When you walk into the Celebration of Fine Art and turn to the left, one of the first studios you’ll see is Montana Blue Heron, a space filled with unique, colorful baskets, woven sculptures and three-dimensional wall art in dramatic shapes and sizes. Montana Blue Heron is a collaborative effort between husband and wife Marilyn and Bill Stevens, a duo who’ve mastered the age old practice of basketry.
Marilyn has been weaving for more than twenty years, but her exposure to the craft began in her childhood.
“Back when I was a kid, my mother always set us up with things like needlework or crocheting,” Marilyn says. “That’s where the love of fiber really began.”
But it wasn’t until the early 1980s that Marilyn decided to explore a new type of craft –– basket weaving.
“I had a little how-to book that had directions,” Marilyn says. “I was able to work with the willow in the yard and the little bit of ratan that I had and created a crooked little bowl. This is just the evolution of that.”
Bill, like Marilyn, is self-taught in the craft of basket weaving, and joined her efforts in the early 1990s. Every since, they’ve worked side by side, honing their skills and evolving their style.
“Every year Bill and I create this work and notice changes,” Marilyn says. “He’ll do half of it and then I’ll do the top or the bottom. Every year I think we’re better –– our dyeing is better and our treatment of the final piece is better. There’s real evolution that keeps going on.”
One artist full of ideas is enough to change the world. But two artists working together can create some pretty amazing things, too. That’s the case for Bill and Marilyn, who say their work is double the fun! They share their visions to explore shape, form and color, and never quite know what the result will be.
“We are inspired mainly because we have two imaginations, so it just pops out of us,” Marilyn says. “I’ll throw out an idea and then he’ll throw out an idea and pretty soon it’s really an evolution of ideas.”
One thing is for sure, in addition to the Celebration of Fine Art being home to 100 artists, it’s also an ideal place for artists to get work done and meet fellow art enthusiasts.
“This is a wonderful venue for lots and lots of people to see you,” Marilyn says. “You set up and you’re here for 10 weeks, which makes it really easy to show up everyday with a spot to work on pieces.”
See more of Marilyn story here: