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Artist creates work in watercolors, jewelry, leather

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By Robert Villanueva

FOR MORE: To see the work of artist Amber Gardner, visit her page on Facebook, Dragonflypoppy Creations.

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After putting aside her artistic aspirations in order to serve in the Air Force, Buffalo resident Amber Gardner now has immersed herself in her art.

At her home studio, Gardner creates watercolor paintings, steampunk-style jewelry and leather items for her business Dragonflypoppy Creations. Although her business is relatively new, her interest in art goes back many years.

“I was the nerdy art kid in high school,” Gardner explained.

Gardner was living in Grand Junction, Colorado, but wanted to explore the world outside her town once she graduated from high school. That was when the Air Force recruiter came calling.

She married and lived in Germany for a while, but she still managed to nurture her interest in art, taking art history classes, among other things, while serving overseas.

“I took watercolor class with this little old German teacher,” she said.

During that time overseas Garnder came up with what would become the name of her business.

“I was trying to come up with an email address back in Germany,” she said.

Gardner explained she developed an interest in poppies but discovered they die and wither instantly when picked. Their fleeting nature reminded her of another interest: dragonflies.

After the death of her father, Gardner and her husband, Robert, ended up in Kentucky. For a while, they stayed in Cecilia with a relative before relocating to LaRue County.

These days, Gardner keeps her second-floor studio filled with paintings and drawings in various stages of completion as well as leather materials, bags and containers filled with watch parts and other pieces of machinery. She uses the mechanical parts to create steampunk-style jewelry.

Steampunk is a genre in which advanced tachnology is based on the steam power of the 19th century. She buys bags of watch parts at places like etsy.com.

Cogs, gears and mechanical parts are visible in Gardner’s work, which includes lockets that hold tiny watch parts under a glass cover. The genre is appealing to Gardner because she worked as a mechanic in the Air Force and for a while afterward, she said.

Creating steampunk-style jewelry, she said, is enjoyable “just figuring out how to make things go together so that it’s aesthetically pleasing.”

In Gardner’s artwork mechanical parts are often part of the paintings or drawings.

Paintings are typically done in watercolor or pen and ink, sometimes a combination, she said. Although she “dabbles” in acrylic and oils, watercolor is her medium of choice, despite its reputation for being difficult.

“They’re unforgiving,” Gardner said. “They keep me honest, for sure.”

Horses are a recurring theme in Gardner’s art as are varioius forms of nature and wildlife.

“Another thing I like to do is the whimsical play on words,” she said.

She cited as an example her current work which depicts a fawn and its mother and what will be a number of crows. The work is titled “A Murder and a Birth.” The term murder is used to describe a group of crows.

Another current project is a mannequin she is decorating by covering with sheets of sewing patterns, “from failed attempts at sewing,” she said. The mannequin will be offered for an exhibit to be held in July at Wild Earth Gallery & Gifts in Elizabethtown. Gardner has items for sale in the gallery where she works on Fridays. Her work also is offered in galleries in Las Vegas, where she once lived; Washington state; and Meade County.

In addition to her paintings and jewelry, Gardner creates leather products, such as wallets and wristlet bags, which are designed to carry cell phones, cards and cash.

Creating them has been a process of trial and error, she said.

“Sewing patterns don’t work on leather,” Gardner said. “I found that out.”

Robert Villanueva can be reached at 270-505-1743 or rvillanueva@thenewsenterprise.com.