Featured Artist: Peggy Ross

12 Nov

Visual artist Peggy Ross with students and their creations.

Textile artist Peggy Ross has been teaching in schools for 18 years and working with Young Audiences for 15. A native of Brookings, OR and a 2005 Sunburst Artist of the Year Award Winner, Peggy has made her way as an artist and teacher through an ever evolving exploration of art media.

In addition to teaching young artists, Peggy offers classes for adults as part of PCC’s Community Education Department. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at weaving, sewing, or “up-cylcing” your old clothes, Peggy is the one for you.

What is your art practice outside of teaching? I create with paint, textiles and collage. I began as a weaver and seamstress. Then I moved to surface design, painting and piecing fabrics to create textiles for interiors: table runners, placemats, pillows, wall hangings, etc. All of this has morphed into recent new work where I‘m painting, printing and piecing papers then using them to create stitched collages.

Inspiration in the Siuslaw forest and water media sketch (2012).

How does Oregon inspire your art making? My imagery often involves leaves, trees, seedpods and organic shapes inspired by Northwest flora and fauna. Sometimes my work is figurative but other times it’s an impression, color or texture inspired by the environment. In my teaching, I often have students explore local raw materials used traditionally in textile production – sheep’s wool, dog hair, cedar bark, cat tail fibers, etc.

What’s the best thing about being a Young Audiences teaching artist? I know it might seem clichéd, but it’s the kids, it really IS! They bring such energy, insight and freshness to art making. As a teaching artist, I get to see the world through their eyes and to experience vicariously the joy of learning something for the very first time. With kids, no day, hour or minute is ever the same. Every session is new and inspires constant creativity from me. It doesn’t get much better!

Peggy weaving with students from Mapleton School’s summer program

Why is art important to kids? Supporting children’s creative expression and growth is fundamental to nurturing fully developed human beings. Everyone has the urge to create, just as they have the desire to communicate and understand. Art is a powerful way for children to explore themselves and the world around them, to collaborate with others and reflect on themselves. It’s also a great way to facilitate and deepen classroom learning. Art is essential to the human experience.

What teacher or artist was inspirational to you as a kid? The art studio classroom was my home away from home at Brookings Harbor High School. My high school art teacher taught me fundamentals in design, drawing, painting and inspired creative problem solving. She also gave me the time and space I needed to explore my thoughts, feelings and curiosities. Whenever my family wondered where I was, they would look for me in “the Art Room.”

Woven picture from students of Peggy Ross

Who is your art hero now? There are many. My art heroes and heroines are local potters, painters, fiber artists, jewelers and sculptors. They toil daily with dedication, refining their skills, creating works of beauty and function, supporting families, living frugally with integrity and passion. They attend to both the art, as well as the business of art making, serving as conduits of our culture.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be? I would be a scientist, probably a biologist. I think artists and scientists share the practice of asking, “what would happen if?” Scientists hypothesize, experiment and conclude, artists wonder, experiment and create. Or, I might be a photographer …… or perhaps a marketing and sales manager…… or a leader of arts non-profits….or, an elementary school teacher. Wait, I already do much of this! That’s the cool thing about being an artist – I get to wear many hats!

What other hats do you wear besides the hat of Teaching Artist? I am an avid gardener and I manage two rental properties on the Siuslaw River and a family Trust. What began years ago as a huge challenge and burden has evolved into a creative process and source of artistic inspiration.

Mixed media work by Peggy Ross

You can find more of Peggy and her artwork in December at the Artists Greenhouse Sale, at the Pheasant Run Winery tasting room in Aurora, and annually through Local 14 – the Lake Oswego Art & Craft League. Thanks Peggy!

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