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Irene Torres

Irene Torres

Monday, 30 March 2015 00:47

Local art on display at library

The Pierce County Library, Key Center branch, offers exhibit space for local artists to display their work.

Community branch supervisor Rosina Vertz said they encourage local artists to come and use our bare walls to introduce themselves and their art.

We are happy to be a part of the art theme in the community and the library draws a big audience,Vertz said.

During March and April, watercolor artist Karen Lovett has her work hung at the library.

Lovett has been taking art classes through Tacoma Community College and Pen Met Parks.

She paints from photographs and from site visits to places like the Olalla Valley Winery and Vineyard.

Lovett said she is able to produce one to two paintings a week while doing in-home care.

The world is full of subjects to paint. Every season, things change,she said.

Lovett had wanted to do watercolor for years and years.

I wanted to learn to paint so I could design my own book covers. Some things you cant do with photographs,she said.

When she started, she wanted to paint just like (local artist) Beverly Pedersen, but her art instructor, Sherri Bails, convinced Lovett that she needed to develop her own style.

Mine is lifelike, so people seem to relate to it,she said.

From the classes, she has learned to adopt techniques, perspective, design and color.

She had taken a class about seven years ago, but became frustrated with the focus and the procedure of that particular instructor.

Watercolor is unforgiving. You cant paint over mistakes like you can with oils,she said. I gave up, thinking watercolor wasnt my thing.

After several years, watching painting shows on television, reading a book on watercolor, and getting more practice, she got better.

Lovett has written songs and three novels and has other books in the works. But she has been writing less lately, while working several part-time jobs. She views writing like work a lot of the time, fun work, but still work. 

Painting should be fun. I dont think anybody paints because they hate doing it, she said. 

She is active in the local fuchsia club and in the rabbit club, holding offices in both. She volunteers at Key Peninsula Community Services one day a week. She also sews and embroiders and wants to incorporate that into her art.

To keep costs down, she buys art supplies from Daniel Smith in Seattle and Aaron Brothers when frames are on sale.

It is hard to consider myself an artist when the Key Peninsula is overflowing with artists who have years of formal training and grew up with art. I was a science major. I avoided art all through high school. I told my art teacher I couldnt paint a straight line,she said.

She said that she appreciates artists, but never expected to be one. 

Now, Lovett spends about 10 to 20 hours a month on painting.

With painting, its fun to see what I can create. Its such a feeling of satisfaction when youre finished. Its amazing that its me who created them. They are like my children,she said.

Artists who can commit to a two-month display are invited to bring a sample of their work and talk with Vertz about getting wall time.

The library is booked well into 2015 so it will be toward the end of the year before they can get in.

For very new artists, this is an amazing experience as they open themselves to public response and gain some confidence, then they can go forth.

Lovett said shes had great feedback from those whove viewed her work,Vertz said. 

Monday, 30 March 2015 00:31

KP author pens again

Key Peninsula author, Richard A.M. Dixon, has published his third and final Dillons War novel; this one is titled, Weretigers Deliverance.

It is a 216-page psychological drama, continuing the story of a Vietnam War era soldier who encounters a tiger in the war-torn jungle of Southeast Asia. 

Dixon said each book in the series is designed to stand alone.

The trilogy was written at the demand of David Duryee, who is a minor character in the first book. David said, My part wasnt big enough,so he became the main character in the Revenge of the Weretiger, Dixon said.

Dixon served as a 1st Lt. in the U.S. Army Airborne on Okinawa. In 1964, as it turned out, we were the first ones in,at the start of the police action in Vietnam, he said. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the Regular Army after earning a degree in clinical psychology from the University of Washington.

This started out as a memoir, and when I got to the part about being in the foxhole, I remembered coming face-to-face with a tiger. I will never forget it.he said.

Dixon was enamored enough with Dillons character and the tiger to write a second book, now a third.

The tiger became the protagonist. It was cathartic,he said.

These books are based on true stories, though the places and characters may have been changed.

