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From making art to the art of giving

It was Craft Sunday last week at Sis' hilltop home, and a good time was had by all.

I, as usual, arrived a couple hours late to the party. What can I say? Time is a fluid concept in my world.

My typical tardiness hadn't delayed the festivities one whit. Creating had commenced in all its splendiferous glory. The tile floor adjacent to the big oak table was strewn with green bits of pine garlands, silver and gold glittery tinsel, snippets of colorful yarn and more.

"Don't you want this little hedgehog on your wreath?" crafter Christy queried Sis, holding aloft a little pine-cone-looking cutie.

Sis was uncertain. Or maybe she just didn't want to hog the hog. But I gave it a big thumbs up — and so it came to be that Hedgie was firmly affixed to Sis' newly created wreath that now adorns a cheery space above the fireplace.

Three of the crafters then moved on to creating beaded-star earrings. Others began playing with glue guns, fat red and green twine and Styrofoam trees. Still others started a rousing game of cribbage.

Me? I was playing with artistic treasures of the literary sort.

Local artist Charlene Brussat called me shortly after reading about the Maslow Project's new art therapy program and its need for supplies.

This famous multimedia artist's work has appeared in countless galleries. Most famous for her luscious watercolors, Charlene has decided to shake things up by setting aside her brush. Now hooked on quilting, she was offering books from her studio library on painting, drawing, soap-making, dyeing and more.

We'd planned to meet in Jacksonville for a cuppa, and so I could pick up the books. But, on a whim, I offered to come to her Upper Applegate home last Friday to snabble her donations. Why should she have to schlep?

Charlene chuckled and warned me her home/studio was well off the beaten path. I replied it was a lovely day for a drive. And so it was. Crisp, clear and soul-cleansing.

Charlene, her husband, Tom, and their two friendly and furry Aussies greeted me in the driveway. We all quickly headed to the studio. Charlene and I were already jabbering about art, art shows and teaching.

Flipping through the pages of "Splash 8: Watercolor Discoveries," a best-of-the-best book that also features Charlene's juicy work, I mentioned I'd spent Tuesday evenings in November leading a watercolor workshop at the Children's Advocacy Center. The teen girls in the mentoring program were delightful. One girl, in particular, was an astonishingly good artist.

I'm looking forward to doing more teaching. But I need to brush up a bit, I said. Not only have my painting skills gotten a little rusty since I traded a brush for a quill, my art library got waterlogged along the way, I added.

"I took in copies of my paintings to show the girls. But my books were all destroyed when my studio flooded a few years ago," I said.

Still gleefully plopping stack after stack of books into large cardboard boxes, Charlene urged me to reserve a few for future classes. And so on Sunday at Sis', I sorted and sifted and made my selections. This painter was picking with a pay-it-forward promise.

Monday I took the bulk of Charlene's donations to Maslow. I could barely lift the heavy boxes, and I plopped them onto a sturdy table with a gusty grunt.

"Here ya go. Art library for the art studio, compliments of Charlene Brussat," I said, grinning at the popping eyeballs of staff members.

I know the kids at Maslow, and those at the Children's Advocacy Center, will appreciate Charlene's gifts. As Maslow's new art therapist, Lacey Renae, said in the earlier story, art can help boost self-esteem and pave a path toward a better future.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email sspecht@mailtribune.com.