Artists Showcase Their Studios in Chaska, Eden Prairie & Waconia

A look inside the studios of three local artists.
A look inside Jeffrey Alan's assemblage studio.

Creativity of an artist is impacted by their surroundings. Some set up their easels next to a stream or a meadow. Some position subjects near a window streaming with light. Many arrange their creative space with access to necessary tools and supplies, a blend of creativity and functionality. In honor of this month’s Eden Prairie Arts Crawl and Edge of the Big Woods Art Wander, we peek inside the studios of three local artists, exploring their work and where they create it.   Jeffrey Alan Jeffrey Alan is an Eden Prairie artist with a background in architectural and interior design. He has always been interested in city planning, and this is evident in his art. Built of accumulated wooden pieces, children’s building blocks, tinker toys, Lincoln Logs, even piano keys, Alan’s artwork ranges from polished and sophisticated to whimsical and jubilant. He hunts around in garage sales and lumberyards for materials. He also purchases packages of thousands of wooden balls and cubes. Then, Alan sands, stains and polishes each individual piece before stacking them into his unique designs. The results are intricate and interesting works that draw your eye again and again. Scale and symmetry inspire Alan’s work. Some pieces are extremely symmetrical, made of all the same pieces stained in varying tones. To achieve this effect, Alan first draws the design on a computer to figure out where the colors go, how many tones to use and what size to build the frame. For other works, Alan adds a layer of asymmetrical pieces for additional visual interest. Alan’s home is set up like a gallery that showcases his work. He welcomes in-home art tours because it’s easier than transporting his larger pieces to shows. He works in his home studio surrounded by more than 10,000 pieces of wood and woodworking tools. “I don’t like to use sanders and saws inside the house,” says Alan. “I’ll do that work in the garage or pay to use facilities at the Eden Prairie Senior Center”. Lately, Alan has been focused on colorful constructions for children. Using layers of multi-colored blocks, Alan creates unique wall art that spells out children’s names.   Jane Ask Bodahl After receiving a degree in design and human environments in 1974, Jane Ask Bodahl joined the Peace Corps. Those two years spent among the people of Jamaica with the Peace Corps sparked Bodahl’s interest in portraiture. She returned to Minnesota and delved into portrait painting. She’s been painting ever since and recently traveled to France to broaden her art experience. Bodahl describes herself as a classically trained oil painter, but she also creates some work in charcoal. She prefers her paintings to be loose, not labored. This is evident in the way her work hovers in that illusory place between reality and imagination. She is inspired by architecture, rich colors and capturing people doing what they do so as to depict an authentic sense of a person. Bodahl’s interior design background is on display in her Waconia home where she likes to set up for painting portraits. It’s an old home with country charm perfect for indoor portrait work. She also has a studio above an old garage in her backyard. The intimate space has a lofty feel with slanted walls, skylights and a northern door that lets in the perfect light for illuminating Bodahl’s subjects. Her large property gives Bodahl additional opportunities to set up outdoors. Other times, she is spontaneous and will hop into her Jeep and drive further out into the countryside to paint landscapes that feature barns and meandering cows or horses. Bodahl enjoys opening her studio to art lovers and plans to one day host small art events in her backyard. When dining out in Waconia, look for Bodahl’s work featured at Terra Waconia.   Chiaki O’Brien Saori freestyle weaving is a twist on the creation of traditional Japanese kimonos. It’s a therapeutic process of creation without fear of making a mistake. This is what drew Chiaki O’Brien to the craft. She was teaching English in Japan when curiosity led her into a nearby Saori studio. The originality of the colorful garments and personal expression brought forth by the artists inspired O’Brien to sign up for a Saori weaving class. After only three days, she was hooked and went on to become a certified Saori instructor. O’Brien admires traditional weaving, but Saori is a special type of self-expression. This is evidenced by the involvement of disabled Japanese weavers. “Anyone can do Saori,” she says. “I learned about weaving. But I also learned a lot about people in the process.” O’Brien and her husband Dan, who is also a certified Saori instructor, moved to the United States in 2004. Talking about Saori helps them meet and connect with people here. They have a home studio in Chaska where they weave their creations. It’s a welcoming space with eight portable looms, walls lined with a rainbow of colored threads and some of their artwork on display. The O’Briens teach classes and host birthday parties in their home studio so that both young and old can experiment and learn the craft. “Kids are fast learners because they don’t over think it,” O’Brien says. “And the finished product cannot be criticized. It’s supposed to be fun.” Recently, O’Brien received a grant to travel back to Japan to learn about Bengala dye, a natural mud dye she is now incorporating into her Saori work. She is inspired by color and lets the colors of nature guide her weaving. “I lived by the ocean in Japan,” O’Brien says. “I sometimes think of the ocean when weaving a piece.” More importantly, O’Brien appreciates how Saori taught her to engage with people with disabilities. “Saori is about community,” she says. “I want to use art as a tool to connect with people and help them express themselves.” Explore more artist studios during two art crawls on Sept. 28 & 29:The Eden Prairie Art Crawl will feature dozens of artists in their studios and at the Eden Prairie Art Center from 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sept. 28 and noon–5 p.m. Sept. 29. The Edge of the Big Woods Art Wander features Chiaki O’Brian, Jane Ask Bodahl and work from other artists throughout the region of Chaska, Victoria, Waconia, Mayer, Cologne and Watertown.