Fan and reader, Ed Johnson said, The story moves fast enough and is exotic enough to hold my interest.

When Dixon retired from a very lucrative medical sales career to care for his wife after a serious illness, he found extra time and started writing a childrens book.

I created a living thing that will outlive me. Thats what got me hooked,he said.

Dixon writes four hours a day and said he reads it to his dog.

If the dog stays, its OK to read it to my wife. If she says OK, then I read it to the Lakebay Writers Group. Then I put it in manuscript form and set about to re-write the whole manuscript, which I give to my son. I get the perspective of a whole group of people. They do the proofreading for free,Dixon said.

He said he has done everything wrong you could imagine in writing.

Ive found it best to hire an editor, preferably one who is far away. They are more objective,he said.

Dixon said he felt remorse when he finished the series, and asked himself, What am I going to do now?The answer is: write another novel, The Tiger of Dien Vien Pu is now in the works. It is set in the timeframe from 1932 in Hai Phong to 1965 in Bangkok.

Meanwhile, Dixon has scheduled local book readings and book signings and has entered the cover art for Weretigers Deliverance into contests for consideration by The National Indie Excellence and Writers Digest.

All of Dixons books are available through his website at, and on

Wednesday, 04 March 2015 10:58

Flint knapping comes to the Key Peninsula

In January, master flint knapper, Harry Oda, presented a free, hands-on flint knapping workshop to a group of 16 in the Brones Room at the Key Peninsula Library. The students ranged in age from 11 to 80, and used materials from a lapidary shop –– some imported from Oregon and others from four tons of rock in my backyard, Oda said.

With a tarp on the floor to catch tailings, Oda taught students to abrade, flake, notch, to use percussion and pressure flaking and to see the positive and negative in their work as they made saws, blades, arrowheads or projectile points.

The object is to get rid of the mass. Imagine a line, a plane through the middle. Put your point on the thick end, and notch on the thin end –– less work, Oda said. He helped with advice too, like the right hand is the same angle and the left hand is the changed angle.

Oda peppered the experience with historical references to tribes and the Lewis and Clark expedition from 1803 to 1806.

He said that natives traded from The Dalles, Ore. up and down the Columbia River and along the northwest coast for 8,000 to 9,000 years.

Ninety-five percent of the knapping was done by women, Oda said. They made functional things. He said that Neanderthals in Eastern Europe had been flint knapping quartzite from 90,000 to 60,000 years ago to make stone and surgical implements.

There was obsidian, agate, jasper and flint –– all molded with hammer stone, leather, copper tubing,and a file or rasp. Safety equipment included gloves, safety glasses and lots of bandages. Obsidian can be sharpened down to one glass molecule, 500 times sharper than steel, Oda said

Chris Bronstad, a teacher at Key Peninsula Middle School, had brought Oda into his classroom for a demonstration. With Oda being very popular, Bronstad suggested to librarian, Rosina Vertz, that the community would attend a hands-on experience. Bronstad said he enjoyed the expressions of delight in their accomplishment and their creativity.

Oda, a graduate of Washington State University, studied under Don Crabtree, the flint knapper of all time. Oda holds doctorate degree in archaeology and teaches at Clover Park College.  He has also taught at Pierce and Bellevue Community College.

As a flint knapper for 24 years, Oda who lives in Lakewood, said if he is invited, he will return for another workshop on traditional toolmaking –– which he jokingly referred to as Rock Abuse 101.

Bronstad brought samples of his own flint knapping points and blades to show the students.

You can make these, he said.

First-time student John Thompson (from Longbranch) said he was hoping my neolithic, paleolithic self would come back. But it doesnt work that way. You have to work at it. 

Eleven-year-old Elizabeth Pierson, from Home, had one word to describe the experience of making her first arrowhead: Proud.


By the looks on all the faces, it was a great Friends of the Library function. 


The first ArtistsBlend event in November brought together a small group of like-minded and creatively diverse souls who gathered to share stories and learn a few new ones.

