Ideally, Lynn Unruh would spend all day, every day in her home studio, turning clay into creative castles, fairy houses, or toad abodes. As it is, she is grateful for just a few hours here and there to spend crafting, time stolen away from running errands and taking care of the guest house she and husband Charlie operate near the north shore of Marion Reservoir.
“I love gardening too,” Unruh said. “But I needed some garden art to fill the weak spots. I started making toad houses, then moved into fairy houses, and eventually castles.”
Unruh said the idea for a garden castle she currently has on display at Gallery 101 in Marion came from looking at pictures of Russian architecture.
“I wanted it to look more garden-like though, so I added the curly cues on top,” she said.
Unruh said she made over 20 garden/fairy castles, and sells many of her ceramic clay pieces at art shows or on etsy.com.
“I’ve sold over 161 pieces that way,” she said. “But most of them were much simpler toad houses or bird feeders.”
Also on display at Gallery 101 is a pagoda-style bird feeder made from green-painted clay slabs. The inspiration for that piece came from Unruh’s childhood memories, growing up in a military family stationed in Okinawa.
“My dad was in the Air Force there, and I fell in love with the people and the culture,” she said. “I often make pieces reflecting on those influential years of my life.”
Unruh came to Marion as a college student, visiting a friend at Tabor College in Hillsboro.
“I knew this is where I wanted to come to raise my children,” she said.
Unruh and her husband have three grown daughters now, and own and operate a vacation/rental home, called NorthShore Guesthouse on their farm.
“The guesthouse is pretty much out of sight of the farmhouse, but it works great along with my work at the studio,” Unruh said. “I am here if the guests need me, and if they want privacy, they can have that too.”
Unruh said she enjoys making fancy breakfasts for guesthouse visitors and often carries over frittatas, omelets, homemade bread, and a large fruit salad in a picnic basket.
Sometimes guests request a tour of the couple’s large garden and the studio. Unruh said she keeps her kiln in the barn, but displays many handmade clay items in her home or studio.
“It seems like every year we get busier and busier,” she said. “We are very busy during hunting season as our guests can hunt the adjoining public hunting ground. There are lots of big deer, pheasants, quail and turkeys around.”
Mostly, Unruh prefers to spend her time creating clay castles however.
“I go through two or three 50-pound boxes of clay every couple of months,” Unruh said. “The etsy.com site keeps me very busy trying to fill orders.”
Unruh said she has sold her creations at local art shows in the past, but was keeping her focus this year on standing orders and display pieces at Gallery 101.