Our instructors are drawn from a wealth of talented teachers, including nationally known artists from across the country and across the street. They are innovative craftsmen and artists who enjoy trying new techniques and love sharing what they do with their students.
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After retirement as an architect, Hal Aavang was looking for a way to combine a practical skill with his lifelong love of working with metal, and to also use this skill as an art form. He found the blacksmithing program at Shake Rag Alley, and started with a basic blacksmithing class taught by Bob Tuftee using the traditional coal forge. In order to continue blacksmithing at home, the propane gas forge provided a clean and readily available forging heat for his projects. A MIG welder and oxy-acetylene torch added additional support for his home blacksmithing shop where he works on many pieces such as traditional hooks, fire pokers, flowers, other art projects, and an expanding list of future works. Hal is a member of the Upper Midwest Blacksmith Association. He keeps, sells, donates to charitable causes, displays his work, and accepts commissions.
Dick Anderson is a retired high school shop instructor with a passion for learning and building things. Having often taken the path less traveled has made all the difference and led him from building timber-framed covered bridges and log cabins to chainsaw wood carving, shoe making, and welded yard art, to name a few. Dick believes learning should be serious fun. “Believe me when I say, crossing a bridge in your future will be a bit easier after you have built one or two.”
Jim Arendt retired from a long career as a teacher and YMCA director. “I became interested in willow furniture watching John Schakel, the master willow bender, give a demonstration at Woodlanders many years ago. Shortly after that I registered for Shake Rag Alley’s bent willow chair class with John. As fate would have it, I was John’s only student and through that class we developed a lasting friendship. Over the years I helped John gather the willow needed for a class and assisted him. I have built many chairs on my own, but some of my most cherished undertakings are the three youth willow chairs I have made for my three grandchildren. I was deeply honored when Shake Rag Alley contacted me to teach the Make a Bent Willow Chair class. I am looking forward to working with everyone in lovely Mineral Point.”
I am a mixed media artist, designer, and instructor from San Jose, CA (currently residing in Tempe, AZ) with a BA in creative arts. I believe that everyone has a unique style and desire to create and that we are born curious and creative. Over the years, many of us are discouraged from following our creative urges, but I believe it is never too late to begin (or begin again!). I love to encourage my students to draw from their own experience when creating art and to have the courage to take chances. My art is messy, colorful, layered, and fun.
I have been drawn to the creative arts since I can remember. My first canvas was pretty much every surface in my grandma’s house: the walls, the books, underneath the marble coffee table in the dining room (she didn’t find out until YEARS later and it remains one of her treasured possessions!). I loved playing school and “art gallery” and my dream was to be an artist and teacher. I love the energy that my students bring to class; I love hearing their stories and guiding them through the fear and frustration and reflecting the joy they experience and cheering them on while they (re)discover their creative voice.
I’m married and I have two young daughters. I’ve lived in Mineral Point all of my life. I love camping, crafting and cooking. I enjoy spending time with children and thought teaching a class at Shake Rag would be fun. My kids have always loved participating in the summer programs.
Youth Program Workshops
Marianne Biagi is an artist living in Morrison, Illinois. Her award-winning beadwork has been shown throughout the United States, and featured in magazines and other publications. Her beadwork was included in the book The Best of Beadwork 2000. She has been teaching beadwork and bead embroidery for over 25 years.
Marianne is a creative maker and always seeking new techniques to express her ideas. In addition to beadwork, she is a skillful artist, working with metals, fabrics, dyes and textiles.
Deirdre Birmingham and John Biondi started The Cider Farm in 2003 near Mineral Point. They may be the only orchard in the United States started for the purpose of making fermented (hard) ciders. Since cider is made like a wine, they wanted to grow English and French apple varieties that were developed for fermenting, like a wine grape is for wine. They had to make these trees themselves to get started. They now have approximately 16,000 certified organic apple trees and are still growing. They produce not just ciders but apple brandies sold throughout Wisconsin, Chicago and at their Cidery and Tasting Room on Madison’s West Side.
Nicole Bujewski and her husband, Steven, are the 10th owners of Spensley Farm, a property with a history so rich that it has earned a spot on the Wisconsin State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places. Nicole is trained in the L’Art de la Pâtisserie program at the French Pastry School in Chicago. After earning her certificate, Nicole opened a small neighborhood bakery for five years, then joined the French Pastry School as a chef instructor teaching in both the L’Art de la Pâtisserie and L’Art du Gâteau programs. The Bujewskis envision Spensley Farm becoming the setting for small social gatherings, pop-up dinners, and extraordinary culinary events. Their goal is to educate and inspire others to achieve cooking excellence while making an important contribution to the Driftless Area’s land and community.
Tom Cabezas is a Mineral Point wood-worker and mixed media artist. He has been designing and building unique quality furniture since 1991. With a background in sculpture and a deep respect for craftsmanship and detail Tom strives to create work that does not attempt to place form over function or function over form. His work has been shown nation-wide and has won numerous awards. Tom earned an MFA in sculpture from UW-Madison.
I am a student based in Chicago. I took my first classes in blacksmithing at Shake Rag Alley five years ago. In addition to making many of my own forging tools, I produce work for sale and have taken on unique commissions such as producing early replica artists’ tools. I have given public demonstrations, and am a member of the Upper Midwest Blacksmith Association. I enjoy sharing my passion for blacksmithing with others. Some of my work can be seen at my Instagram site: @driftlessmetalworks
Nate Chambers has owned and operated his own stone mason business in Mineral Point for several years. With many stone and brick homes in this area, Nate is never without work. His skills include tuckpointing, landscaping, laying stone pathways, and creating beautiful fireplaces and other new construction projects in stone. An entrepreneur, veteran, school board member, and family man, Nate is a strong supporter of Shake Rag Alley and its mission for historic preservation.
