It’s been a long day of notoriously bad traffic, cranky kids, irritating errands and a venomous boss. What is more soothing than to return to our neighborhood, to walk into that sacred space you call home? It’s your sanctuary, your refuge, your safe haven where you can chalk up the day to mere memory and leave it behind.

Consider, though, the parallel universe suggested by Picasso: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

If home equals serenity and art cleanses the soul, imagine combing the two – imagine enriching your home with neighborhood art.

Why, you may ask, neighborhood art? Why not just visit the local import store or even that mega-super-discount chain to pick up a brass vase and silk roses or a framed print of impossibly cute kittens?

Feel free. But think of it this way: Do you really like when you walk into that party wearing the same dress or shirt as another guest? And will you feel just a bit less unique when you discover the same piece of art proudly displayed in your living room is also decorating your bank lobby or hotel room or your friend’s home – the same piece you thought ways so cool and individualistic?

Let’s face it: Our neighborhood is blessed with more than its share of interesting architecture, homes with fascinating little nooks and crannies and niches – no cookie-cutter neighborhoods here – or as a wise friend once said: “If you wanted to live in Plano, you’d be there now.”

Fortunately, our neighborhood also has more than its fair share of artists whose vision and handiwork is just the ticket to fill those nooks and niches.

By patronizing neighborhood artists, you can possess one-of-a-kind, original works. You can also enjoy the unique opportunity to actually know whose hands created that sculpture or painting or platter. Meeting the artist and perhaps seeing him or her at work will likely make the art much more meaningful for you. Once you become familiar with local artists, you’ll find those mass-produced, anonymous works hold much less appeal.

Another reason to explore locally is to promote a sense of community. Think of your local artist as a “mom and pop” operation. How tragic if our neighborhood artists had to close down shop, a la little general stores bowing to the pressure of Big Brother chains.

Meet the Neighbors / You may be surprised at the number of artists (and their studios) in our neighborhood, just down the street or right around the corner – not to mention the wide variety of mediums.

Just a stone’s throw from White Rock Lake is the rustic, unassuming home of glass artist Diana Chase. A one-time graphic designer for the Neiman-Marcus catalog, Chase has worked with glass since around 1987 and has created works large and small, from murals for commercial properties to wall sconces for residences.

“I am mesmerized by glass and the effects of light on it,” she says. “Spirit is light,” Chase says, and he finds that working with glass gives her “joy and inspiration on a spiritual level.”

Chase’s home and studio reflect her passion and appreciation for a kaleidoscope of color. Sculpture enhances the water garden near her front door, and a floor-to-ceiling mural of striking blues becomes the focal point upon entering the home. Scattered about are meditation mandalas, spirit houses, wall sconces, bowls and other pieces. And a simple backyard is transformed to unique by a colorful glass birdbath and various sculptures. Chase also has created such utilitarian items as platters, candleholders and kitchen/bathroom backsplashes.

A short distance away in the Hollywood/Santa Monica neighborhood is the home and studio of Kay Slaughter, textile artist. During her childhood, Slaughter says: “I dabbled in knitting, sewing and smocking, but was smitten when I discovered weaving.” She eventually earned a degree in fiber arts in New Mexico and made the art from her livelihood.

Love of color and texture is apparent everywhere – rugs, of course, add personality to otherwise naked floors. Scattered about are rag rugs, handwoven, tapestry style, contemporary style – a technique she mastered during her studies in the Southwest.

But Slaughter isn’t limited to floor coverings – rugs and tapestries also grace many a wall, elegant table runners add color, and every bed and chair is given new life with overstuffed chenille and tapestry pillows. Incidentally, Slaughter also is well known for her chenille scarves.

In addition to glass and textiles, consider the popular work of ceramic artist Gary Huntoon, whose home/studio is near the Arboretum. Huntoon was a pre-med student at UCLA 35 years ago when he signed up for a pottery class “because some friends were also registered.” Thus began what he terms an “isntant love affair” with clay, and gone were any notions of the Hippocratic oath. Huntoon’s studies eventually brought him to Texas and to our neighborhood about 10 years ago.

While some potters create strictly on the wheel, the artist enjoys the challenge of hand-building – coils, slabs, etc. – as well as the wheel, and often combines the two methods.

Lest we forget, art can also be of the framed variety. But it certainly doesn’t have to be boring or predictable. Amanda Farris operates mostly in watercolors, but she also creates with acrylics, monoprints, charcoal and pastels.

Farris encourages creativity when installing her pieces – a quick glance about her home found some work hung at eye-level, some in tiny and tight spots, others mere inches from the floor.

Perhaps you’re in the notion for a striking sculpture. Hidden away on a shady side street near is the huge studio of David Hickman. A mechanical designer for many years, Hickman took the plunge about 13 years ago, and is now a respected artisan working in a variety of native materials. Hickman has been commissioned to create pieces for commercial and municipal properties, and a recent visit to his studio his found him hard at work on, among other projects, akinetic outdoor piece for a local arts center; a huge stainless steel and copper globe for a university; and a mosaic of the Virgin of Guadalupe for a nearby church.

Among Hickman’s admirers is neighborhood artist Becky Johnson, who defies labeling with her wide variety of art forms. However, it’s obvious she also prefers to work with natural elements: metals, stones and wood. Like most artists, Johnson toiled in “regular” jobs such as advertising for years before summoning the courage to make a “go” of her art, a passion she has pursued all of her life, thanks to early exposure to art and museums worldwide.

Johnson’s growing reputation in the art world has resulted in numerous shows, competitions and commissions – a recent commission was a mailbox – but Johnson enjoys keeping her pieces affordable and accessible. A quick tour of her home/studio found candle holders, benches, fireplace gates, wall and garden pieces – some small, some not – all infused with her trademark playfulness and spirit. An amazing garden/patio around back seemed not so much a residence as a sculpture garden, filled with Johnson’s vision of color and shape, and her popular “marching ants” in various sizes, and constructed of steel and painted with red highlights.

“My art comes from my heart,” Johnson says, “not just my hands.”

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