Bringing art back to life

Longtime Homer artist values process over product, shifts from painting to mending

By Christina Whiting

For Homer News

Walk into Ann-Margret Wimmerstedt’s home and you step into her art studio. She paints in the living room, sews in the family room and sketches in the kitchen, moving items around as she is inspired.

“I’m interested in a lot of things and I get a lot of creative ideas,” she said. “Someone once told me that none of my work is going to look like it came from the same person and I found that to be a great compliment, that maybe I don’t have a signature, that I can make something and maybe somebody won’t know it’s me.”

Wimmerstedt is often working in a variety of mediums, and often at the same time.

“The good thing about working on several things is that if I get blocked while painting, I can go and sew, and if I get blocked sewing, I can go paint,” she said. “For me, working on more than one thing at a time helps me go back and forth creatively.”

She is also more intrigued by the creative process than she is by the end result.

“I’ve never necessarily been into having something turn out the way I envision it because usually it turns out better,” she said. “So many artists are tentative with their work, afraid it won’t turn out looking like they want. I try to just dive in and trust the process, trust the work.”

Raised in Huntington Beach, California, Wimmerstedt’s journey into the art world began as a child, when she received her first box of crayons. With a high school painting teacher mentor and access to her school’s expansive art department, she was introduced to painting, illustration, metal, ceramic, sculpture and printmaking. Pursuing her passion for painting and fiber art, she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from California State University Long Beach.

A Homer resident for the past 24 years, as a painter, Wimmerstedt has dabbled in oil, but primarily works in watercolor and encaustic (hot wax painting), often combining the two, enthralled by the versatility.

“There are so many layers of process and so many tools with encaustic painting and I’m enthralled with what you can do with wax,” she said. “It’s exciting, challenging and a very interesting way to paint.”

Using beeswax with damar resin as her medium of choice, Wimmerstedt has shown her work at galleries and museums around Alaska, and many of her paintings are in private collections. She has also inspired others to the medium, teaching encaustic workshops.

With her love for nurturing creativity in others, she has served as an Artist in the Schools throughout the years, including at Little Fireweed, Big Fireweed, Homer Flex School, Homer High School and Homer Middle School.

“This is such a worthwhile and important program for kids,” she shared. “With limited art funding and knowing that not all kids have the opportunity to experience art, it has been a joy to share what I love with so many Homer youth.”

As known as she is locally for her encaustic work, she is also a recognized fiber artist, and perhaps the place she is most known is Wearable Arts, an annual Homer fashion show featuring community members’ creations. A longtime volunteer and contributor, her wearable arts work has included a paper collage dress that she described as both beautiful and stiff as a board, an aluminum can dress and a bread tag dress, to name just a few.

“I like working with experimental pattern making and goofy fabric manipulation,” she said. “I haven’t yet come up with a pattern that you could make in every kind of material, but I’m working on it.”

While Wearable Arts has not taken place since 2019, the show will be returning to Land’s End Resort next fall and Wimmerstedt is busy working on a piece to contribute.

Wimmerstedt is in fact moving away from painting and towards what she considers to be more practical work, like mending things that already exist.

“There’s so much stuff out there and I’m over buying new art supplies and prefer to reuse and recycle now,” she said. “I love a good painting, but I’ll paint all over a painting. To me, things aren’t so precious that they have to have to exist as they are forever. They can change and do or be something else.”

With this commitment, Wimmerstedt enjoys browsing thrift store for items to work with.

“I’m on the hunt all the time for clothes, jewelry, fabrics, anything that’s tactile, unusual and interesting,” she said. “I’m attracted to wear-in clothing, which attracts me to mend it. I have a good eye for spotting things that may be overlooked. Thrifting is my superpower.”

With her thrift store finds, she spends a lot of her time right now mending and fixing, practicing stitches and mending cuffs. Only a sewer in more recent years, having purchased her first sewing machine from eBay, entering a bustier in a sewing contest in Texas, and winning enough to pay off her machine, Wimmerstedt enjoys both sewing and, more so, hand stitching.

She is currently working on a pair of Carhartts riddled with stress holes, drawn to men’s Alaska work wear and the idea that clothing wears out in one area on one person and in a different area on another person. In her studio working with materials she finds fun and interesting, hand stitching, fixing, mending and altering pieces, she is enjoying turning used items into new-used items.

Having had nearly half a dozen solo shows and participated in dozens of group shows in Homer and around Alaska, Wimmerstedt shared that today she is less interested in exhibiting and more inspired to be alone in her studio making things that please her.

“I’m not very ambitious at this point in my life about getting my work out there,” she said. “I’m really happy working in my home, bringing discarded items back to life and creating new from old.”

When not mending, stitching, or thrifting, Wimmerstedt can be found in her kitchen, stirring, sifting or slicing.

“Cooking is an art I came to when I had my son Neil and four years later, my daughter Drew,” she shared. “What started out as having to feed my kids has become an activity I absolutely love. Between my kids and their friends and my husband and our friends, we have people eating at our house all the time. I’m constantly trying new recipes and making things I’ve never made before. Cooking is very art-like in that you take materials and turn them into something else.”

Continuing her passion for nurturing creativity in others, Wimmerstedt is currently providing painting instruction during Bunnell Street Arts Center’s Painted Plate Project. Here, bisqued plates become blank canvases for under glazes, are painted by community members of varying art abilities, with the finished plates competitively selected by new and renewing gallery members.

A Bunnell board member for 10 years, Wimmerstedt has painted and purchased more plates than she can count. For her, the plate project is more than just members renewing their membership and choosing a plate.

“The plate project invites community,” she said. “It invites everyone to come and experience a different way to paint and make things. When we put all the painted plates on the wall and you view them collectively, you see how much work and effort is put into these, from the ceramicists who contribute the plates to the people who paint them. It’s really lovely to see all that creativity at once.”

Anyone interested in painting or learning to paint with Wimmerstedt can stop by Bunnell on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. and Wednesdays 5-7 p.m. through March 11.

Wimmerstedt loves her Homer life, so much so that she never leaves. As her husband prepares to retire, she does look forward to travel adventures together outside, including visiting their son who is moving to Japan, and then returning to her home and community.

“Homer is such an inspiring, creative, and beautiful place to live,” she shared. “Everything I need or want is right here.”

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