Mike led his first Shake Rag class at the age of fifteen during the second Woodlanders Gathering in 2003. Now a board member since 2012, Mike still enjoys helping with classes when needed, and he still comes to Woodlanders every year. You can find Mike on several of Shake Rag’s committees, such as Buildings and Grounds, Finance, and Development.
Kit: Yarn Dolls
“I fell in love with woodcuts as a student at Northwestern. When I moved to Iowa County I began to concentrate exclusively on woodblock carving and printing. I discovered that hand painting added a wonderful dimension. My prints support me and my menagerie of subjects. I have work in galleries in Wisconsin and Iowa.”
“Combining the line and form of sculpture with the playful animation of puppetry has been my primary work for more than twenty years. I stumbled into it while working with the renowned Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia, an international children’s puppetry company. During a quiet winter of refurbishing shows, a friend and colleague decided we needed to be doing something creative and proposed we all make an art doll. Enchanted from the first moment, that little figure sits in my studio charming me to this day. I spend my creative time in both Nova Scotia and in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. In Mexico, I have studied and developed work in multiple disciplines including life drawing, printmaking, ceramics, sculpture, and painting. It has been my way of evolving and challenging the figurative work. I am proud to have created figures for P’lovers stores throughout the Maritimes. I created a cast of character dolls for Cirque du Soleil and they have sold my original figures and reproductions at their retail shops and shows around the world. Presently, a considerable amount of my time is spent traveling and teaching where I share the techniques I have developed over the past twenty years and which I use in creating my signature work. My work has appeared in chosen fine art galleries, national magazines, and special exhibits.”
Joe began making pottery in 1999 at Cornell College. He went on to make pots at Haystack School of Crafts and the Rochester Folk Art Guild before being accepted for a two-year apprenticeship with internationally renowned wood-fired potter Mark Hewitt in Pittsboro, NC. After his apprenticeship, Joe was a journeyman potter for Dover Pottery and King’s Pottery in the historic pottery community of Seagrove, NC. He also worked with local ceramic materials development at STARworks Ceramics, and taught wood-firing and kiln building at Central Carolina Community College. In 2008, Joe and his wife, Christy, moved to Wisconsin and established Windy Ridge Pottery. Along with wood kiln design, building, and firing, Joe is also known for his experience in green glazing and utilizing local and regional materials in glazes. The pots he creates are notable for their classic functional forms and rich surfaces. Joe is also a talented finish carpenter and dad to three-year-old Cleo.
As an art educator living in the Midwest, I’m passionate about sustainability and urban gardening and committed to maintaining a public garden space in the downtown area where I reside with my family.
I spent my formative years living in Cuba where I was born, and migrated to the United States as a teen, settling in NYC in the ’90s. My professional background is in the banking industry. I switched careers over five years ago and now lead workshops in a variety of mediums such as textiles and paints while working full time.
In all workshops, I encourage sustainability as a way to build confidence and community, with a back-to-basics approach and consciousness about resource use/waste. I have led workshops in Wisconsin and Minnesota on a variety of subjects, led Accuquilt club at Nancy’s Notions for two years ending in 2017, and was an instructor at Blue Bar Quilts in Middleton, WI, from May 2017 to November 2019. I have been teaching at Ardyth’s Sew-n-Vac Shoppe since 2014. I also joined Janome America as part of their Artisan team in June 2020. My work has appeared in Uppercase magazine issues 46 and 47, Summer and Winter, respectively.
I focus on the perfectly imperfect aspects of discovery by exploring new tools and techniques to expand on experimentation as a means to living a satisfying, creative life. I’m a firm believer that creating with purpose and intention and cultivating creativity and whimsy in others can be the beginning of a transformative and healing future.
Michael deMeng is an assemblage artist based in Vancouver, Canada, who exhibits throughout the United States. As an educator, he has been actively involved with VSA Montana, providing art education and encouraging participation in the arts to people with disabilities. Through these activities, as well as his artwork, deMeng fosters community awareness, and offers creative methods to explore the human experience. In his art, he addresses issues of transformation. Discarded materials find new and unexpected uses in his work; they are reassembled and conjoined with unlikely components, a form of rebirth from the ashes into new life and new meaning. These assemblages are metaphors for the evolutions and revolutions of existence: from life to death to rebirth, from new to old to renewed, from construction to destruction to reconstruction. These forms are examinations of the world in perpetual flux, where meaning and function are ever-changing.
Suzi Dillinger is a quilt artist and instructor focusing on surface design techniques and hand stitching. She enjoys creating one-of-a-kind fabrics and art cloth. Bright colors are a favorite, regardless of the subject matter. A Wisconsin native, Suzi creates and lives in Northern California.
Deb Donaghue took her first metal class in her early 20s. Study and research took her and her husband, Jeff, to India. While her intention was to continue working with metal, when she returned, life, jobs, a child, and then their own business intervened. Deb and Jeff moved to Mineral Point from the Twin Cities in 1996 and opened The Brewery Creek Inn and Brewpub in 1998. In 2007 her daughter introduced her to chain maille and from there her long-buried interest in working with metal grew. Deb continues her studies independently as well as weekly at Madison Area Technical College. She has jewelry for sale at Longbranch Gallery here in Mineral Point and teaches several basic metalworking classes each year at Shake Rag Alley.
Michael Donovan, as both artisan and artist, divides his time between innovative carpentry and far out sculptural assemblages, often featuring detritus of old houses he has worked on. He also enjoys working in found object mosaic concrete sculpture and collage. He brings a solid knowledge of tools and construction to the creative possibilities of assemblage sculpture.