Art Leap 2023 celebrates region’s 100 artists – Park Rapids Enterprise

Nearly 100 artists, skilled in a variety of mediums, opened their studio doors over the weekend.

The 2023 Art Leap driving tour is sponsored by Heartland Arts, an umbrella organization for 16 arts and cultural organizations in the greater Park Rapids area.


Jill and Toby Lucas display their watercolors, pastels and acrylics at their Park Rapids studio. Sometimes windows or doors serve as their canvases. The couple met in vocational-technical school for graphic design.

Shannon Geisen/Enterprise

Thirty sites across Hubbard, Wadena and Becker counties welcomed visitors Sept. 23-24.


Jill Lucas taught an accordion-style, book-folding class, like the example shown here, for Art Leap 2023. “Then you can decorate the outside or run a ribbon through them,” she said. “This one I made for my mom one year for her birthday. They’re easy to make.”

Shannon Geisen/Enterprise

Raku and autumn-inspired pottery

Kris and Bob Sauser demonstrated Raku (pronounce ra-koo) firings at their studio, Creative Minds, Messy Fingers.

The Sausers said turnout was steady both days of Art Leap. They live on Fifth Crow Wing Lake, near Nevis.

Raku firing is an ancient Japanese ceramics technique that has been used since the 16th century to create a unique finish to wares.

The Sausers fill a propane-fired kiln with pottery coated with specialized Raku glazes. The kiln is fired up to 1,800 degrees.

“You just watch the clay body. You can tell when it gets mature. It’s glowing orange hot, but it gets very smooth on the outside,” Bob explained. “We take it out with a long pair of tongs, drop them into those cans.”

He points to metal cans containing sawdust or newspaper clippings.

The blazing-hot pottery ignites the material, then they throw the metal lids on and let it sit for about 20 hours.

“The burning paper burns all the oxygen out, smothers the fire so the glaze matures in an oxygen-free environment. That’s where it gets its flecks,” Bob said. “We push the process more by throwing them into some water to cool them off quicker.”


The Sausers are perfecting the Japanese style of Raku firing, which renders a metallic sheen to pottery.

Shannon Geisen/Enterprise

The end result is a coppery effect on the pottery.

Sometimes they open the can and let the flames hit the pottery, resulting in a blueish-silvery sheen.

“There’s too many variables. It’s unpredictable, so you never know what’s going to come out when it’s done,” Bob said. “Wherever you don’t have glaze, it turns black.”


Kris’ leaf-themed dishes – in an array of natural, autumn colors – were extremely popular with customers. Nearly her entire collection was sold out.

“I had some with maple leaves that turned out pretty good,” she said. She used a glaze to recreate the fiery red of a maple.

Kris uses real leaves to make impressions in her pottery.

“I put an iron oxide on here, so it brings out the veins and then there’s no glaze over this,” she said of a soap dish with an oak leaf pattern. “Oak leaves really are that color, even in the fall. They’re pretty rusty.”

Bob began woodturning about six years ago.

He joked it makes the wood piles more complicated. There’s the log pile for burning and another for woodturning.

Bob works with the poplar, birch, oak that fall over in their 50-acre forest.


Bob Sauser crafts woodturned dry flower vases. This one is from oak and still has the mossy bark on it. “This is rustic. There’s no finish, so it may crack,” he explained. “But this one didn’t crack.” Shannon Geisen/Enterprise

Shannon Geisen/Enterprise

He creates woodturned flowers vases, but leaves the bark on them.

“It’s so much fun when you do some of this detailed work,” Bob said. “It’ll turn nice. I’ll do a little bit of sanding, so it’s minimal work.”

He woodturned another piece where insects had eaten the pith, leaving some holes.

He kept a “live edge,” or strip of bark on it. It quickly sold.

Upcycled, unique clothing

“We had a good weekend,” said Brenda Mason of Park Rapids.

She devises repurposed, one-of-a-kind clothing.


“I do a lot of repurposing,” said Brenda Mason. “All of these are afghans I bought at the thrift store, then I just did whatever.” She opened her studio on Park Avenue for Art Leap 2023.

Shannon Geisen/Enterprise

Sewing since she was 15, Mason said it just takes practice. “If you can read directions, then everything is really basic. You just experiment.”

She transforms afghans into lovely sweaters. Or table cloths into shirts. She cuts sleeves from jackets, then adds them to a different vest, mixing and matching.

“I repurpose a lot,” she said. “Each piece is unique.”

Besides Art Leap, Mason participates in the Arts Off 84 Crawl, held over Labor Day weekend from Pine River to Longville.

“This year, I had a rack of clothes at Shenanigans in Nevis and two racks at Summerhill Adventures,” she added.

Mason hosted fellow artist and friend Becky Steinhoff. She works in mixed media.


Becky Steinhoff combines her love of quotes, painting and collages to make inspirational pieces.

Shannon Geisen/Enterprise

“I used to be a sign painter many years ago. Then I hung it up for 30 years, till I picked up a paintbrush again, right before COVID. I had time to play,” Steinhoff said.

Incorporating scrapbook paper, wall decals, quotes and her own artistry, Steinhoff makes cards and inspirational signs.

She also designs jewelry, like pendant necklaces, rings and bracelets.

“I’ve been making jewelry since I was a little girl,” she said.

Traditional Indigenous art

Traditional Ojibwe art by Indigenous artists of the Pine Point area was featured at Art Leap’s newest site: Bam’idizowigamig Creator’s Place.


Lacey Clark was among the artists selling their original Ojibwe artwork at Bam’idizowigamig Creator’s Place in Pine Point.

Shannon Geisen/Enterprise

Beaded earrings, red willow dream catchers, carved diamond willow sticks and much more was on display.


David Edwards has been drawing since he was a kid. His parents and sister are artists, too, he said. The colored drawings to his right are in the likeness of his grandmother, wearing beaded regalia. “She was in beads from head to toe. She used to dance at the powwows.”

Shannon Geisen/Enterprise

David Edwards, a visual artist, answered questions about his vibrantly colored pen and pencil drawings. They were inspired by his family and Ojibwe traditions.


“This one reminds me of my grandma and grandpa and my mom,” said David Edwards. His colored pen and pencil work was displayed with other Indigenous artists during Art Leap 2023.

Shannon Geisen/Enterprise


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