There are a multitude of good reasons for a community member to walk through the doors of a public school. Jefferson Elementary School (in Jefferson, Oregon), however, is set apart because one of the best reasons for community members to enter is to enjoy the art on the walls.
This art is not typical student-made art that you might be familiar with. The art of artist and mother Bobi Herring has transformed the vintage school building into an art gallery from one end to the other. I sat down with Herring and had this conversation.
Jaqui Forney: Bobi, when did you first become interested in art and what form did it take?
Bobi Herring: Since a very young age, I’ve had a creative personality. When other kids colored their objects the right colors, mine were rainbow. All of my people had pink, orange, or red hair. It might have had something to do with being a red head. I went to my first and only art class at age eleven. The class was portraits and pastels. I was the youngest he had ever taught. The other students were mostly art teachers. I really started my art after I met my husband. He gave me all the confidence and encouragement I needed.
JF: Describe your art and your mediums.
BH: I use anything I can get my hands on. No matter what it is, I can find a use for it. Everything I make or design is full of whimsy and, hopefully, a touch of elegance. I strive to enchant whoever sees my art.
JF: Tell me about your favorite art medium.
BH: As of right now, my favorite mediums are oil paints for their brightness and blendability; vintage fabrics for their history, patterns, and great durability, mac eyeshadows for vibrancy and fun; and I’m hoping to add sculpture to this list but I haven’t found a kiln yet.
JF: If you had a day to devote wholly to your art —a day free of interruptions other than your own, how would you spend it?
BH: If it was my day, I would want a lot of company. A daydream —a day when everyone dressed whimsically in my designs, wandering around in a parade to odd places, like coffee shops to make paper snowflakes, or city parks to have feather and glitter picnics.
JF: Whom do you admire most as an artist?
They currently are James Christensen for his imagination and talent; Cicely Mary Barker for her ability to capture children; and MacKenzie Childs for the creative atmosphere in which she lives.
JF: Every person finds inspiration somewhere in the world. Artists are no exception. Where do you find yours?
BH: My girls! I find inspiration in most anything I see. Recently I saw a young lady around the age of six, who (it looked like) dressed herself in a fuchsia shirt, bright red pants three inches too short, and neon green socks. Those three colors went into many of my creations, including a scarf, an evening dress, and a pair of painted shoes. I have more creations in mind for those colors.
As a young artist, what advice do you have for the children who are, or will become, artists?
Imagination is big and what sets you apart. Even if you know something is not true, it is always fun to imagine. I truly believe you can do anything you want to with hard work and stamina.
JF: Of all the steps you take to complete a piece of art, which step is the most gratifying to you?
BH: In painting, it is when I put the eyes in and they become alive. In purses, it’s the excitement of finding the things and seeing it all come together. In sewing and beading, it’s the finished product. It is always most gratifying to have someone appreciate my work.
JF: Tell me how being an artist fits with being a mother.
BH: Before my children were born, I dreamt about them and of filling their lives with color and experiences full of imagination and fun. That is what we do. We have fun. We go to the grocery store in costume, sometimes as ballerinas, fairies, and more. We go dancing where there is live music, or at home with the radio. They always give me input about things I make them and they sometimes design their own. Sometimes it is hard to get everything done, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. I guess the thing I want most is to have them grow up and be confident in whatever they choose to do, and to always choose to be happy.