To Stillwater native Elizabeth Belz, the mark of functional art is an oft-used item with a “handmade artistic flare.”

“It gives the object some kind of soul,” she said. “It’s not as disposable as we’re used to these days.”

Belz, a metal worker, is one of six regional artists whose handiwork is on display in ArtReach St. Croix’s new exhibit “Home is where the art is,” which is on view now through Saturday, Nov. 17 at the ArtReach gallery, 224 Fourth St. N. in Stillwater.

The new exhibit features functional artwork intended for daily use, such as textiles, ceramics and wood, said ArtReach Executive Director Heather Rutledge.

“The beauty reveals itself through daily use,” Rutledge said. “A handmade coffee mug is actually very different.”

In addition to Belz, the installation features several other regional artists including potters Alana Cuellar, Nick Earl and Adam Gruetzmacher as well as weaver Julie Arthur and sculptor Paul Howe.

Howes sculpture, a six-piece dining room set, is the centerpiece of the gallery, Rutledge said. Galleries at ArtReach are open Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays, noon to 4 p.m.

ArtReach’s exhibit will feature Belz’s hand-forged spoons, a historically-influenced dust pan and hand tied brooms. Rutledge said the uniquely crafted dust pan emphasized how a tool can be useful and artistic.

“I have never seen an artist do a beautiful rendition of a dust pan,” Rutledge said. “I don’t think it would make sweeping your house more fun but it drove home the idea for me.”

Belz attended Stillwater Area High School for a short period of time before she transferred to the Perpich Center for the Arts in Golden Valley, Minn. After graduating high school, Belz said she went to college several times but ultimately found folk school was better suited for her career path.

Belz taught at the North House Folk School and Grand Marais Art Colony. She studied at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, John C. Campbell Folk School, Raspberry Island Folk School, Tunnel Mill Crafts, North House Folk School and Penland School of Crafts in the Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina.

She recently moved to Memphis, Tenn. where she is one of seven blacksmithing apprentices in a two-year program at the National Ornamental Museum. Today Belz works primarily in metal but also practices printmaking, broom making and photography. She takes inspiration from natural and life sciences, having been a pre-medical student before she returned to the world of art.

In her apprenticeship, Belz works on commissions for the museum. She said she’s currently working on a giant pinecone for an interior decorator in Memphis.

Belz started her artistic career as a printmaker, she said, but soon realized her favorite part of the artistic practice was the metal type settings.

“I realized it was the equipment I liked — the large printing presses,” Belz said.

As she started working with metal, Belz said she found she enjoyed the freedom working with metal provides.

“I like being able to manipulate with the fire and have constant control with my hands,” she said. “I can think it, imagine it, draw it out, plan it and I can make it out of metal.”

Contact Kim Schneider at kim.schneider@ecm-inc.com

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