It’s hard to know where Kelowna artist and jewelry maker Lori Mairs’ studio begins and where it ends. Being an artist who favours natural materials – she is especially partial to shed antler, bone, wood, clay, steel and paper – Lori’s work space frequently extends beyond her little sun room studio and into her yard and the surrounding Woodhaven Nature Conservancy she takes care of.
“I have a real respect for nature and the earth,” Lori told The Pear Tree the morning we dropped by for a tour. “I feel in harmony with those things.”
Hired by the Regional District of the Central Okanagan as a security contractor (in lay terms the park caretaker), Lori resides in a little cottage near the front of the 8.7 hectare conservancy. The home, originally the summer house of former Kelowna Mayor Harry Raymer, dates back to the 1930s or ‘40s, she estimates.
In the eight years she’s lived and created art and jewelry there, Lori has filled the space with her creative impulse, giving the wooded garden immediately surrounding her an enchanted appeal.
Sculptures large and small can be seen nestled into the brush or perched on stumps or rocks, adding a whimsical character to the place.
Because of the size of some of her sculptures, Lori does much of her work outside in the summer months. Working in such an atmosphere, surrounded by lush foliage and wild flowers, Lori’s creative juices flow.
“I am inspired by this park. I’m inspired by the raw seasonal changes that put me in the position of having to pay attention. I’m inspired by the creatures, the flora and fauna – this richness that goes on, living here in this wonderland.
“I work with what is in sympathetic union with the wild. So to be connected to the wild so deeply and richly, it can’t help but work.”
Adding to the sentiment, Lori is acquainted with some of the deer who’s antlers she finds, naturally shed. One doe, in particular, has brought three sets of babies to her pond to drink.
“I have history with the critters and the trees,” she said.
While she does the heavy, messy work – cutting with a saw, welding or sanding (which can be dusty) – outdoors, Lori does most of the fiddly stuff – such as sanding, polishing and assembling her Public Bone jewelry – in her little studio.
It is here that she pulls out the beads and silver and jewelry making tools to turn her natural treasures into wearable works of art.
A favoured form of expression for Lori is inking patterns on the bone she uses for jewelry.
Lori explains that she is drawn to bone in her fine art and commercial jewelry business because she loves to work with things that are in sympathetic union with the body.
“Bone represents the core of who we are,” she said. “It’s the only physical thing I’ve found so far that can describe a metaphysical state and talk about archetypal form and the human condition.”
While sculpture and jewelry are Lori’s professional creative expressions, she also paints – “just for fun” – and has some of her work hanging in her living room (above).
Of course, during the warmer months of the year, Lori prefers her outdoor living space (above), using it to entertain, relax and think about her next project.
Coming up this summer for Lori is a three month show of her artwork at the Regional District offices at 1450 KLO Road in Kelowna. Shadow Boxing will show from July through September.
Smaller Than A Breadbox: The Works, will be in Edmonton June 26 to July 7.
For the Woodhaven Eco Art Project this summer, Lori will sculpt live in the park July 10 (date subject to change). She is also involved in a short film about the conservancy, due out next summer.
In the mean time, her Public Bone jewelry is for sale at Funktional, 447 Bernard Avenue in Kelowna, at Wine Valley Accents, 13222 Kelly Avenue in Summerland, and here.
– Story and photos by Lori-Anne Poirier