Artist Taylor Reed said the idea is to have a time each month when artists and patrons of the arts can get together just to talk art.

We have so many artists on the KP and surrounding areas but we are so spread out and don't really all know each other very well. We have lots of artists and we would really like to get to know each other,Reed said.

Art news, shared by those who attended in January, included artist, conservator and teacher Phoebe Toland and her husband, ceramic artist Richard Notkin. Phoebe's sister, sculptor Tip Toland has just received a United States Artist Fellows award.

Exhibitor Adria Hanson is a painter who lives on the Key Peninsula. Her true artist soul still craves time to stay connected with her art and other artists as time with her new baby allows. Hanson studied fine art in Italy.

Lampwork glass artist Brynn Rydell talked about her new projects, which are painstakingly designed and impeccably delivered. 

Reed was also busy with a show at Morso Wine Bar in Gig Harbor. Doing double duty as a landscaping creative as well as a painter, her life is full. She is showing her work on a regular basis with the Kimball Gallery group in Gig Harbor.

Robin Peterson is busy revisiting her Voices of the Wilderness art residency, which she will present this summer in Tongass National Forest, southeast Alaska. 

Kathy Bauer has a perfect showcase for her photography at The Blend; she's excited for the future of Two Waters Art Alliance (TWAA) and is looking forward to continuing support for the arts and artists in our community with some re-envisioning of ways the organization can keep us connected, sharing the blessings of a creative lifestyle for all ages.

Reed said this was only the third month, but the group grew a lot this time. We had 6 or 7 people show the first two months, but this month we had 17-18 and it was really fun and great energy,Reed said.

According to Reed, the group is getting really enthusiastic feedback.

I will be posting information on the TWAA Facebook page Two Waters is really focused this year on supporting all of our local artists and bringing us together. We are always looking for volunteers; the more we have the more cool things we can do,Reed said.

The group is still trying to figure out what the monthly event will be, and they know that is up to whoever shows up.

The focus will be making sure we have time to talk to each other about current projects we may be working on and are excited about or are having trouble with, what exhibits are currently up and what we have seen. Well be discussing reviews, ideas for art shows and classes on the peninsula and sharing local opportunities for artists. We will share networking and marketing ideas for artists. We would also like to have short presentations, kind of a show-and-tell time. We had a few people bring in some pieces they are working on, which was a big hit, showing new and different material and techniques,Reed said.

ArtistsBlend is free to attend and is open to anyone who wants to talk art on the first Tuesday of every month from 4 to 6 p.m. at Blend Wine Shop in Key Center.

Fessler Farms, LLC, now provides dairy and full-service grocery deliveries to the Key Peninsula.

Each week, the family-owned service will deliver fresh dairy and grocery products into customersice chests or milk boxes. Delivery is between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

To ensure product safety, Fessler will provide a temporary milk box for $11, of which $10 is refunded upon return.

Owner Dan Fessler said all of their milk options are rBST- (recombinant bovine somatotropin, a growth-hormone) and antibiotic-free. 

You will receive the freshest milk you can buy. In fact, it is delivered to your door usually within a few days after the cow was milked. Grocery store milk is usually at least a week to 10 days old when you pick it off the shelf,Fessler said.

According to Fessler, there is no minimum order for a variety of products, including milk and other dairy organics and juices.

They also deliver breads, fruits, vegetables, meats, grocery and miscellaneous items, and are adding items all the time, he said.

Nonhomogenized organic milk comes in glass bottles. There is a $3 deposit for the glass that is refunded when you return the glass rinsed clean. Fessler Farms does not want plastic lids returned.

Delivery can be scheduled to automatically continue every week, two weeks, thee weeks or four weeks as a standing order. Items used less often can be ordered for one-time-only delivery. Changes to orders can be done every week as late as 9 a.m, two business days before scheduled delivery with the exception of raw and organic milk products, which must be preordered a week in advance.

