By Alec Clayton
This year’s Spring Arts Month cover art will be “Fluttering,” a hand-painted relief block by Laurel Henn, depicting quilts on a clothesline. The artist says this image is dear to her because of her mother’s life-long work as a quilter.
“Quilts are a source of comfort and a symbol of family heirlooms,” Henn says. “They seemed fitting as a cloud block, for sometimes families drift, or are just a bit out of reach. Many families have been distanced by the current state of the world, but handmade quilts remind us of our connections, and the labor of love that created the quilt.”
Henn continues, “Heritage is not usually something we can physically touch, but when I cuddle under a quilt my mother made, I am reminded of the different fabrics and where they came from; an old dress, a favorite blankie, my father’s old pajamas. No matter how distanced we are, a quilt can remind us of the hands who made it.”
She says being chosen for Olympia Arts Walk cover is an honor. “Since I was a teenager, I’ve collected the Arts Walk maps, I have a large stack of them in my studio. It’s been a longtime goal of mine to be the feature artist. We have such a variety of talented artist here in Olympia, I’m excited to add my own piece to the Arts Walk Collection.”
Henn’s cover piece will be on display throughout the month of April at Splash Gallery, 501 NW Columbia St in Olympia.
Henn was born in Washington then traveled the world with her military family before settling down back in the Pacific Northwest by her late childhood. As a child, she spent her days forging paths under the underbrush, scaling forested hills using fistfuls of sword ferns as ropes, swimming rivers, and wielding her pocketknife to carve proof of her existence in remote places only she knew about.
She learned by doing while working in a fine art store through her college years. There she played extensively with every medium the store carried so she could teach her customers proper use and some technique. She also took many art electives while pursuing her BA — first through community college, then at the Evergreen State College. Her final academic project was a coloring book to promote the Procession of the Species which the Procession published and used for promotional material.
Henn is a long-time member of the cooperative Splash Gallery where she serves on the board of directors. In addition to the popular following she nurtured at Splash, her work has shown up all around town and throughout Western Washington, including a one-woman show at The Hands On Children’s Museum. For several years she curated pop-up galleries in empty store fronts during Olympia’s Art Walk.
Olympians can already see Henn’s artwork on three traffic boxes in Olympia (one on 16th Avenue and Franklin and two on Martin Way) and on a metal flag near the Olympia Capitol Campus. Later this summer, she is scheduled to create a commissioned mural with the East Side Neighborhood association.
Henn’s most recent works are intricately detailed, hand-carved relief woodcuts that she designs and carves in such a way as to leave room for layers of watercolors, colored pencils and other mediums on her limited edition prints. She also creates Monoprints by incorporating her hand-cut blocks, and dabbles with silk-screening in some functional art.
Henn says the beauty and adventure the PNW provides her is a constant source of inspiration for her printmaking adventures and that it is her hope “that locals and visitors of the PNW will find reflections of their own stories in her art, versions of their own awe-inspiring moments as they explore the remote places only they can find.”