home resources "The Independent Artist" Issue 6, pg 9

"The Independent Artist"
Issue VI, November 2009

by Holly Olinger, NAIA Board Member

LizAnne Jensen

Sadly, the Board of Directors recently received notice that our long time volunteer LizAnne Jensen (above with her studio mascot, Solder, at her feet and two examples of her stunning weather vanes) will be retiring from her current NAIA position next spring. This article is intended as a joyous celebration of the artist and her studio with much thanks and gratitude for the incredible efforts and time LizAnne has donated over nearly the last decade of volunteering.

Grass Roots Energy
NAIA is the most fortunate of organizations. Over the years, dozens of competent, dedicated, and passionate volunteers have developed the organization from the ground up. A grass roots energy regarding the needs of art fair artists has driven these volunteers. We have been fortunate to get scholarly advice on the development of board structure, accounting activities, database development, marketing and graphic design work, all provided for free by individuals who believe in the mission to strengthen, improve and promote the artistic, professional and economic success of artists who exhibit in art shows.

Genesis of an Exrtraordinary Volunteer
LizAnnes journey to NAIA began with a most wonderful eventLizAnne and Ken Jensens honeymoon. While vacationing in New England during the fall of 1988, the newlyweds were tempted to buy their first copper weather vane. They had been unable to locate something similar out in California, so the fateful decision was made to have this work of art shippe back home. This simple purchase led to a whirlwind of creativity and action which culminated in the founding of West Coast Weather Vanes.

Over the next several years, the Jensens saved money for tools and equipment, researched the history and lore of these incredible folk art pieces, and started developing their own patterns.

The Jensens believed that weather vanes didnt have to be relegated to occupying the distant, lonely peak of a rooftop. They felt sure that their incredible, totally hand-crafted objects could find an equally suitable home on a deck, by a pool, or even on display within a home.

Despite being an Art History major in college, LizAnne had not found a home in the arts until she and Ken embarked on their weather vane adventure. She had a solid background in business basics and management that eventually became a major contributor to their studios success.

While Ken was eagerly learning the time honored skills of reppouss and chasing, it was LizAnnes drawings and patterns that started bringing their creations to life. Everything from a whale to a peacock to a completely detailed antique car could be rendered in incredible three-dimensional detail from her drawings.

It is a daunting challenge for an artist to design a pattern for others to work from without being entirely versed in the creative process that is endemic to that particular medium. LizAnne knows and understands every aspect of the coppersmiths art. It is her passion for detail and collaboration which have brought such admirable success to West Coast Weather Vanes.

Finding NAIA
The Jensens took a familiar path through the art fair world. They exhibited at numerous shows on the west coast and it was at one of them that they first heard about this recently formed artists groupNAIA. LizAnne immediately joined the organization and got involved through the online forum in numerous discussions about the entrance requirements set forth in various show prospectus.

The Jensens were concerned about how their business could survive and thrive in the show environment when they had strategically decided to use other master craftsmen to help them with the growing demand for their weather vanes. This decision curtailed their opportunity to apply for certain shows.

LizAnne has been a passionate and tireless advocate for their studio despite the limitations many shows have placed on production studios. Ironically, these very limitations are probably the reason West Coast Weather Vanes has gone on to become such a healthy company.

Recognizing that shows were becoming less viable as sales venue for their product, the Jensens made a strategic switch to online marketing. This move, before the internet achieved its ubiquitous place in society of today, proved to be the turning point for them. With the internet, LizAnne could cultivate her patron base from interested buyers across the planet. There are no geographic limitations to presenting their art work to people in Saudi Arabia, Europe or Japan.

Both the sales and the exciting creative challenges exploded with opportunity due to moving the business marketing online and away from art fairs. West Coast Weather Vanes current roster of five master craftsmen is able to produce up to 150 pieces per year.

Today, LizAnne and her crew carefully tend their business to achieve maximum success from both excellent public relations and an uncompromising ethic of craftsmanship. It can take up to two months of hammering, polishing and soldering to create one of their very intricate designs. They are frequently cited as a world leader in this art form. The vision it took to get their studio to this level, is also reflected in a project LizAnne recently initiated.

With a mind to their artistic legacy, the Jensens are investigating the process of donating their personal weather vane collection and archival materials to the University of California-Santa Cruz. This will involve developing a financial plan to support ongoing maintenance of their collection in addition to providing an annual stipend for future scholarly research into the history and usage of weather vanes. LizAnne plans a future series of articles for the Independent Artist detailing this endeavor.

Invaluable Contributions

I recently spent an hour talking to LizAnne about her volunteer activities with NAIA. She served with me on the committee that evaluated, selected and tested forum software for NAIA. Many hours of research and discussion led to the adoption of the Invision Powerboards forum NAIA opened last spring.

More notable, however, is the work LizAnne has been doing in the background with the Membership committee. Citing Cynthia Davis as her mentor and most influential motivator, LizAnne shows her typical modesty and commitment to a team effort. Together, the two of them developed and manage the online database that houses all NAIA membership information.

Additionally, LizAnne took on the jobat her own expenseof sending out all of the membership renewal packets. The professional-looking envelopes, forms, and accompanying postage costs are now all born by her studio.

The effect of her efforts are incalculable. Without LizAnne dutifully processing the renewals every month, NAIA may well have succumbed to the negative financial stresses affecting this entire industry.

NAIA and every artist we represent owes a huge debt of gratitude to LizAnnes tireless service. We wish her the absolute best as she and Ken move forward with a new chapter in their artistic life.

If you ever need a weather vane for your home or for a gift, think West Coast Weather Vanesthe epitome of the copper artists highest level of craftsmanship.

Thank you and good luck, LizAnneyou are of one of the best volunteers NAIA has had and someone I really feel privileged to have of worked with!!

West Coast Weathervanes

For more information about Lizanne and the weathervanes, visit WestCoastWeatherVanes.com

Penny Lane

Smoky Hill River Festival

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