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A marriage of art and high-tech

Mail Tribune / Jim Craven

On one side of the shop, traditional artwork fills the visual senses. On the other, high-tech imagery spews forth.

Both are vivid, both reflect Olivia Schemanski's artistic talent and both pay the bills for Irelock & Everything Art, tucked between Riverside and Central Avenues in the old Wood Products Credit Union building.

It's like two worlds have collided here, says the 40-year-old Alaska native, who operates the 3-month-old business with her husband, Chris.

A lot of designers go to design school, learn about computers and know how to build an ad, but they aren't trained in the arts. And there are people in the arts who avoid computers and think, ?They are our enemy.? I've found a way to put it together.

The Schemanskis arrived in the Rogue Valley nine years ago, seeking a respite from the subarctic climes of Alaska's Kenai Peninsula.

I had kind of got to the end of my growth ability, Schemanski says. I was well enough known that I could make enough money, but I couldn't expand.

That led the Schemanskis and daughter Mandy, now 20, to scout out new frontiers. Medford afforded both the exposure to warmth and the Interstate 5 corridor's commerce.

We drove through here on vacation and thought it was a beautiful location, she says. And there was sunshine.

A five-week stay provided evidence of a real growing season; tomatoes were more than a rumor.

In Alaska, Schemanski was commissioned to produce artwork for Unocal's chemical unit and designed a logo for the bicentennial of Russians landing in Alaska in the late 18th century.

I never had any artistic training, says Schemanski, who has had her own pupils. I studied a lot of books and the style I developed in a cold land had been very commercial.

The expanded opportunity she sought in the Rogue Valley came quickly.

In 1996, she did Quicksilver's astrological calendars. Then between 1995 and August of 2000 she free-lanced for Bear Creek Corp., creating designs that customers would easily recognize.

Labels for preserves and mustard, Mexican and Italian lines, cookie jars, teapots, even lawn furniture designs were hers. She once designed 36 character scenes from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker for a Christmas ornament set, not to mention Noah's Ark, angels and more.

The commercial client base of more than 20 firms, running from Batzer Construction and Butler Ford to Pacific Wood Craft of White City and Innovative Fabworks, keeps the business profitable. Schemanski produces ad material, brochures, newsletters, in-house employee manuals and procedure manuals.

The 3,400-square-foot shop's giclee (the combination of two French words, meaning to spray through a nozzle) processing is high-tech and costs $1,200 every time it's loaded. Giclee provides high-quality reproductions that can last 200 years without yellowing.

Irelock — a meshing of Irish and Polish ancestry — has invested more than $100,000 in printing equipment and $3,400 into design programs.

Schemanski has provided local concern Turbo Ramp with paint-like prints portraying scenes used in presentations to airlines. Because the work is stored in the computer, she can tailor the presentations by making one airline fade away and introducing a second without having to re-create the entire image.

Wildlife and patriotic scenes are central to her work, but not necessarily what inspires her.

It's not so much the subject as the color and texture of things that will get me fired up real quick, Schemanski says.

She sold her first art, a drawing of an old Russian Orthodox church, at 8. As a teenager she did artwork for the Kenai Peninsula Oilers baseball team's yearbook.

She didn't get a lot of formal training, but she had successful galleries in Nikiski, Alaska, a Jacksonville-sized settlement, and Kenai, a community the size of Ashland.

I wanted to sell my own paintings, without paying 40 to 60 percent commission to other people, Schemanski says. I got to where I was selling paintings for $10,000 apiece up there and I was actually doing pretty good.

— Reach reporter at 776-4463 or e-mail

Olivia Shemanski waits as a print of a painting rolls from a printer at Irelock and Everything, a new business she opened with her husband in the old Wood Products Credit Union building in Medford.