Skip to content

Walk on the art side in Alberni

More than 100 artists participating in Days with the Arts this weekend. The tour runs every second year and is a major fundraiser for the Community Arts Council of Port Alberni.
Shannon Kjernistad

Shannon Kjernisted is no stranger to the Days With the Arts Studio Tour in the Alberni Valley, taking place this Saturday, April 16 and Sunday, April 17 in 39 different public and private venues.

The tour is part of Arts and Culture Week in B.C.

Kjernisted has in the past teamed with her son, Nathan, at his glass-blowing studio. The two of them still create jewelry together that can be found at the Rollin Art Centre among other places.

“I really started making jewelry to market his work,” Kjernisted said.

However this year, she will display her own work, cold fusion metal jewelry.

Known on the art-based online website as the “Brass Lass”, Kjernisted uses small brass rivets to make her jewelry—earrings and necklaces.

Kjernisted creates scenes by layering different colours of metal together—brass, copper or sterling silver— then riveting them in strategic places. Her tools are not complicated: a piece of granite over a rubber surface and a small hammer. The layers give a dimensional look to her jewelry as well.

“I think my inspiration comes from the components themselves. Visually, I know when it’s right,” she said.

Some of her pieces that are popular right now are done in the steampunk style—”industrial meets Victorian,” she explained. Old watch gears combined with filigree, crystals or pearls.

After spending years buying material from other suppliers, Kjernisted decided to get into the wholesale business herself. She now ships all over the world through her two sites, and

For someone who spent many years running a catering business, Kjernisted is content to make her jewelry. Her studio workspace faces a bright window, offering a serene environment.

“I worked so hard for so long at catering. Now I’m going to spend my last 10 working years doing something I love,” she said. “It’s pretty nice. It was a good decision.”

Kjernisted, who will show her work at the Alberni Valley Museum, is one of more than 100 artists participating in the studio tour this weekend. The tour runs every second year and is a major fundraiser for the Community Arts Council of Port Alberni.

Dorothy Murphy’s encaustic wax art, watercolours and multi-media collages are a familiar sight to regulars at the Harbour Quay Farmer’s Market or at the annual Artisan’s Christmas craft fair at the Italian Hall. This year, she is also taking part in Days With the Arts studio tour for the first time.

Encaustic wax art dates back to Egypt at least 3,000 years ago. In ancient times the heated wax or encaustic method was used in paintings and on stonework and was also used to seal containers for shipping.

Murphy uses an iron on low heat with beeswax and pigment to achieve vibrant combinations of colour, which she uses to create abstract pieces.

“It is addictive. Extremely addictive,” she said as she demonstrated the technique on a piece of photo paper.

Although Murphy has been painting since the late 1980s, she only got into wax art a few years ago. “My daughter sent me a little kit and I thought, ‘oh, that’s nice’ and put it away,” she said. “I took it out about three months later and I’ve never stopped.”

Murphy dabbles in pen and ink, watercolours, acrylic, paper collage and mixed media art. She has taken many courses over the years with Shirley Lord, and she buys art books of all types. She likes encaustic wax art because “it’s fast and the colours are so nice.”

An eye injury when she was a child has not hindered Murphy’s exploration in art. “There are 127 different ways nature helps you,” she said. “I’ve got 20-20 vision in my left eye.”

Murphy will be giving demos and allowing people to try out encaustic wax art at her home studio, 5263 Wilkinson Road off Beaver Creek Road.

Painter Len Matte is also new to the studio tour. Matte and his wife Julie moved to the Alberni Valley from Sayward two and a half years ago and operated an in-home gallery for awhile, until the sagging economy forced him to rethink that venture.

The strength of Matte’s acrylic and watercolour paintings, according to his artist’s statement, lies in his expressive style celebrating the flow of nature. He uses broad, loose brushstrokes of vibrant colours and rich tones in a wet-on-wet technique with both mediums. He favours West Coast scenes, although he has delved into florals and is presently working on canvases with beveled edges.

Matte’s work is presently included in a big show at the Omega Gallery in Vancouver and can also be seen at the Alicat Gallery in Bragg Creek, Alta. and the Dominguez Gallery in Sooke.

The Matte Gallery, 4297 Princess Rd., will only be open on Saturday. “On Sunday I want to go around and see the other artists’ work, get out and see what people are doing,” he said.

Wes Bloxham premieres a new, temporary gallery to the Alberni Valley, Island Arts, at 5060 Argyle St. His gallery will feature Valley artists Bear Watts, Siobhan Findlay and Todd Robinson (also showing at his own studio, Cascadia Glass), as well as Tofino artists Mark Micky and Keith Plumley.

Bloxham will also have a selection of artwork from Cuba that he has collected on trips to the subtropical island over the past 15 years. He hopes to have his gallery open until September.

Tickets for the studio tour are available at Echo Centre and Rollin Art Centre.

Read the companion story here.