August 2010: Items for sale at the Sault Summer Art Festival August 3 by Renate Favour, Leif Sporck, and Wendy Hunt
Header image: Items for sale at the Sault Summer Art Festival August 3
by (L-R) Renate Favour, Leif Sporck, and Wendy Hunt

Featured Artist: Ginny Johnson

Last updated: August 1, 2010

Our featured artist for August is Ginny Johnson. This is an especially good time to feature Ginny because she is the judge for the August 3rd arts festival. Ginny is a recently retired art teacher and well known as the prime mover in the local Habitat for Humanity organization. This busy lady took out time from her teaching, family and Habitat work to organize the Alberta House children’s workshops for many summers. Retirement has given her more time for her art and for new ventures. She’s been volunteering at Alberta House, and like a number of other area artists has taken up rug hooking with Joan Muckelbauer’s intrepid “Group of Seven”. Ginny did such a great job of answering our questions that we are just going to use her answers as is.

Her academic, art and teaching background: I was born in 1946 and grew up in Ferndale, just north of Detroit. I attended the University of Detroit. For my second year of college I was fortunate enough to study at an American college in Rome, Italy. The year in Rome had a huge impact on me, opening my eyes to the world and the arts. I traveled thru most of Europe and also Athens, Beirut, Jerusalem and Cairo. When I returned to college in the States, I dropped my science classes and enrolled in two art classes.

After finishing a degree in art at University of Detroit and Marygrove College, I applied to Wayne State University for a MFA. During the 3 years of graduate school, I studied printmaking, drawing and jewelry. Much of my work at this time involved images of cross sections and layers of the earth. During this time I took a trip thru South America with a girl friend.

After graduate school I married Ed and we lived in Ann Arbor while he was finishing medical school. After that we lived in New Orleans, Battle Creek (where our two daughters were born), and Flint. The sunlight and colors in New Orleans really changed my art. I painted for two years. The paintings were large and geometric and would remind you of quilt designs. For a while I sold my work at the popular Jackson Square where many artists hang their art daily. I also had a one person show at the Shreveport Art Center.

I got started in pottery in 1984 when I took some clay classes at the Flint Institute of Arts. There were two excellent teachers there who had trained at Cranbrook Art Center. Besides wheel throwing, I also enjoyed handbuilding with colored porcelain clays. With clay, there is a PARTNERSHIP that is wonderful because clay has such a personality of its own. Besides the “art clay” I have also done some “production” work, mostly mugs with clay labels commemorating a wedding or festival.

We moved to Sault Ste. Marie in 1989 when our girls were little, looking for a medical practice that was more compatible with a healthy family life style.

Ginny had a dual exhibit with Gene Usimaki in 1994 and was in the juried “Home” exhibition in 2009.

Ginny is perhaps best know for her work with Habitat for Humanity. We asked how and why she became involved.

I got involved with Habitat for Humanity because I like to give back to the community. Most of us are so blessed and are often numb to those blessings. It is a wonderful experience to work with Habitat volunteers - none of us can build a home alone, but TOGETHER as a group we can make it happen. And when a family is helped to get into a home, it adds tremendously to their security, the children do better in school, the parents go on to get better jobs...

It is interesting to note how many artists working in other fields have become involved in rug hooking with the “group of seven” and how every artist brings her own unique style to her rug. Ginny is no exception. Retirement allowed time for new ventures: I am so grateful to this group of artists, especially our generous and fearless leader Joan Mucklebauer. As the group works on their rugs or wall pieces, they share creative energy, humor and friendship. I am very glad to have this new art form that I can do just about anywhere. I already have a number of customers lined up for my rugs. And not just for rug hooking. . .

Intrepid snow dragon and jockey

Dragon Snow Sculpture by Ginny Johnson (with husband Ed)

Dragon Snow Sculpture—This was really a wonderful way to get thru winter, other than skiing. We had a Taiwanese exchange student living with us named Bonnie (Meng Jai). So we did this for her. (Actually she wanted Sponge Bob) Both Ed and I are retired and have the time to “play”. We used cardboard forms (watermelon and pumpkin bins) and insulated rubber gloves. Ed put red blinking bike lights in the eyes. On Feb 14, Valentines Day and Chinese New Year, we had a party and lit flares around the dragon.

Other Ventures: I would like to do clay outdoor sculptures. I would also like to do a mural, maybe with an historic theme, using carved, fired clay tiles.

Now that Ginny is retired, we’re hitting on her. She’s already volunteering at Alberta House and, as noted earlier, she’ll be the Sault Summer Arts Festival judge August 3rd. With her broad background in both art and craft work, she’s a natural.

Sculptures by Ginny Johnson
Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version.

Sculpture by Ginny Johnson

Sculpture by Ginny Johnson

Sault Area Arts Council Home Page 217 Ferris Street, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783
e-mail: Phone: (906) 635-1312