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Guest artist hopes to inspire

SUMMIT COUNTY – Jennifer Riffle was in high school when a guest artist inspired her to become an artist. Now, the 24-year-old is a local artist and visits art classes around the county to teach and inspire others.

Though Riffle works in a variety of mediums, including sculpture, she usually prefers to work with paper and cloth.

This week, Riffle shared her skills with art students at the middle school, teaching them papermaking and silk painting.



Papermaking looks a lot easier than it might sound. All it takes is strips of colored paper soaked in water and then blended with some dryer lint – the secret ingredient, according to Riffle. There’s no need for glue because the fibers from the paper and lint stick to each other like Velcro.

On Thursday afternoon, seventh-graders in Jane Buchanan’s art class made brightly colored paper bowls under Riffle’s guidance. They took different colors of paper pulp and pressed them into plastic bowls, which were their molds. After the paper dries, the students can remove their paper bowls from the molds. Without a lacquer, the bowls can’t be used for eating, Riffle said, but they make nice decorations.



While students work with materials and colors to make their bowls, they also learn problem-solving skills, she said. For example, what colors are necessary and how does one arrange them to make a flame?

Some students, like seventh-graders Chloe Balma and Mallory Clark, designed their bowls with flowers and a sun (respectively); but their classmate, Travis Crain, chose more of an abstract pattern. The inside of his bowl resembled a blue mountain with a red sky, but he crafted the underside – which isn’t visible until the bowl dries and is removed from its mold – to look like puke, Crain said.

All three students said they enjoyed making the paper bowls – but all for different reasons.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” Balma said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Crain liked that papermaking is messy, and Clark said she enjoyed the feel of the paper as she formed it to her mold.

Buchanan, the middle school art teacher, said she tries to give her students the chance to explore as many different materials as possible – both to excite them about art and to help them determine their preferred medium.

Guest artists such as Riffle expand on the skills Buchanan teaches, while also building students’ awareness of what’s happening in the local art community, Buchanan said.

Using a grant from the Summit Foundation, the Summit County Arts Council, a local nonprofit arts organization, pays for guest artists and the supplies they use to teach local students, Riffle said.

This year, guest artists have visited art classes in each of the county’s schools. In addition to working with middle school students, Riffle has taught batik and soft sculpture to children at Upper Blue Elementary, silk painting to high school students and papermaking to students at Frisco, Breckenridge and Dillon Valley Elementary schools.

Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or lsnyder@summitdaily.com.


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