Tammie Lane in a space of her own
ASPEN Tammie Lane has never been in the habit of turning down jobs. If there is a phrase she would use to sum herself up, it would be working girl, which she uses several times in the course of our conversation. (She also used the term working people once, to refer to herself and her husband, Kirk Brunswold.) Recalling a ceramics apprenticeship she served a decade ago, in North Carolina, the detail that seems to have stuck most with Lane is that, on Monday mornings, the work day began at 6 a.m. a starting time that startled her at first, but which she also admired.It was this great work ethic, said the 49-year-old Lane, who has lived in Aspen since 1980. You started early, worked really, really hard, then took a break to play music. I liked the way they worked.In one sense, Lanes working days may be at something close to an end. For the last year, she has been in the unaccustomed position of declining the illustration and decorative art work that has been her bread and butter for nearly three decades. She has devoted her energies instead to her twin passions: fine-art watercolors, mostly landscapes; and ceramics, mostly Raku pottery. Along with the change in career focus has come a change in workspace. Last month, Lane mostly vacated her studio at the Common Ground Co-Housing site, where she also lives It was no heat, or not much. In the winter youd wear six layers; the water was just above freezing, she said of the space, which she still uses to do her Raku firing, a smoky, messy process. Her new location is a small but inviting studio and gallery, Lane Fine Art, at Obermeyer Place. Her husband did all the finish work on the space; Lane traded with various creative friends for the rest of the attractive touches: the display pedestals, the beveled windows, the signage. Lane will have a grand opening for her new venture Friday, from 4 to 9 p.m.; several of her business neighbors, including Clark Treders Artisan Framers and Regan Construction will join in the celebration, making for a block party.Lanes self-definition as a working person has likely become more vivid because her new phase doesnt feel much like working. For virtually all of her adult life, she has mixed her fine-art pursuits in with her more workaday jobs: graphic design, commercial art, catalogue illustrations, greeting cards. With a slight shrug, she notes that she is best-known, at least locally, for illustrating Jill Sheeleys Fraser the Yellow Dog series of childrens books.But Im finally doing fine art full-time, which has been my dream. The fine art, Ive always done for myself. When I did commercial work, the fine art was always after-hours, after I was done with work, she said. For the last year Ive been saying no to almost all the illustration work. Ive wanted to do that all along. But Im a working person. I always thought it would be a little sooner. But all good things take time. Lane was raised in Woodward, Okla., a wide open spot on the states panhandle. Her dad was an amateur but serious carver, making stone and wood sculptures, to which she attributes her lifelong interest in making art. Lane spent two years at Oklahoma State, and then two more at Phillips University, in the north-central part of the state. It was in college that Lanes nature revealed itself.I didnt get a fine art degree. I got a commercial art degree, she says, as evidence of her desire to make a career of her art. When I went back for my 20-year reunion, there were three of us who had commercial art degrees. And there were three of us who made a living doing art. And it was the same three.From Oklahoma, Lane moved north, to Kansas City, headquarters of the Hallmark Cards company. Her job as an illustrator was nearly ideal. The pay was great for a recent college graduate. She and the other 148 illustrators could show up to the office in jeans and flip-flops while everyone else was in suits and ties; when shed get on the elevator in her casual clothes, the elevator operator knew instantly to let her off on the 13th floor, the creative center of Hallmark. Best of all was the companys art store an emporium she says was roughly the size of the downstairs of the Miners Building in Aspen, where the only currency required of employees was a signature. It was the finest brushes, the finest supplies, hundred-dollar Kolinski brushes. And if things got a little frayed, you just went in and got another one, she said, smiling at the memory.There was one major drawback: But that isnt what you wanted to be, come my age, she said. Lane quit after two years. Most people left after a few years, because if you stayed five years, youd probably stay forever, because they make it so easy on you.Lane took a leave of absence and went to Albuquerque for a job with a big design firm. But the region didnt agree with her so, looking for a place she would enjoy, she headed to Aspen, where she had once taken a ski vacation. She skied, took some freelance jobs, and played a god bit of tennis at the Smuggler Racquet Club. There she met an older gentlemen who gave her reason to turn her one season in Aspen into an extended stay.I met Klaus Obermeyer, played tennis with him. I had no idea who he was, said Lane. After a few months he said, So, youre an artist, an illustrator? He said he had a company and could use an illustrator, and introduced me to his art director.Lane put in several years with Sport Obermeyer, then started an ad agency. Working with an agent in Denver, she got plenty of work for New York and Los Angeles companies, designing logos. She branched into illustrating books, taking commissions painting murals. And she kept an even perspective on her truest desire.If Im painting illustrations or murals, its all led me to where I am in my fine art painting, said Lane, whose fine art has been represented in galleries across the country, including the E.S. Lawrence Gallery in Aspen, where she continues to show her work. I thought it was much more important to be painting every day for 25 years than being a purist. If I have paint or clay up to my elbows, Im happy.Still, paint and clay are only part of her creative make-up. For her first few years in college, Lane had a second major in music, playing flute in orchestras and chamber groups. A music teacher advised there was no way she could do justice to either her art or music by dividing her time between the two, and backed up the warning with a promise to give Lane a failing grade if she didnt drop one or the other. Lane stuck with visual arts, but continues to express herself musically. She plays classical flute in a duo with a guitarist, dabbles in bluegrass banjo, and plays flute and tin whistle in the local Celtic music group, the Crowlin Ferlies, appearing weekly in the bands regular Tuesday night gig at the Double Dog Pub. Lane also practices the Japanese martial art aikido, which was introduced to her by Obermeyer, and is a devoted horse rider.Lane believes that all of her interests outside of fine art are contributing to her creativity. Sometimes I think maybe Id have progressed faster if I had done one thing, she said. But I think it shows in the artwork that you have a full life. I think its good to do all the things you love.And extra good to have loads of time to do the one thing youve always dreamed of doing. Lane says shell still take mural commissions: Because its just a blast. A 30-foot landscape is the epitome of fun. They dont make watercolor that big, she said. Apart from that, she will devote herself to fine art, and is already contemplating new ideas for her pottery, and for her painting, hoping to use her time to do more plein air work.Its not divided time, she said. Theres a huge energy when everything is funneled in one direction. Theres huge power in putting all your creative energy in exactly what you want to do. I think there will be some interesting things happening in the next couple of years.
The grand opening of Lane Fine Art is Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. The gallery is located at 601 Rio Grande Place, No. 118, in the plaza of the new Obermeyer Place building, across from Rio Grande Park.firstname.lastname@example.org