Underwriting provided by:
The Laura Moore Cunningham
Foundation

Producer's Notes

Evelyn Sooter's cabin
Evelyn Sooter's cabin

So many people enjoy the outdoors, but not that many can actually preserve their experience through an art form other than a snapshot. This program showcases four artists from different parts of the state who use their craft and creative abilities to express their inner muse.

Evelyn Sooter
North Idaho has several artist communities, but finding an artist who met my criteria wasn't easy. Sure, there were lots of painters, sculptors, etc., but I was looking for someone unique, even a little eccentric. I reached out to a few art aficionados who knew the north Idaho scene, and was directed to mixed media artist Evelyn Sooter, from Clark Fork. Author Cort Conley profiled her in his book, Idaho Artists, and was kind enough to make an introduction. Evelyn had become rather reclusive over the past years as she cared for her aging parents, and probably would have resisted my invitation to be part of this show had Cort not reached out to her.

On a rainy April day, videographer Seth Ogilvie and I traveled to Clark Fork to meet with her at her cabin in the woods. The cabin would turn out to be part of the story, as it really represents much of who she is, and holds much of her work. When we arrived, we were greeted by a very gentle, generous soul, who welcomed us into her home, art gallery, studio, and kitchen for a day of stories and discovery.

Artwork by Sooter that includes a bird skeleton laying on a rock
Artwork by Sooter that includes a bird skeleton laying on a rock

As she apologized for the state of her cabin and grounds, Seth and I both gazed in wonderment at the collections of memorabilia, art, and even animal bones neatly arranged, placed, or hung for effect. Every nook and cranny was a surprise, the decaying skeleton of a small bird gently placed in the curve of a rock, a bowl of elk femurs, several racks of deer antlers under a table. This woman was definitely inspired by nature to collect and create.

Evelyn hadn't really allowed herself to make art for several years, but I felt that perhaps, after our visit, she might open up her studio again and rekindle the creative fire that once brought art collectors from around the world to her door.

Ted Smith
Wild fowl wood carver Ted Smith was a no-brainer for this show. He is a master of his craft and epitomizes what it means to be inspired by nature to create. He only works on commission now, and his skill is admired and rewarded by collectors all over the country.

When I first made contact, Ted was just about to start on a commissioned piece for a collector in Texas who wanted a life-sized gyrfalcon. Even though Ted's original love was water fowl, he had ventured into raptors many years before. This would be a great opportunity to shoot every phase of the process from beginning to end.

Ted Smith's life-sized gyrfalcon
Ted Smith's life-sized gyrfalcon

Over the course of four months, videographers Jay Krajic and Hank Nystrom followed the creation of the falcon with their cameras at his studio in Nampa where he spends hundreds of hours detailing a piece. The ability to capture different phases of the long process was an advantage available to us only because of Ted's proximity to our own studio. If Ted lived in north Idaho, traveling back and forth to shoot would not have been an option.

And we also went with Ted on a bird watching exercise, where he joined wildlife biologist Addison Mohler to look for grebes, one of Ted's favorite marsh birds to carve. He gets much of his inspiration from the Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge about four miles from his home.

Plein Air
Producer Janette Crancer and photographer Chuck Cathcart followed a group of plein air painters to Redfish Lake in the Sawtooths. The Sawtooths inspire majesty and adventure for all of us, but for these painters the jagged peaks also define shape, texture and color. Transforming a blank canvas into a work of art under open skies is a tradition that few attempt, and even fewer master.

Pam Street hikes to the base of Mt. Heyburn.
Pam Street hikes to the base of Mt. Heyburn.

Our crew tagged along with artist Pam Street as she set out in search of another inspiring Sawtooth scene. After a long boat ride to the end of Red Fish Lake, the crew carried heavy camera gear to the base of Mt Heyburn, about an hour up the hot trail. The towering spires and basin-filled lily pond greeted them with its timeless beauty. It wasn't until the mountain shadows grew long that they realized the last shuttle boat of the day would soon arrive. Quick paced steps brought them to the boat just in the nick of time. The dawn to dusk day gave them a greater appreciation of plein air painting.

Fred Choate paints the Sawtooths.
Fred Choate paints the Sawtooths.

Painter Fred Choate, from Boise, is a good friend of Idaho Public Television. Every year he donates a painting to our pledge drive as a gift for major donors. But, he can often be found traveling the back roads of Idaho with the tools of his craft to capture en pleine aire the beauty of Idaho.

Claudia Whitten
Challis Idaho isn't really known as an artist community, but surprisingly, it is home to many creative types. I specifically wanted to work with some kind of artist from that part of Idaho who fit the "Inspired by Nature" description. When I saw Claudia's fused glass work on her website, I knew she would be a great addition to the show.

Luckily, she was available and excited to be part of the program. We came up with a plan on how best to accomplish the story within a day's time, and arranged a date for the shoot. In April Jay Krajic and I headed off to Challis, a four hour drive from Boise. The days were just warming to Spring, which was important for any outdoor shots we would need. Claudia is probably best known for her aspen pieces, so I wanted to get her out into the trees to show where she gets her inspiration.

Claudia Whitten opens the kiln after firing one of her fused glass pieces.
Claudia Whitten opens the kiln after firing one of her fused glass pieces.

Retired from her job as the UPS lady for the area, she now works exclusively on her glass. She was able to build her studio over the years and work on glass in the evenings or on weekends. With about 30 years into it, she still finds that there is more to learn and explore as a fused glass artist.

What I found most interesting is what a technical art form it is. Managing the firing schedule in the kilns is quite complicated and requires years of training and expertise to get to the level that she has attained. It's also work that requires not only creative expression, but a great amount of patience. Some of the aspen pieces take up to seventy hours to fire, and that doesn't include time spent actually designing the piece.