Meet NCOS Coordinator Monica Topping

Photo by Ryan Filgas

Monica Topping is the coordinator for NCOS, and has organized the event for the last two years. After successfully crowdfunding the 2014 small town: BIG ART calendar, a celebration of Humboldt County art and artists, she was offered the opportunity to step into the coordination position at NCOS, which started with assisting former coordinator Taffy Stockton in 2013. After working with other artists through st:BA, NCOS felt right and it was good timing. Monica thoroughly enjoys meeting artists and visiting (and photographing!) the studios after she’s done her work organizing the event.

A Bit of Background

Photo by Ryan Filgas
Photo by Ryan Filgas

Where art is concerned, Monica is pretty crafty and has a background in photographing concerts, though journalism is where her main interests lie, and where she holds her degree from Humboldt State University. She’s really attracted to the community of artists we have and that’s what inevitably lead her to becoming involved in our crazy, wacky Kinetic Sculpture Race in 2004, then more recently with this group of painters, drawers, sculptors, print-makers, designers, photographers and anything I may have missed.

In the near future of NCOS, Monica is looking to:

  • Get more youth involved in the event
  • Participation from more, different types of artists
  • Expand the the event to include artisan manufacturing (this year we happily welcomed Humboldt’s own Dick Taylor Craft Chocolates, and Humboldt Bay Coffee Company!)

One of Monica’s favorite experiences, last year, was attending Beth Kabat‘s Open Studio. She loved that there was a hands-on screen printing demo and enjoyed watching kids get involved in the process. In addition, what she loves about Open Studios is seeing not only the personalities of the artists, but how their studios feel as well: the organization, the creations, the process, and the “creative mess” behind the refined work of each artist.

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Mondragon - 2015

Fieldbrook Leathersmith Amber Mondragon Welcomes Visitors

Handmade leather purse by Amber Mondragon of Mondragon Designs
Handmade leather purse by Amber Mondragon of Mondragon Designs

Local leathersmith Amber Mondragon of Mondragon Designs welcomes visitors to her Fieldbrook studio during the second weekend of North Coast Open Studios, Saturday and Sunday, June 13 and 14.

Mondragon looks forward to meeting new people during the event, and sharing her enthusiasm for handmade products with them.

“My artwork is fueled by function and inspired by nature,” says Mondragon. “Leather design is my way of expressing the beauty and alchemy of what people are capable of.”

The artist hand paints custom orders, using vegetable and oil tanned leathers. After finishing a knife sheath or belt, most of her leather scraps are saved for future use in her designs, including appliques, earrings, or a little inspiration for her six year old daughter’s artistic expression. When she acquires an overabundance of these leather scraps, they’ll be donated to a local nonprofit children’s art project to continue the creativity.

During Open Studios, Mondragon Designs is offering a 20% discount for all visitors, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Outside of the event, Mondragon Designs can be found online, in their Etsy shop.

During the second weekend of North Coast Open Studios, Mondragon Designs will be joined by neighboring Fieldbrook artist Peter Zambas. More information on the event can be found at www.northcoastopenstudios.com.

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Lester, Lauren - Dolason Prairie in Redwood National Park 2015

McKinleyville Watercolor Artist Lauren Lester Opens Her Studio

“Dolason Prairie in Redwood National Park,” watercolor painting by Lauren Lester
“Dolason Prairie in Redwood National Park,” watercolor painting by Lauren Lester

The public is invited to the second weekend of North Coast Open Studios – June 13-14 – at Lauren Lester’s home in McKinleyville. The event is a great opportunity to meet the landscape artist and explore her painted favorite places. Open Studios is free to the public and a fun way to learn more about artists and what inspires them.

The natural world is Lester’s passion. Her watercolor paintings are inspired by time out of doors on beaches, swimming in wild waters, and exploring mountains and woods. Once home, she enjoys painting from her own photographs. Through these paintings, Lester revisits both the memories and landscapes themselves.

Lester grew up in remote mountains far from distractions of neighbors and electricity. There, she found peace and meaning in nature.

“I was formed by my childhood experiences,” says Lester. “Being in nature slows my life down, and I find inspiration in the scenery, finding a sense of belonging and place for rainy day painting.”

She says painting landscapes connects her to the natural world; it is her gift back to her favorite places. Each painting has a story behind it and carries memories and experiences forward.

Lester’s home studio is located at 2310 Hewitt Road in McKinleyville, and will be open Saturday and Sunday, June 13 and 14, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. She can be reached at 839-3373 or laurenelester@gmail.com.

She will be joined during the second weekend of North Coast Open Studios by fellow McKinleyville artists Ann Shackleton, JB Maryn and Susan Walsh Harper.

More information about North Coast Open Studios can be found at www.northcoastopenstudios.com or by calling the Ink People Center for the Arts at 442-8413.

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(Clockwise from top left) Beth Kabat's market bags, Robin Friedman at work, "Heading Home" by Linda Parkinson, "Goldfinch" by Elaine Benjamin

Fiber, Paint, Glass, Wood — Open Studios Artists Gather in McKinleyville

(Clockwise from top left) Beth Kabat's market bags, Robin Friedman at work, "Heading Home" by Linda Parkinson, "Goldfinch" by Elaine Benjamin
(Clockwise from top left) Beth Kabat’s market bags, Robin Friedman at work, “Heading Home” by Linda Parkinson, “Goldfinch” by Elaine Benjamin

Beth Kabat of Thimbleberry Threads has invited three other North Coast Open Studios artists to participate at her studio, 4460 Dows Prairie Road in McKinleyville. Painter Linda Parkinson, glass and mosaic artist Robin Friedman, and card designer and pyrographer Elaine Benjamin will join Kabat for the second weekend of the event – Saturday and Sunday, June 13 and 14, from 11am to 5pm.

Kabat will have a hands-on demo of her unique silkscreen technique where she blends colors on the screen as she prints. She invites visitors to roll up their sleeves and print with her. In textile art for 35 years, Kabat’s popular products include T-shirts, market and book bags, pillows, and wall hangings. Her designs incorporate animals, symbolism, constellations, nature, and landscapes.

Parkinson is a well-known Humboldt artist who also works with Humboldt Wildlife Care Center in rehabilitation and education. She gets up close and personal with many of the birds – especially raptors – that become some of the subjects in her vibrant art. She will have original paintings, reproductions, and cards available for purchase.

Friedman has been doing mosaics for 10 years, after retiring as a school teacher. Her love of teaching comes through in her classes at Parasol Arts in Eureka. Her joyful use of color – in tile and glass – is also a reflection of her own enthusiastic personality. Friedman loves the repurposing aspect of mosaics and will have small grab-bags of vintage Italian tiles for sale, as well as her frames, trivets, switch plate covers, and her wearable art necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.

Benjamin has participating in all 16 previous Open Studios events as Blue Chair Press, at her former location in the historic Blue Lake Advocate press building. After paring down and moving her business to a home studio, she joins her friends for a collaborative open studio at Kabat’s in McKinleyville. She uses her graphic design background for hundreds of greeting card designs, and recently took up woodburning (pyrography), selling her unique pieces at the Arcata Artisans Cooperative Art Gallery. Her popular tool T-shirts – from block prints – are now printed by Kabat and will be available at the event.

For more information on North Coast Open Studios, visit www.northcoastopenstudios.com. NCOS is also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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