavenworth. “I love it when a piece goes to live somewhere else,” she said. “It takes on a new life and goes on to impact another person.”

Amber’s experience with varied art forms has also served her well. Though she learned glassmaking from her parents at their Bothell and then Plain (for 26 years) Silvermoon Studio, she also went to Pratt Fine Arts Center and received a B.A. in Environmental Art from Evergreen State College, practicing and becoming proficient in a variety of media.

Dirtyface Mountain Mandala — watercolor and pen.

For her, the vision, the idea, the mental image comes first, and only then does Amber decide the best medium to interpret it.

Some other fine artists are just the opposite — their medium (paint, fabric, clay) is their mainstay, and so their search is for inspiring subjects and themes.

Her small studio is organized so the potentially dangerous glassmaking equipment and the kiln are in the small back room while the paints, tools, easels, worktables, bins and walls of full-to-the-rim shelves are in the front room.

Fused glass suncatchers hang across from a canvas with a vibrant painted blackbird, sketches are tacked up next to photos, and a box of flat sticks and river rocks is ready to haul to a class.

Amber is zealous about teaching and collaborating in her community. She volunteers with LEAAP (Leavenworth Elementary Art Appreciation) and teaches after-school programs at the Wenatchee River Institute. Her traveling “Sip & Paint” classes with friend Dzhan Wiley bring art to local bistros, and she’s part of the Last Tuesdays art group.

Sleeping Lady Mountain Mandala — watercolor and pen.

She’s recently made a painting incorporating a yoga group’s gratitude statements and helped people to weave intricate dreamcatchers and to paint lanterns — the last ceremonially lighted at winter solstice.

Amber takes to the road for art classes throughout the community, and with no school bus at their remote mountainside home, she also chauffeurs her 3-and 8-year old daughters.

How does a mom and artist make time for both? Amber admits, “My heart grew huge at the birth of my children, but I lost my own identity. Whittling out time for myself made me a better person.”

Time management is paramount. When she gets two full school days alone, or an after-bedtime evening, she’ll dive into a complex project; when her girls are delightedly hanging around the studio (as she herself did for years) she’ll work on something simpler to share with them. Or maybe they’ll take a nature walk, decorate the seasonal faerie circles or visit their hand-painted tree stump mandalas.

Sacred Source — mixed media altar.

The studio is just a stroll away from a twice-moved, much improved two-level yurt that Amber first purchased serendipitously 17 years ago, and the whole small farmstead tucks into a timbered lot over the river and up the hill past Cole’s Corner. It’s near Steven’s Pass, where her husband Alan works and where they met as ski patrollers. It’s also just a few miles away from her parents’ home in Plain.

Amber’s life is defined by circles — coming back to the territory she grew up in, teaching her own girls to love art and nature, sharing the joy of artmaking with her community neighbors.

“This is what my soul is supposed to do,” she said. “I try to find the sacred in otherwise ordinary things. I chose this rural life, and I knew I’d find a way to keep doing what I love, that I’d make it work.”

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