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Art walk draws shoppers downtown

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Christmas lights and music from the Great Scots bagpipers made Main Street in Polson more festive on Dec. 7 for the downtown business community’s annual art walk.

Artist Matt Holmes had his kiln fired up to 1,000 degrees. Holmes and wife Heather were producing horsehair pottery in front of the Sandpiper Gallery. 

Last year, Matt said it took two hours to heat the kiln because of all the moisture. 

When the kiln and the pieces of pottery inside reached the right temperature, strands of horsehair were dropped on the hot pots.

“It has to be the right temperature because the hair has to burn into the clay,” he explained.

Though it smelled like branding with the burning hair, the horsehair left a beautiful pattern on the pottery. 

Inside the gallery, watercolorist Jean Stromnes, basket-maker Brigitte Miller, and felter Lynn Johnson worked and talked with visitors about their art. 

Johnson uses barbed needles and pieces of colored wool to create her popular felted birds.

“The more you poke the wool, the denser it gets,” she said, deftly shaping a cardinal’s tail.

She began making only Montana birds, but people requested cardinals, flamingoes and all sorts of other birds so now she crafts cardinals, sandhill cranes, chickadees, mountain bluebirds, bluejays, eagles, turkeys and owls, to name a few varieties. 

After two years making birds, she’s gotten fast. She estimated making a cardinal would take her approximately two hours. Johnson never uses glue; she felts the wool onto a small styrofoam ball that forms the body of the bird. The styrofoam keeps her birds light enough to hang. 

Johnson also collects interesting driftwood and pinecones and sometimes displays her birds on these, if they naturally would be found there.

At Treasure State Mercantile, painter Linda Phillippi works on a mandala. Examples of her work line the wall in front of her. 

“Mandalas are used in meditation,” Phillippi said, “and for gazing upon. They help you come to your own center.”

Mandalas are also helpful in therapy, she said counselors have told her, since they help students focus.

Shoppers enjoyed stores being open later and a chance to buy local, unique items. One local lady said she waits for the art walk since it’s a chance for local Christmas shopping, visiting with people she doesn’t see a lot and treats.

City of Polson Street Superintendent Terry Gembala had the city’s fire pit burning brightly so folks could stop and warm up, even though the Bobcats were playing.


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