Laura Russell at 23 Sandy Gallery in Kerns and Dawn Furstenberg at Wholesome Blends in Hollywood have both found the printed page as a medium for expressing their creative passions
By Kathy Eaton
Photos by John Butenschoen
Laura Russell, a photographer who got hooked on making books after attending her first workshop in Denver twenty years ago, moved to Portland in 2007 and opened 23 Sandy Gallery. She curates a collection of unique and limited-edition artist books featuring innovative structure, content or materials created by both emerging and established artists. Celebrating ten years in business, Russell represents about 100 book artists. After conducting a national search of artists, she hosts two international juried exhibitions annually. In 2017, “Built” is the theme for the April-May exhibit and “Wayfinders,” about maps, is the theme for October-November. For more information about these exhibits, including details about entering: see 23sandy.com.
The art books Russell curates are colorful objects created around themes ranging from provocative topics to ordinary life. Russell often consults her husband, Steve, before selecting exhibit themes.
Married for 23 years, Steve is a commercial realtor who also serves as land use chair and treasurer for the Kerns Neighborhood Association. He supports Russell’s gallery by managing the gallery space, including arranging exhibit displays. He cites the first pop-up book show in 2010 as his favorite exhibit at 23 Sandy Gallery.
In June 2017, Russell will be keynote speaker at the biennial Focus on the Book Arts conference held at Pacific University in Forest Grove. Approximately 300 attendees and instructors will participate in four days of classes to learn about creating book art. For more information: see focusonbookarts.org.
Although Russell didn’t attend art school, she earned a degree in business and marketing and gives back to the art community by giving lectures on professional development, teaching marketing to book artists. As a fine book arts dealer, Russell frequently travels and offers workshops at local schools and libraries. For more information: see laurarussell.com or call (503) 927-4409.
Adult coloring books: one artist’s transformation
Dawn Furstenberg, who moved to Portland from Los Angeles in 2012, is descended from a family of artists, but never thought she could draw, despite studying art in college. She didn’t pursue art in her 20s and 30s, but ultimately she returned to it as therapy after suffering a miscarriage and losing 150 pounds. As part of her weight-loss program at UCLA, Furstenberg started walking to a neighborhood coffee shop where she met an artist who encouraged her to draw. “I didn’t even like coffee,” said Furstenberg, “but it got me out and I found support in the community.”
After moving to Portland on a friend’s recommendation, she started working at Wholesome Blends, 4615 N.E. Sandy Blvd., and the following year, printed her first adult coloring book, “She Found Herself in a Cup of Coffee.” The drawings told a story of healing, incorporating her messages in black and white drawings. A teacher had her class color the pictures and send them to Furstenburg, who hung them on the wall of her Portland apartment. She subsequently published two more adult coloring books: “Bugs + Beverages” and “Seal the Day.”
“Everything is about the line I’m drawing at that moment,” said Furstenberg. She’s attracted to spirit animals, including butterflies and their transformative nature, which she compares to her own weight loss. She feels a connection to crows and had the image tattooed on her ankle, inspiring her to get moving. Furstenberg has a Buddhist leaning and is influenced by Native American spiritual practices, despite being “a bit of a Jewish princess.” Tattoos on her body remind her to “stay on your path,” and she is fond of the mantra, “Chop wood; carry water.”
“Bugs + Beverages” represents her starting over after 20 years of discovery, and the third book, “Seal the Day,” with drawings of beautiful mermaids, is a cautionary tale about taking care of yourself.
Furstenberg’s work is currently on display at Wholesome Blends. She recently started a new job at New Season’s Grant Park Village, although her ultimate goal is to teach art to elementary school children. Ten years ago, Furstenberg never would have believed it was possible to create her own line of adult coloring books, and now she acknowledges anything is possible. For more information: see dawnandherart.com, Instagram @settledawn and Etsy dawnandherart.
Learn more about fine art books:
Multnomah County Library houses the John Wilson Special Collections room with an inspiring collection of top notch artist books. Jim Carmin is curator of the collection, which includes a prized original John Audubon book. For more information: see www.multcolib.org.
Where to find adult coloring books by Dawn Furstenberg:
‘She Found Herself in a Cup of Coffee,’ ‘Bugs + Beverages,’ and ‘Seal the Day’ are available for sale at Wholesome Blends, 4615 Northeast Sandy Blvd.; New Seasons Grant Park Village, 3210 Northeast Broadway; and Local Discoveries, 1627 Northeast Alberta.