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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Soft And Fluffy, Hard And Shiny

Courtesy Anne Mehring

Most artists pick a medium and then pursue excellence in it. But Anne Mehring calls herself a perennial student of many arts. Every Friday you’ll find her working in copper at a studio at Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. On another day she may be working in a studio in Mattawan, creating glass objects. Or she may stay home and weave on a loom.

“When I’m joking around with someone, I’ll say I like soft and fluffy things, and I like hard and shiny things,” Mehring says. “That’s the weaving and the metalwork and the glasswork. Those are the three art forms I participate in.”

A conversation with Anne Mehring

Mehring says her wide range of artistic interests is rooted in her childhood. She grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, where her parents brought Mehring and her siblings to art shows, concerts, and exhibits. Almost by osmosis, she absorbed many of these mediums and acquired a lifelong desire to learn whatever art form best served her wish or need of the moment.

“That’s stayed with me, an interest in a wide variety of arts,” she says. “I get around to thinking of something and then I don’t know how to do it. So I have artist mentors I go to and I say, 'Help me with this.'”

Credit Courtesy Anne Mehring
Anne Mehring at work

Many do, even if initially raising an eyebrow at her ambition. One example was Mehring's desire to put a night light in a hallway at her home. Most people would just go to the store and buy one. But Mehring headed to a mentor to ask how do make one herself.

“When I stared on this project, I asked a builder to put in a plug there so I can have a night light,” she says. “And he said, "Why don’t you put it in the wall instead of on the wall?' That made me draw back and think, how can I do that?”

Mehring was off and running. She put a hole in the wall and framed it, then lined the inside with a strip of LED lights.

“Then there’s a piece that’s glass, and it will be mounted so that the light shines through,” Mehring says. “The glass is fused and colored with holes ground into it so that the light will reflect on the edges of the holes as well. The theme is bubbles, so small holes get larger and larger as they rise to the top.”

Mehring tends to multi-task with her art, moving from one project and medium to another as the mood strikes her. Pounding on copper to create jewelry, she jokes, relieved frustration when her children were teens and mischievous.

Mehring worked many years with the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, mentoring others, processing grants, and encouraging other artists to pursue their dreams. Now, she mostly creates for herself, although her work can occasionally be found in the gift shop of Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, and her friends often benefit from gifts she has made with her own hands. Mehring is also a member of the Kalamazoo Weaver’s Guild.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

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Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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