by Lorie Lewis Ham
We have interviewed many local artists over the past 11 years here in KRL and this week we are interviewing one of our own, Sanger artist Terrance Mc Arthur. Terrance is an artist, a storyteller, writer (for KRL and of short stories), a local actor, and former librarian. And so much more!
KRL:How long have you been an artist?
Terrance: 60 years.
KRL: What first inspired you to become an artist?
Terrance: When my mother needed craft samples, I was her guinea pig. By the time I was 12, I was doing demonstrations at workshops, teaching grown-ups how to do the crafts.
KRL: What type of art do you do?
Terrance: I don’t think of myself as an artist as much as I consider myself a crafter. I make unusual projects out of things others would toss in the trash, from newspaper to telephone wire, pine needles to dryer lint.
KRL: What mediums do you use?
Terrance: I work in basketry, wire sculpture, sort-of painting, papermaking, and anything else I need to do.
KRL: What led you to create the kind of art that you create?
Terrance: My creative muse says “That looks interesting. We ought to learn how to do it.”
KRL: How did you learn how to do these types of art?
Terrance: Several of my areas of interest began in Bakersfield, where my mother worked for the Kern County Parks and Recreation Department. She provided crafts for summer programs around the county, serving 1,500 children. Through her job, I was introduced to woven reed basketry and to Suji Wire Art. Almost 30 years later, I learned pine needle basket coiling while working at Bearskin Meadow Diabetic Camp near Hume Lake. When the Fresno County Public Library first subscribed to on-line databases, I found an article about a teacher using rolled newspaper to teach basketry to her students and began a new style of baskets.
One of the crafts we provided was Suji Wire Art, originally marketed by the X-Acto Knife Company. I have been making wire figures, pendants, and earrings out of legally-obtained telephone wire for 60 years.
Painting has been an as-needed part of my life. Working in the theatre, I have designed and made scenery for many productions, including some backdrops up to 20 feet by 30 feet.My baby brother is a 7’3” fire-eating, sword-swallowing, sideshow giant. He does an oddities museum, and includes “outsider art.” He’ll tell me about something he’d like to have, and I look it up and create something, which is how I discovered Dryer Lint Art, and why I built a 5’6” shark model out of playing cards – a card shark.
KRL: What do you feel is unique about your art?
Terrance: I’m willing to try almost anything that I think of or someone suggests.
KRL: Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?
Terrance: I try to think of different ways I can use a material, or I see a picture and think of how I can do it but do it my way.
KRL: I know you are also a storyteller; do you ever use your art in your storytelling?
Terrance: Well, there was an Aesop’s Fable about mice going to war, and I made a general’s hat as a pine needle basket.
KRL: I know you have taught crafts at various libraries, have you taught anywhere else, and do you have plans to?
Terrance: Most of my arts and crafts teaching has been at Fresno County Public Library branches. At the Bear Mountain Branch in Squaw Valley, I found myself teaching pine needle basketry to a group of women from the Mono tribe. It was odd, teaching basket-making to Native Americans – I may have learned more from them than they learned from me.
KRL: Where can people see and/or purchase your art?
Terrance: Mixed Messages Gallery, 1310 8th Street in Sanger, a brick building in the block west of Academy Avenue. Kathleen Mattox has created a haven for artists in the eastern part of the county. My wire work and basketry have found a home there, alongside two other artist with overlapping interests, Paul Parichan and Melanie Schow.
KRL: What do you love most about being an artist?
Terrance: Finishing something. It is done. It is no longer what knitters call a UFO – Un-Finished Object!
KRL: What is the hardest?
Terrance: In newspaper basketry, it’s rolling the paper into the thin pieces for weaving. It takes hundreds of sheets of paper to make a simple basket. For lint art, it’s trying to get lint in different colors. I received a box of lint from George that he had collected to try the craft, but my clothing has a limited pallet of colors – black, red, and white, which generally creates gray lint.
KRL: Where has your art been displayed?
Terrance: I have displayed in several libraries in the Fresno County area, and at George the Giant’s Museum of Wonders and Oddities in Bakersfield. A few pine needle pieces and newspaper basketry objects have won awards at the Big Fresno County Fair.
KRL: Is there any new form of art that you would like to try?
Terrance: Now that I have retired from the library, there are a few objects I’ve never successfully completed that I would like to tackle. I want to make a coiled pine needle horse, and a life-size boy selling newspapers – a “Paper Boy” – out of rolled newspaper.
KRL: How fun! Can’t wait to see them. Do you have a website?
Terrance: I started a blog, but it is far from consistent. I’ve looked into opening an Etsy.com shop but haven’t followed through. I’ve always had a problem with promoting myself.
Some of the projects and crafts I do have been put into how-to form as entries for contests on Instructables.com, where my work goes under the username of “puppeterry.” Puppeterry’s Projects – Instructables has instructions for basketry, Suji Wire Art, decorations, games, and general silliness.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Terrance: People have said, “If there’s something that nobody else can, or will do, ask Terrance.” That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?
Check out more local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section. You can also find more theatre coming up on KRL’s Local Theatre event page. You can find Terrance’s articles in KRL here where he mostly writes about food, books, and theatre.