OLLI showcases members’ talents

  • Ray Mercier displays delicate scrollwork decorating a table clock. —Courtesy

  • Barbara Meyers during a Zoom OLLI event holds up a sweater she knit after deciphering the Norwegian instructions. Courtesy

  • Emily Preston’s icosahedron, created without glue or staples. —Courtesy

  • Donna Frost’s vibrant folk art painting. —Courtesy

For the Monitor
Published: 6/18/2021 5:13:24 PM

OLLI at Granite State College has long been known as a terrific source of “learning for the fun of it” for adults age 50 and above. Learning at OLLI is not confined to the classroom, but also shows up in social settings. Recently a small, but OMIGOSH-what-a-talented group of OLLI members gathered around the Zoom campfire to display the creative output of their hobbies. And, in a few instances, they also demonstrated how the magic happens.

Ray Mercier of Concord kicked off the expo from his basement woodworking shop where members learned not only how talented he is, but how serious he is about this work. He virtually toured attendees around an impressive array of saws, sanders and dust control equipment and awed them with beautiful examples of products, both artistic and utilitarian. Self-taught, he creates and displayed delicate cut-outs, smooth bowls whose beauty is in both the finish and the wood selection, and a majestic sitting cat puzzle that he plans to sell at an arts market in September. Ray’s creative process begins with the wood and he says what he finds in a piece of wood determines what he will create.

Mari Astell of  Dunbarton chose a PowerPoint slide show with pictures of intricately patterned quilts. Some of the quilts are beautiful patterns, often created by Mari herself. Others are personally designed for their recipients with fabric and patterns representing their particular interests. While quilting is her primary interest, she also showed the group lathe-carved sewing and writing instruments, free-standing embroidered pumpkins and, finally, the motorcycle she and her husband ride on road trips.

Barbara Meyers of Deerfield didn’t think she did all that much knitting over this COVID year of inactivity, but when she went looking for a few things to bring to this event, discovered she had been a busy knitter after all. Not much of a “knit-one-purl-one” artisan, her works show complicated patterns either or both in the stitch work or in the use of different colors and textures of yarn. She told us of a sweater she saw in a shop at one of the stops on a knitting cruise she took. So taken with the pattern and the yarn, she told the proprietor she had to have both to create it on her own. After ringing up the sale and handing over the goods, the proprietor asked, “You can read Norwegian?”

Hobbies in the Meyers household cover a broad spectrum. Barbara’s husband, Glenn reported that his new hobby, cultivated in this last year, is the processing and calculation of winners in ranked-choice voting contests. Not afraid to be geeky, Glenn demonstrated the development of election results as the layers of ranked-choice are applied.

Donna Frost of Webster has taken art classes via Zoom with instructors and students from all around the world. A talented “folk art” painter, she has also explored watercolors showing an ocean painting produced in one of the classes. Her folk art, besides beautiful wall hangings, can be found on trays and on boxes. In fact, she belongs to an organization that fills the painted boxes with personal necessities and then donates them. And, when she sets the paints aside, Donna creates the most eye-catching woven beaded jewelry, demonstrating the device used in the complicated process. Also part of a husband-wife member team, Donna lamented not being able to bring one of her husband, Ron’s restored old cars to the showcase, but noted that taking a multi-thousand-dollar restored car to certain local restaurants on Classic Car Night CAN score a free lobster roll.

Demonstrating a broad array of interests, Emily Preston of Canterbury first showed a sculpture of a fly. Going deeper, she revealed the name of the work is “Fly on the Wall” and members could see the fly was, in fact, on a wall upon which were written a variety of the topics about which one often thinks “if only I was a fly on the wall . . . ,” lies, trysts, etc. Capping the wry humor of the sculpture was the drawing of a pair of ears on the fly’s back. Emily’s buggy interest stems from having a master’s degree in entomology and she traveled to Washington, DC, to see the cicadas, excitedly describing them as “beautiful” four-inch long creatures whose song is nearly deafening. Not to be pigeon-holed into a bug corner, whether scientific or artistic, Emily branched out to paper crafts, embracing snapology, a form of origami and showed off her icosahedron (some OLLI learning is courtesy of Professor Google).

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute has just wrapped up the spring term of 66 virtual classes on Zoom and four in-person classes in the form of outdoor visits and activities, visiting a mini-horse farm, exploring Bedrock Gardens and kayaking the Contoocook. Summer school will include a four-session history through art program presented by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and a summer lecture series, courtesy of Osher at Dartmouth, featuring six lectures about American Democracy. Both are presented on Zoom with details of the summer offerings found on the OLLI website, olli.granite.edu.

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