Library Gallery: Two Women Who Play with Fire, Paintings and Woodwork 

(Contributed Photo)
Kate Chenok makes ceramic art meant for everyday use, including Nesting Stoneware Bowls on display in the Library Gallery.

    The Lamorinda Arts Council presents themed work from Two Women Who Play With Fire – ceramicist Kate Chenok and woodturner Kim Wolfe; painters Bill Carmel and Arno Kober; and woodworker Ellis Sjöberg this month.
    Fire takes center stage when Chenok uses a technique called saggar firing which is the method of creating confined atmospheres within a container or saggar. Originally, saggars were used to protect the finish from debris flying around the firing chamber from the wood or coal fuel source. About 200 years ago, potters decided to reverse this and use the saggar to hold materials near the pieces to dramatically change the finish. 
    Stoneware Vase I, a saggar fired stoneware piece, shows how exotic clouds of different colors emerge from such a process. Chenok has been passionate about making ceramics since 1980 and works out of her home studio. Throwing pots on the wheel and hand building pieces from slabs of clay, she creates functional pieces for everyday use. Firing them in interesting ways makes them unique. She says, “Making pottery exercises a part of my mind where I can take risks and create new things out of materials that come from the earth. I can experiment without a lot of fear of failure.” For more of Chenok’s work go to or follow her on Instagram (@kecpotter). 
    Carmel, of San Ramon, says he loves making beautiful things and enjoys the combination of abstraction and representational artwork. When his ideas are 3D he does sculpture in whatever media suits the idea such as bronze, ceramics, wood, cast epoxy or stone. He says he especially loves painting and likes working with ideas that do not necessarily have words.  He is exhibiting about 20 works in the show. His public art at the Brentwood Veterans Park consists of five bronze animals and his bronze work is also in many private collections and the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. 
    His works span three themes: Paintings Without Words, Contra Costa County Landscapes and Fractal Patterns.  Follow his blog, Art Space, at the Danville San Ramon Express, 
    Kober, of Concord, is part of an entire family involved with the arts. He has two younger sisters who paint and another sister who carves wood figures. So it’s no surprise he likes painting with acrylics because of their vivid colors and versatility. Plein air painting on his balcony is where you’ll find him when he is not working as Chef Arno at Shelby’s Restaurant in Theatre Square. 
    Kober is showing about eight large works including Story of Our Life, a 36” x 48” acrylic on canvas. The colors collide in such a way that they beckon you to follow their ebb and flow all over the canvas. “I’ve noticed that diners at Shelby’s love the arts and that inspires me to come up with new ideas. I love it when people stay in front of my paintings and try to figure out what they see, or don’t see,” says Kober. Stay in touch with Kober on Facebook at Shelby’s Restaurant or by seeing what he’s got on the walls at Shelby’s, 2 Theatre Square, #152, Orinda, 925-254-9687.
    Sjöberg of Orinda wants people to know that as they retire it’s important to have something like woodworking in their life. “I mean develop an interest in something other than the work you spent a long time with; get involved with something you like that keeps your mind involved,” says Sjöberg. He has pursued woodworking for the past 27 years and isn’t stopping any time soon. For this show, he is exhibiting about 30 works. 
    The challenge of balancing the function of a piece with his aesthetic keeps him busy. He likes creating with walnut, maple (dark maple is known as a poor man’s ebony), wenge wood, black acacia and cherry; he pines for salted maple. Sofa Table, an 18” x 14” x 24” walnut base table with a zig-zag pattern of walnut, cherry and maple, showcases the playful side of his design talent. The top of the table looks like it is raised, which it is not. 
    Wolfe of Martinez is the other half of the “Two Women Who Play With Fire” theme. One of the techniques she uses while turning wood is burning the wood for different design effects, known as pyography. A few years ago, Wolfe took a woodturning class at Mt. Diablo Woodturning Center on a whim. A friend had signed up and additional students were needed to keep the class open, so she volunteered. “I was immediately hooked,” she said. Because no two pieces of wood are the same, each time she approaches the lathe she faces a fresh set of challenges. Every piece she turns is truly unique. 
    An artist reception takes place Sunday, May 5 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. The gallery is at 26 Orinda Way and open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. The library is closed on May 12 for Mother’s Day and May 26-27 for Memorial Day. Call 925-254-2184 for more information or visit 

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