MILLERSBURG — Local wood stain artist Angie Thieszen is spreading joy this holiday season with continued work on her Wildlife Fence project. The fence project is part of her larger body of work with an overarching interest in nature.

Thieszen comes from a family of artists, including her mother, grandfather and aunt. She attests to being a “hobby-artist” her entire life and discovered her current primarily medium, wood-stained art, within the past four years.

“My dad was a woodworker. About four years ago, I saw stained art from a woman in Iowa and fell in love with [the medium] and thought that it would be combining all of my history and background,” Thieszen said.

Thieszen’s themes vary widely, but in general, nature is her primary source of inspiration with close attention to detail. She is also inspired by the contrast in nature and finds herself drawn to anything with high-contrast, shadows, highlights and curves. The tagline of her business, “Bringing Details to Life,” stems from her love of the minute details found in nature and life in general.

“I love focusing in close on what people might miss in the business of life and honing it down into those details, making [the viewer] slow down their pace and realize what’s there,” Thieszen said.

THE CREATION PROCESS

Thieszen’s process goes beyond the physical work. She lets her initial ideas brew for a few days and immerses herself in photographs to gain perspective on the contrasts of her subject. She enjoys working alone, listening to podcasts or music and finding her zone.

“Everything else is just blocked out when I am working, “ Thieszen said.

The actual creation of each piece can vary dramatically depending on size, level of detail and whether or not it’s a custom order. Some of her more significant pieces take the same amount of time as smaller pieces; smaller pieces generally require higher levels of detail using makeup sized Q-tips. However, the basic process is the same regardless of the work’s scope, subject or time frame.

Her work usually begins with a photograph or image that is hand-drawn onto the wood. Then she uses Q-tips of varying sizes and clothes to place the stain onto the wood directly. The contrast between lights and darks is achieved through varying levels of pressure. The Q-tips and clothes can be used to help blend the stain to create different effects.

“It’s a tricky medium because that wood soaks in the stains so quickly,” Thieszen said. “You have to work really fast. The only way to reverse it is to sand it off, therefore, you don’t want to make too many mistakes.”

She can get her supplies quickly and locally. Her primary source of wood is from a local Millwork shop, Cutting Edge CNC, in Millersburg. She uses the poplar veneered MDF board to avoid issues with warping over time. Thieszen mainly uses a primary dark wood stain from Menards. Sealants are also often used to protect the wood, especially for outdoor projects where weather conditions and sunlight can deteriorate wood quicker.

THE WILDLIFE FENCE

Thieszen’s wildlife fence project is her biggest ongoing undertaking to date. It features multiple wildlife species native to the region, including a coyote, turkey and a Canada goose. Each panel usually takes up to a day to complete.

The choice to feature wildlife ties in with her love of animals and their liveliness, which she finds most prominent in the eyes of mammals and birds.

One side of her fence is still blank, and she is looking forward to continuing her work when the weather warms in the spring.

The idea for the fence began early in Thieszen’s life and had only recently come to fruition.

“When I was a little kid I asked my parents if I could paint our fence with frogs jumping and they said ‘No,’” Thieszen said. “When we moved here a couple of years ago we put up the fence and it was like a brand new slate. The school is just a block from us. It’s been really fun for the kids to walk to school or take the bus and it becomes an educational piece for them.”

She hopes that the fence teaches people to become aware of nature and the animals and appreciate them. However, the simple joy of hearing from school bus drivers about children’s reactions when a new panel is erected is a major joy as well.

She enjoys seeing people post pictures of her fence using the hashtag listed on signs next to the fence. Furthermore, she recently added a QR code for people interested in reading her full story on her website.

ARTISTIC ATMOSPHERE

Thieszen’s art can be found on her website, at the Napanee Artisan Market and at Garber’s Interior Design in Elkhart. She also shares her work at numerous fine art shows during the summers. Her dream is to one day have a studio or gallery of her own.

She is currently moving her work studio from her home to Southgate studio in Goshen, which will soon be reopening under new ownership. The space will feature her main viewing gallery and a studio space where people can watch her work.

Cami Mechling, co-owner of Southgate, encourages people to visit and view Thiezens work. It will be part of a larger studio space that features many local artists’ work and a few other live viewing studio spaces.

“Angie is phenomenal! She built her own studio, came in there with a drill and did it all herself,” Mechling said. “Stain art is not used that often and people are not used to it. So, people need to come check her work out because pictures do not do it justice. She is also the most cheerful and kind person.”

One of Thiszen’s favorite pieces is a five-part series that was featured in the Art Prize competition in Grand Rapids this year.

“That series was called ‘the Fluidity of Dance’ and there were five different alcohol pours. In each of the pours is a dancer … As the wine was poured into the glass or in the splash of the glass was like a ballet dancer or a salsa dancer,” Thieszen explained.

She also enjoys doing custom work. Often, custom works end up being a picture of someone’s pet or something with sentimental value, such as a scene from a recent vacation.

Brandi Fredel chose Thieszen for a custom wood stain piece. After losing their family dog to cancer, she wanted a piece that would capture their beloved pet.

“It is so beautiful and now hangs on our mantel in the living room. When I gave it to my family, they all started crying,” Fredel said.

Thieszen believes art is making a major comeback in society but admits breaking into the art world locally can be difficult.

“People appreciate art but don’t always want to spend money on art,” she said. “There are so many times you will feel rejected and won’t feel accepted but when God gives you that talent you have to keep trying. If you want to be a surgeon you are going to have to work years to be accepted as a well-known surgeon. It’s the same with an artist.”

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