Wolf Creek Studio is the combined effort of husband and wife, Robin L. Washburn and Sharon Matusiak. They met in 1990. Robin had studied art in high school and junior college and later developed skills as an ice carver. Meanwhile, Sharon returned to school in her early 30’s finishing a BFA in painting and drawing at Millikin University. While there, she began experimenting with texturing her painted surfaces and eventually began using wood as a support. When Robin and Sharon met she was doing figurative paintings on free-form wooden shapes and folding screens, all of which she constructed. They quickly decided to collaborate, because, as he said, he’d been waiting for her since he was seven.
In 1991, they bought 20 acres of woodlands in Southern Illinois on which they built their home and studios. Their initial collaboration was making sculptural art furniture including elaborately carved tree-like jewel boxes, one-legged tables and mirrors.
The two shared the design process then Robin did the carving and construction and Sharon did the finish work, including adding texture and pigment. Robin also taught Sharon how to carve wood. The most special pieces they made were a series of 5 goddesses nestled inside a canoe shaped cocoon. This collaboration continued until 1998 when Robin got a hand injury while carving and was unable to work for 6 weeks. Sharon suggested then that they develop two individual bodies of work to guard against a total loss of income if one artist became disabled. In 2006 they collaborated once again on a single piece, another goddess, The Return of Beatrice which is available and can be seen in the Collaborative Work Gallery on the home page.
Sharon continued making the triangular column illuminated sculptures that she had begun designing a year or two before. Along with those she wanted to create relief sculpture for the wall using a circular format because of it’s uniqueness and also because of it’s strong symbolic impact. Thus a new series of work was born and soon came to be known as Jewelry for the Wall.
Meanwhile, Robin decided that he wanted to work with metal and in particular, patinating metal. He spent five years in concept work, and also learned to weld and braze at the local junior college. This endeavor also entailed a new studio (24′ x 60′) to house new equipment and provide space for fabrication and patination. He has developed a very painterly approach to his surfaces by using an extensive list of chemicals and by employing various means of applications. Robin began exhibiting his work in 2004 and won an award at his very first show. He has gone on to win many others, including Best of Metal in 2008 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Fine Craft Show.
In 2011 as a response to the recession and also because of a series of accidents, Sharon was unable to help Robin load and unload his heavy metal pieces and needing to regain balance the couple decided to collaborate again. It was to initially use Robin’s plane on plane geometric designs, combined with Sharon’s colors and textures to create a collection of art for the wall titled TWITCH! This has been received favorably and has initiated some experimentation with new materials and new ways of working with now familiar materials.
Guided by their philosophy, this experimentation has led to a return to symbolic imagery. Of this they write: “Most recently we are exploring the iconic forms of boats, nests and the book. The boat is the symbol for the spiritual journey and as such it is ripe for exploration for us. The boat has been used in funeral rites, for the exploration of and travel around the planet, for the gathering of food, for waging war and for recreation. Foregoing realism, we favor the idea of each boat, exploring meaning in its shape, its utility and its accourtrements. Each sculpture stands as a testament of our journey as artists seeking meaning in life. The nest is the symbol of home and security, important elements in one’s physical and psychological journey through life. The book stands for enlightenment, necessary for a meaningful life.
Life is ever-changing and we are in the midst of that. Sharon is fulfilling a dream to be able to advance her claywork. She hopes to have a series to show in the future. Robin is returning to his solo work in metal, using some new approaches and advancing his patina work. Follow us in our newsletter, on instagram and facebook. We hope you will share this journey with us.”