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Their crafts complement each other

September 24, 2000

Their crafts complement each other



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer


A Hagerstown couple is building a future together with love, faith - and wood.

Jim Smith and Saskia Schouten, who are engaged, have combined their creative talents to produce and share with others whimsical wooden artwork, which they said expresses their God-given skills and the way their abilities go "hand in hand."

"How I love God and how He loves each one of us comes out in my art," said Schouten, 37.

The self-taught artist said she was "born into a very creative family," but her union with Smith has broadened her talents. When she saw his woodworking ability, Schouten began applying her creativity to the things he built.

In addition to the pen and ink drawing skills that she's honed over the years, Schouten learned to carve, wood-burn, paint and work with clay, she said.

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"It can only get better," said Smith, 45. "I don't know how, but I'm sure she'll come up with something."

Smith and Schouten's home on Outer Drive doubles as a wood shop/art studio/gallery.

Rounded shingles and painted flowers and hummingbirds grace some of the many multi-hued birdhouses and butterfly boxes that top tables and line handmade wall shelves.

One such shelf boasts delicate vines with China blue clay roses crawling across a crackled silverish background.

A vibrant bunch of irises roots a tall clock crafted from poplar wood, while round knobs form the centers for the wood-burned blooms that front a slim vertical cabinet's eight drawers.

"We named that one the "flower tower," Schouten said.

She said she strives to produce art that captures the essence of those things which most inspire her - nature, color, God's love and the "amount of love and care he put into creating everything."

Schouten's work offers a glimpse into a fantastical, surreal world tinged with realism.

"There haven't been many people come through here who haven't loved just about everything," Smith said.

He said his partner's creativity is contagious.

He's always loved working with his hands and shaping wood into objects that other people can enjoy, Smith said, but his relationship with the naturally artistic Schouten prompted him to devote more time to his craft.

It's become a real creative outlet for the full-time correctional officer, he said.

"With corrections, you don't walk away with someone enjoying what you've created," Smith said. "And I like to be able to walk away feeling like I've really accomplished something - like I've left something good behind."

But he never knows how Schouten will transform his wood creations into works of art.

"I could build 15 of the same things and she'd do all of 'em different," he said.

The couple will soon begin selling their work at Morning Glory Emporium in downtown Hagerstown and Country Corner in Greencastle, Pa. They also plan to donate some of their objects d'art to charitable organizations to help raise funds, they said.

She knows it will take time, but Schouten said she hopes she and her fiancee build a reputation as creators of quality, custom-made woodwork with unique artistic design.

"This is something that we're proud of," Smith said. "We get a lot of enjoyment out of it and we're hoping everyone else will."

They can be reached at 301-791-9656.

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