By Michelle Schmidt / Inland360.com
It’s not often you can use “glass ornament” and “accident” in a sentence that doesn’t end with a cringe. But Beth Rimmelspacher can.
That’s because she’s created nearly 200 glass ornaments this past year, a bit by accident. That’s not to say they just happen – each ornament takes between three to five hours over several days to paint – but it’s not something she set out to do. In fact, she distinctly avoided it.
“It started with a friend who found a box of clear ornaments here at the house,” Rimmelspacher says. The ornaments were 30 years old, a painting project her mom had encouraged her to do. The idea seemed too cutesy at the time, so the box was buried and forgotten.
But last December the box came out from hiding and with it, a request by a friend to paint an ornament. So Rimmelspacher did. Then she got another request to paint another ornament. She did another. Before long she’d created more than a dozen ornaments and kept getting requests for more. She’d discovered an instant hit.
For the past year, the majority of her work days have been spent creating photographic-like scenes on glass ornaments. They vary in size and sell for between $45 to $60. The most popular ones feature classic scenes from the valley: the view of the top of the Lewiston Hill, Swallows Nest rock, a view up Hells Canyon. But she’s done custom scenes as well, like family pets, angel statues, wheat fields and winter scenes with wildlife.
“It’s very European,” she says. “I feel like I’m doing a lost art.”
She’s had no trouble selling that art. Of the couple dozen hanging in various stages of completion in the studio, only four are not already purchased.
“Very few people have balked at the price,” Rimmelspacher says. Instead, their concern is that it will break. Care is required when handling the ornaments – and she can tell you from experience that dropping an ornament onto concrete will end badly – but so far customers have been happy.
Priced as they are, the ornaments become an affordable original piece of art. Some buy for themselves, Rimmelspacher says, but many buy them as gifts, for family members or friends who live in or have ties to the area.
Rimmelspacher works from an original photo for each ornament. But painting the same scene over and over can get monotonous.
“I don’t know how those kids do it in those factories,” she says with a laugh.
At her current prices, it’s a minimum-wage job. But for now, there’s a high demand for the work and as an artist, a steady revenue stream is nothing to complain about. She’s maxed out as far as production and the popularity of the ornaments has slowed down her other work.
Rimmelspacher began working full time as an artist in 1984 and uses oils to recreate scenes – primarily local ones – that she’s first captured on film. She does commissioned work and sells prints out of her studio at a discounted price.
While the lower-priced ornaments have sold especially well, Rimmelspacher says she’s never had trouble finding people who are willing to pay for her work.
Added to that, she says, the local landscapes she paints are familiar – people identify with them and want her rendition of those scenes in their home. And with these ornaments, even more of these landscapes will be on display.
Rimmelspacher’s studio is located at 1036 10th St. in Clarkston and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. More information is available and orders can be placed by calling (509) 758-5297.