For the past three years, twin artists Lisa and Lori Lubbesmeyer, trailblazers in their chosen medium of fiber appliqué, have politely said no when asked about doing commissioned work.
But there was one request they just couldn’t turn down.
“We’ve just got so much appreciation, respect and love for Bill Smith,” Lisa says about the president of William Smith Properties who developed the Old Mill District. “When we were asked, well, we’ve always wanted to do an Old Mill piece for him.”
The Lubbesmeyers, whose second-story studio in the Old Mill District overlooks the Cascades, are the artists behind this year’s Winter Guide cover. Collaboratively created by building upon one another’s work, Lisa and Lori’s Old Mill piece took five months to construct and consists of more than 20 layers of fabric.
“What started easily is the color palette,” says Lori, who originally came from an oil painting background, describing the process of capturing an iconic area that emits powerful emotions from so many in the community.
“How much detail, that’s the question,” she adds. “We could fill this composition with so much information, there’s so much here (in the Old Mill District). And what about the things we like versus what Bill might like?
Often influenced by the natural world – the sisters’ portfolio is filled with awe-inspiring landscapes, rich in color and emotion – the Lubbesmeyers intentionally tapped into the beauty and mystique of the Deschutes River and the Cascade Range for their Old Mill project.
“We often refer to this in our own minds as the Old Mill Garden,” says Lisa, who before working in fiber was an accomplished printmaker. “Both Lori and I, as much as we can, commute by bike. I have a great life here, but it’s almost the best part of my day seeing the plants change with the seasons. It’s amazing, so we really wanted to bring a lot of natural elements into the piece.”
“That’s a true sunset there,” Lori adds, referring to the beautiful orange-hued sky scene in the appliqué that offsets the cool, blue Cascade mountains. “It may look overly colored, or may seem out of the ordinary, but we’ve seen it here from our balcony.”
Just as amazing as their finished pieces is the sisters’ process for what they call “fiber paintings.” Lisa or Lori will start with a single layer of fabrics that they then hand off to the other. The piece in progress is passed back and forth between the two with additional fabrics and overstitching designs built upon each layer.
While the Old Mill piece required a bit of pre-production sketch work, the sisters create every non-commissioned piece without conversation between versions. With Lisa’s eye toward realism and Lori’s more abstract vision, each design is pushed, pulled and molded by both styles before the artists make the call that it’s a finished – and highly-sought after- body of work. The Lubbesmeyers have also started creating collaborative paintings in a similar process.
“This piece, it really comes from our hearts in the sense that we’re so happy while working in this space,” says Lisa. She and Lori have been in Bend since 2002 and moved their studio into the Old Mill District in 2008. “This place, this space and everything it brings to our lives is something we appreciate every day.”