Q&A with Bobbe and Jeff

Jeff –

1. Do you collect anything?
I have quite a collection of antique carving tools and woodworking tools in general.

2. How long have you been a wood carver?
30 years.

3. What was your first carving and what did the style look like compared to your current style today?
We did a line of wall signs…loons, mallards, expanded into little scenes of kids with goose carts, etc. Very popular with our originals when we did the Folk Art show circuit

4. What type of wood do you use and why?
Basswood / Historically what carvers use

5. Where do you buy the wood?
Purchased from a local mill

6. What type of tools and chisels, etc. do you use and where do you get them?
German Steel

7. How many hours does it take to carve a small piece 4” or less or a large piece over 10”?
Never kept track, all pieces are a unique carving experience…& challenge

Bobbe –

1. How long does it take to draw a series of 15-20 thumbnail sketches for new ideas?
The truth of the matter is that we never have calculated the time. Deadlines are always a challenge for us. All I know is that during the span of our careers we have logged in far too many “all nighters”! The size of a piece never determines “time”. A little piece with a lot of detail can take as long to make as a huge piece. Each piece presents its own set of conditions. I think its important to say a lot of my time is spent “thinking” about the design – inspiration comes to me a lot by remembering things the kids did, animals we had on the farm, friends, and family. Most memories I cherish and feel fortunate to convey in our artwork.

2. Why do most of your sculptures have quilts, dots, stars, checkerboards pattern stripes, other?
Because I love embellishing with classic country icons.

3. What is your favorite season to create product for?
Christmas. Christmas is so open to fantasy, imagination, no set rules, a wide open field. I also use this opportunity to design some Santa’s to look like Jeff.

4. Do you have a favorite character?
The spirit of Christmas is such a “feel good” for an artist.

5. Do you collect anything? If so, why, how long?
Our home is definitely and extension of our lifestyle/business. We have collected antiques forever. Our collections are one of our hobbies. We collect old farm and garden implements (some of which are used as art pieces in our home) another passion is kitchen yellowware bowls.

6. With your daughters grown and married and you now have grandchildren – How do you think of your new art and new inspiration will differ than the past? Or will it differ in anyway?
Being a grandparent is absolutely the best! We raised (2) daughters and being blessed with 3 grandsons. We are certainly inspired by the world of baby boys showing up in sculpts, but the inspiration of little ones and looking back, will be “wonderful” creatively.

Bobbe & Jeff –

1. We have used the words to describe your style as “American and French Folk Art” Is that a good description or what else can you say with regards to the style of art?
We can defiantly say we do consider ourselves “American Folk Artists”. Our pieces are handmade, they appeal to the nostalgic, they exemplify “simpler” times, are original and decorative, all qualities of Folk Art (American)

2. Describe to me the difference between Antique Folk Art and Contemporary Folk Art vs. Williraye Folk Art?
Antique Folk Art is old/contemporary Folk Art that is inspired by the past. “Nostalgic” but look contemporary in an updated setting. There is a decorating style called contemporary/farmhouse. Sounds like the style is all about simplifying the overall look, keeping things clean and fresh. Uses the addition of unique collectibles (Williraye) to liven up a space. I think that’s how we decorated the 160 year old farmhouse. The beauty of our line is that it looks at home, in homes ranging from period to rustic to eclectic. Homes that express the mood of warmth & welcome.

3. Why do most pieces have oversized boots and hands? Do you have a style you could say this is?
It is all part of the wit and whimsy of Williraye

4. What is your favorite part of creating a new piece?
a. Jeff – Always looks forward to a new challenge. Favorite part / finishing the carving

b. Bobbe – The unique aspect of our pieces is that we both create them. My design is interpreted by Jeff carving the piece. Once carved I put the color on. It seems once that happens the pieces comes alive! The transformation from drawing, to carving, to finishing always delights me! I’d be remiss not to mention how wonderful it is that our handmade originals are reproduced by Coyne's & Company in such a way that we can’t tell the difference between the original and the reproduction. Perhaps that is our favorite part of the creating a new piece!

5. Tell me a little about each of your parents and grandparents, background (where they lived, occupation, etc.)
a. Jeff – Raised in Oak Park, IL a suburb of Chicago.
i. Dad administration, UW Stovt, Oak Park, River Forest High School.
ii. Mom, Homemaker
iii. Material grandparents living in Sparta, WI owned a feed mill/general store and farmed on their farm. Grandmother ran the store.
iv. Paternal grandparents living in Prairie Du Sac, WI on the Wisconsin river. Grandfather was a carpenter, Grandmother was a homemaker/artist.

b. Bobbe – Raised in Waukesha, WI a suburb of Milwaukee.
i. Mom, taught business at a tech school
ii. Dad, sales rep oil company
iii. Maternal Grandparents, lived on lake in Lake Geneva, WI. Grandfather owned a bulk plant. Grandmother homemaker.
iv. Paternal Grandparents, lived on a farm in Lake Mills, WI. Grandfather farmer, Grandmother homemaker.
Now that I think back…as a kid, to have one set of grandparents live on a lake and the other a farm, best of two worlds for a kid!

6. Many folk artists today, learned their craft from a family member, it could be a father, grandfather, mother, grandmother, aunt, uncle, etc. where did Jeff learn how to carve and what was his inspiration?
Self-taught carver. Jeff always enjoyed working with his hands. At one point had dreams and aspirations to become an architect – go figure!

7. Bobbe – Same question, where did you learn how to draw and paint?
Always interested in art. Actually at one point I wanted to go to New York and be an interior designer – go figure! Went to University of Wisconsin/Madison majored in art education. Got formal art training there, but considered some skill to always playing around with anything dealing with arts, pottery, needlepoint designing, stained glass, weaving, rug-hooking. I still try to find time to create things other than using the medium of wood.

8. Do you have a favorite season of the year? Does that have an effect on your art?
Bobbe – Love fall, weather, color, smells
Jeff – Loves summer, loves to mow the grass

9. What has been the most satisfying part of being such successful artists?
Bobbe – The realization that we are actually touching quite a few people with our work and in a good way! Of course, the fact that we were actually able to reach many goals we set for our life’s journey is very rewarding. Example: college for the girls, renovating the farms, etc.

10. What do you do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies?
What spare time..if we aren’t working on pieces? We have quite a lot of yard work, gardens, and of course a country farmhouse is never finished. With 3 grandsons, we do try to help out with babysitting, especially since they live 3 miles from us.

11. If you weren’t doing what you are doing now, what would you be doing?
Bobbe – I love my life and what I do. How absolutely boring is that?
Jeff – Same…guess we don’t think in abstracts.

12. Are you real farmers?
We aren’t full time farmers (like milking cows, planting acres, acres of corn), but we are trying to become more and more self sufficient. Plan to develop the farm more in our retirement.

13. What do you grow and/or raise on your farm?
When the kids were small we had lots of animals, strictly pets. We raised a lot of veggies, herbs and flowers. Have started orchards and berry patches. I do a lot of preserving for winter use.