Fessler said there is never a contract obligation to start or continue delivery service.

Fessler Farms will automatically apply credit or debit charges after each delivery. There is a $2 weekly delivery fee ($0 for weekly orders more than $40) for the service to help cover the cost of fuel.

Thats usually less than youd spend to drive to the store,Fessler said.

Store hours in Key Center are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Gene Miller is the regular driver and Cora Miller helps in the retail store.

Vouchers for the WIC (Women-Infants-Children) program may be accepted after enrollment with the state, which should occur in April.

The store will be taking applications for sales personnel and will be hiring new drivers soon.

Reach Fessler Farms by calling (253) 509-9995, or order online at Its located at 15610 92nd Street Kp N in Key Center.


Saturday, 31 January 2015 22:20

KP author publishes second novel

Leslie Bratspis saw a change in her ex-husband, a U.S. Marine, after he returned from two tours of duty in Vietnam. She drew from those memories when she started developing the plot for her new novel, Vanilla Grass,which is drawn from interviews with other veterans, online research, war movies and video documentaries about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Bratspis worked on the U.S. Marine Corps base in 29 Palms, Calif. during the Vietnam era where she spent a lot of time around members of all ranks, both officers and enlisted.

She said it took about nine or 10 months to write this book, which is set in a fictitious location called Ships Cove, reminiscent of the Key Peninsula where she lives with her husband Ned and two golden retrievers, both rescue dogs.

Being retired and having time to write has been wonderful,she said. Belonging to Lakebay Writers was very helpful, not only in writing but in forming friendships.

When asked about local talent, she said, There is such a creative group of writers, painters, weavers, seamstresses, photographers, quilters and potters. The environment here is conducive to creativity, rather than living in the city where there are so many distractions.

Vanilla Grassis a labor of love, written to raise awareness of the challenges to our military members returning from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There are 22 military suicides a day (reported). Because we live so near a military base, I took it personally. It had meaning for me, I became immersed in it and in the characters,she said.

"Some of the problems associated with PTSD are flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, inability to sleep, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, anger and nightmares. The book's main character, Vietnam veteran John Carrows, and another fictitious veteran, Mike Hogan just returned from Iraq, show many of these symptoms in the novel."

Bratspisresearch found that the symptoms of PTSD were documented in 1990 B.C. and 27 centuries ago in Homers Iliad. The term shell shock emerged during World War I, and was later called war neurosis or traumatic neurosis. It was adopted formally as a clinical diagnosis only in 1980. Through her work, Bratspisrespect and appreciation for the military and what they do has definitely increased,she said. There is a real need for post-deployment reintegration. The veterans need services and support and understanding,she added.

Bratspis said a therapist at Joint Base Lewis McChord is giving copies ofVanilla Grassto coworkers and those clients who are focused enough to read, calling it insightful.It means so much to an author to know their work is read and well-received,she said.

Comfort dogs and service dogs, like Dogs of Warand Battleground Buddies,play a big part in this novel. Sage is a rescue dog and is the catalyst that brings Carrows out of his shell, so that he can be around people again. Both are wounded, and survivors. Both are heroes,Bratspis said.

This book covers many current issues. Strong language is used. Bratspis said it is a necessary vehicle to demonstrate growth and change in the youth. The sex she depicts in the book is a reflection of current teenage promiscuity.

It shocked me. It is more prevalent than I knew. I wrote about it to raise awareness,she said.

She is grateful for the assistance of the Gig Harbor Police Department for their technical expertise regarding processing of delinquent youth. It is a story of redemption for veterans and for some of the teens, because of John and how he enlisted the community,she said.

I hope people appreciate the message and spread awareness of challenges faced by returning soldiers, and that they understand the importance of community in getting things done, Bratspis said.

Vanilla Grassis available on Amazon, Kindle, Barnes and Noble and Cost Less Pharmacy or may be ordered directly from the author by email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The novel was published by Plicata Press, November 2014. 


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