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Philippines RPCV Ora Jacobson produces art at her home and studio
Philippines RPCV Ora Jacobson produces art at her home and studio
Couple happy at Happy Hen Farm
By Pat Jones
Heather Trimm / The Chronicle
Ora Jacobson uses the beater on her loom in the studio of her Rochester home. The beater makes the threads tight. A collection of her handiwork is hanging on the walls around her studio.
ROCHESTER - Like their owners, the hens at Happy Hen Farm in Rochester are happy because they get to dig around outside and scratch in the dirt.
Unlike their owners, the hens enjoy eating bugs, however.
In addition to raising chickens, produce, herbs and cut flowers at Happy Hen Farm, Lee and Ora Jacobson also produce art at their home and studio. Ora is a weaver and Lee a gourd artist, and the two stay plenty busy.
In addition to farming, the couple operates STUDIO, the place where they sell their artwork Thursdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. at 8620 180th Way S.W., Rochester.
They also regularly sell their wares at the Olympia Farmers Market, where they have a permanent stall.
On May 7-8, the couple will join two other couples, friends, who all create art in one form or another. The show and sale, called "12 Hands a Makiní," includes works by the Jacobsons of Rochester, Ardith Hamilton and Jay Myhre of Adna, and Michael and Erica Plotkin of Olympia.
The Adna and Olympia couples will join hands with their Rochester friends and fellow artists to contribute items from the following media: Hamilton, weaver, basketmaker and photographer; Myhre, woodworker; Michael Plotkin, wood turner and custom furniture maker; and Erica Plotkin, silk painter and weaver.
The couples came together through the wives, members of the Olympia Weavers Guild. While discussing their husbands, they discovered that they, too, are all creative men.
This commonality brought about a strong friendship between the couples and led to "12 Hands a Makiní," a show and sale, to be held at The Coach House at 211 W. 21st Ave. off Capitol Way behind the Washington State Capitol Museum in Olympia.
Hours of the two-day show and sale are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. May 7 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 8. From 5 to 7 p.m. on May 7 only will be an opportunity to meet the artists at a wine and cheese reception.
As if all this isnít enough to keep anyone busy, Ora is helping to organize a group calling itself Fiber Arts Center of the Northwest, or FACN. The Fiber Arts Center, wrote Ora in a brochure, looks to the future of fiber arts of all types and helps to preserve the past.
It includes education of current and future fiber artists, along with exhibit and sales space for their works.
FACN, wrote Ora, is starting in temporary quarters but is looking for a suitable permanent home to include space for a gallery, marketplace for members, meeting and classroom space, resource library and equipment such as looms, sewing machines, spinning wheels and more.
The Jacobsons also sell each year at the Sunshine Hill Farm Garlic Fest and Craft Show, where Ora sets up her loom to draw folks in. The Garlic Fest will be held this year Aug. 27-29. Oraís woven items and Leeís gourd art and birdhouses will be available for purchase.
For information about this or anything involving these local artists, people may e-mail Jacobson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to preparing for the upcoming show and sale, the Jacobsons, who donít mind getting their hands dirty, are also busy getting their produce and flowers planted.
During growing seasons, their normally busy days of weaving and woodburning grow even busier.
Ora has been weaving for seven years, and Lee has been growing and crafting gourds for the past six years. She weaves dish and guest towels, as well as rugs.
"Iíve done enough of these (dish and guest towels) that itís very, very relaxing to me," said Ora.
Lee spent 25 years of his working life in such farflung places as Borneo and Brazil. Before moving to Rochester he had spent seven years owning and operating a small print shop near SeaTac.
Both had, for reasons of their own, moved to the Pacific Northwest from Minnesota. They hadnít known each other. Both had been married before and both had one child each. Between them, they have five grandchildren with another one on the way.
Leeís print shop is where Ora met him before she took off to the Philippines for 18 months with the Peace Corps. She and Lee had seen each other casually before she left and she had put him on her mailing list. Lee, said Ora, wasnít very good at writing.
That is, he wasnít very good at writing until she told a friend to remove him from her mailing list because he hadnít written to her once. Lee had been, however, reading her correspondence and contacted that friend, saying how disappointed he was that he hadnít gotten the letters from September to October.
"I proposed to you," he said, looking at his wife of 11 years, "when you were in the Philippines."
Why did Lee decide, with Ora so many miles away, that he wanted to marry her?
At first reluctant to answer, Lee finally said, "It sounded like the way to go."
"Go ahead and ask him more, Iím interested in the answers," said Ora, with a mischievous gleam in her eyes.
Once prodded, Lee continued, using more words than heíd used at one time since the questioning began. He said his chief attraction to Ora is "I had known her as a person who had a lot of depth, a lot of interests. She still does- itís a challenge. From the first time I saw her, saw the light in her eyes, I thought, ĎOh what a pretty girl.í "
Again Ora smiled, then said this about why she was attracted to Lee: "Lee has a very quiet, but kind of screwy sense of humor that I find delightful. Heís so sure of himself and knows who he is."
Now happily married and ensconced at Happy Hen Farm, the couple spend many of their evenings at their various works. Their home is filled to the brim with Leeís workbench and Oraís two fairly large looms. This is in addition to the necessary tools, gourds and yarns needed for their art. There is little room for anything else.
"We live like moles," said Lee.
Before she began weaving, Ora had spent many years involved in sewing, knitting, crocheting and needlepoint.
Seven years ago, she began weaving after purchasing her first loom in 1997. She jokes, "When I started weaving, I was a farmer who wove. Now Iím rapidly becoming a weaver who farms."
That one loom has now become three and, Ora said, "Iíve been very fortunate in that. what Iím doing and enjoy doing, seems to appeal to the public as well."
Standing with her in the STUDIO where he, more often than not, sells her woven items, Lee said, "Sheís always on the loom."
"When Iím not out farming," she added.
This time of year, Ora weaves about four hours a day. In the winter, itís more like eight hours or more.
Happy Hen is a 4-acre parcel of rich farmland with an acre under cultivation. Lee said, "We do everything ourselves, just the two of us. Itís a lot of work."
Lee came a little later to his chosen art form. Always an elaborate doodler, Ora encouraged Lee to use that talent. He said he first became interested in etching gourds from a magazine article and "probably followed up with getting a book."
"Lee has always done really involved doodles," said Ora.
Lee, who rarely sketches before burning his designs into his homegrown gourds, said of his designs, "They did, and do, take their own form."
Lee sometimes burns leaves or trees onto the gourds he designs, saying he likes doing things from nature. He sometimes uses color, but prefers the natural browns he burns into the gourds.
As he worked burning designs onto a small gourd last week, Lee said quietly, "I wish I could say Iíve had this design in mind for a long time, but Iím not that big a liar."
While working together during fall and winter evenings, she at her loom, he at his workbench, with heat from the wood stove to keep them warm, the couple often watches videos of their favorite movies.
No television, ever, for the two people who say theyíve grown into their art together. And donít even suggest that theyíve fallen into an easy, carefree retirement.
Ora will let you know, kindly, but in no uncertain terms, that that is just not true.
Pat Jones covers arts and entertainment and lifestyle stories for The Chronicle. She may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, or by telephoning 807-8226.