By Joe Friedrichs
Pilot staff writer
For Shelley Knapp, a world without color wouldn't be much of a world at all.
The longtime Brookings quilter and kaleidoscope designer has devoted her professional life to working with color through art.
"The best part of my career is being able to share my love for color with the world," she said.
She and her husband, Randy, who is also an artist, have been able to make their living through a shared passion for kaleidoscopes and other forms of art for the past 17 years.
For the next month, the Knapps will have several of their handmade kaleidoscopes on display in an internationally known, juried exhibition known as Kaleidoscope Reflections. Shelley will also have a quilt showcased during the show.
Kaleidoscope Reflections opened on Sept. 8 will run to Oct. 15 in North Bethesda, Md. Kaleidoscope Reflections will feature more than 100 kaleidoscopes by 53 artists.The scopes on display will range from the size of a pen cap to a 10-foot long box.
Kaleidoscope Reflections was founded by Maryland native Cozy Baker and started in 1985. Every year it draws crowds from all over the world, said Georgina Javor, manager of media relations for Strathmore, the venue where the show takes place.
Javor said Randy and Shelley are known as some of the most talented artists in the Maryland event.
The Knapps have been receiving high praise at the exhibition since it opened. One of their kaleidoscopes, titled "Fruit of the Forest," has already been presented with an honorary award.
"This is the first work we have ever had in a juried show," Shelley said. "It's been an honor to take part."
The "Fruit of the Forest" series features a type of kaleidoscope that stands several feet off the ground and is best viewed by placing it on a stand and leaning over to look into the opening, in contrast to the traditional handheld style.
The "Fruit of the Forest" scopes are selling at the Maryland art exhibition for $2,800 a piece.
It takes more than a year to make one Fruit of the Forest' kaleidoscope, Randy said. The wood-gathering process is the biggest time consumer. It involves the use of a crane to gather the right-sized fresh wood. After the wood has been gathered and dried, the work continues.
"Some of the scopes we make take up to 30-hours of labor while others take six or eight," Shelley said.
The other kaleidoscopes the Knapps have on display at Kaleidoscope Reflections range from $190 to $900 in price, Shelley said.
In addition to the kaleidoscopes, Shelley also has a quilt she made in the show. Her quilt is on sale for $4,800. To make a large quilt, such as the one on display during Kaleidoscope Reflections, it takes Shelley from 60 to 200 hours of labor, depending on the size and the complexity of its designs. One of Shelley's large quilts is about 64 sqaure feet.
Because of commitments the Knapps had with friends, family and work prior to their admittance in the Maryland show, they will be unable to attend, Shelley said.
In the years the Knapps have been working in the art community, their artistic skills have developed in a number of ways.
Randy's career started in a a glass shop where he spent a decade as a master glazer. He also spent time as a woodworker then. It was during this time that he founded Randy Knapp Woodworking.
Both Randy and Shelley are self taught.
"I have no formal training," Shelley said. "Randy took all the available shop classes he could in high school and learned the rest on his own."
In their years of involvement with the art world, the Knapps have traveled and made friends all over the world.
"That's been one of the best aspects of all this," she said. "The traveling we have been able to do."
In a world that revolves so much around color, Shelley said it would be nearly impossible to pick a favorite.
"People ask me all the time what is my favorite color," she said. "For me it changes all the time. Having only one color as a favorite would not be as much fun as having them all be at different times."
The Knapps plan to continue their lives in the world of art. It would be very difficult to imagine doing anything else, Shelley said.
" To be able to create something that is capable of generating an endless array of beautiful images is what is important to me," she said. "That's what I want to share with people."