Artisans of Earthly Elements
By Cristine Shade
Published: 09/20/2010  Updated: 06/20/2019

Three notable coastal artisans create functional art for your home combining earthly elements and imagery.

The North Coast is known for its quiet beauty and connection to earth, sky and sea. It is no wonder that so many artists spend their creative efforts capturing the spirit of these themes in their art. Wood, iron and clay are earthly elements that lend themselves quite well to capturing both form and function. Three notable resident artisans have expertly captured the flavor of North Coast living.

Jim Deardorff

Furniture Artisan

Jim Deardorff creates unique contemporary twig furniture pieces. His beautiful and functional furniture is handcrafted from red alder gathered from Elliott State Forest with permission. An interest in Amish rockers moved the former high-school teacher to learn the craft that eventually led to the creation of his patented signature rocker that is characteristic of the Northwest's natural beauty. Employing saplings no bigger than four inches in diameter, Deardorff uses their natural flair to determine the style of each distinctive work of useable art. The artisan utilizes intermediate technology in his work, a combination of modern tools, handmade jigs and lots of hand working to ensure continuity but also allow for individuality. You can find his work at several Northwest galleries including RiverSea Gallery in Astoria and Freed Gallery in Lincoln City.

John Emmerling

Iron Artisan

John Emmerling, metal artist and owner of Gearhart Ironwerks, creates custom furniture and accessories from iron, stainless steel, copper, bronze and aluminum. He combines purpose and beauty seamlessly. The former professional photographer inherited a welder from his uncle and then taught himself how to fabricate and forge metal. His methods range from modern techniques to old-fashioned blacksmithing. His designs reflect aesthetics from modern to rustic and replicate birds, bamboo, vines, leaves, flowers, grasses and other familiar natural elements. The beauty of his artistry is most obvious in designs that look soft and fluid, like grass swaying in the wind, but are made from strong unyielding materials. This artisan creates distinctive work but will also create pieces using your ideas and inspiration to blend into your lifestyle.

Sarah Follett

Clay Tile Artisan

Sarah Follett designs and crafts tile art that incorporates literal references to life on the coast. From her family-owned workshop at Newport Tile Works, Follett creates molds that feature starfish, crabs, sailboats, shells, sand dollars and a host of other coastal themes. The imagery is given a rich watery feel using glazes that create her specific style. Individual tiles can be fashioned into mosaics for borders, stove backs, shower panels or floor inlays. Relief designs can be paired with field tiles to create a one-of-a-kind installation. Follett uses some modern technology in the making of her tiles but depends on "old-fashioned muscle power" to create the individual molded tiles. Her functional art can be found in several showrooms around the country, including Bergerson Tile in Astoria and Abbey Carpet Home Gallery in Newport.

Each artisan, in his or her own personal way, maintains a connection with their coastal community and the environment through their artistry. No matter your connection to the North Coast, be it an everyday experience or an occasional visit, you can maintain that connection by surrounding yourself with the beauty of these artistic pieces every day. Sitting in one of Jim Deardorff's signature contemporary twig rockers, being warmed by a fire framed by one of John Emmerling's decorative fireplace screens, or being reminded of a favorite coastal destination by Sarah Follett's watery-glazed tile imagery will transport you to the serenity that is synonymous with the North Coast.
Artisans of Earthly Elements