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Zingari Doll - Sharon Wenzel, Master Textile Artist

New beginnings bring unexpected adventures! The sixties was a time of change and cultural transition, as evidenced by discord over the Vietnam war, the women’s movement, and political strife. During these turbulent times, newly married couple Sharon and John Wenzel, who had recently graduated from art college, left California in search of adventure and a place to build their family and their art and ceramics studio. After a brief stint in Boulder, Colorado, they discovered a small rough and tumble nearby town named Louisville.

Louisville’s roots were in coal mining, populated by families who had lived there for generations. It was a town founded and grown by immigrants of Italian, English, and French descent. Each family had a way of doing things, a view on life, a work ethic, and high expectations for their children. It was a given that every generation would strive to work hard in the local industries to support their families and traditions. It was not known as an artistic community, even though it was situated in a beautiful setting, just to the east of the stunning Flatiron mountains and west of the sprawling plains that extend endlessly beyond Kansas.

Sharon and John purchased a property that had been in an old Louisville family for many generations. The old farmhouse was quaint and hadn’t been updated for many years. Its original features were charming and a perfect backdrop for their art. Beautiful morning light shone through the front screened porch. There was space for Sharon’s beloved piano, windows perfect for bird feeders, and inspiration at every turn. The property provided an ideal setting to create an orchard where they could reflect and dream.

Even though they were newcomers with “unusual” professions, different from most long-time residents, the local community soon grew to love and enjoy Sharon and John as they quietly integrated into the neighborhood. Gentle is the word that most accurately describes Sharon in the community and her art. Working with natural fibers, Sharon created a rich set of work that adorned her home. It added texture and visual interest to the farmhouse and exemplified her love of detail. Every corner of Sharon’s home speaks of her skill and creativity.

Neighbors soon learned that Sharon and John were creating a home that reflected their talents and commitment to the community’s history. Soon they were entering the neighborhood activities, patiently engaging the neighbor dog that took a great interest in their chickens and honoring the Louisville culture while sharing their beautiful and whimsical imaginations.

Sharon and her art continue to evolve as we all do as we age. Her creation of the Zingari dolls, which she sees as mystical and magical companions, is a true expression of her creativity and imagination. The Zingari doll collection began in the early ’90s when Sharon found some silver charms in a vendor’s basket at a flea market. They were arms and legs that needed a “body.” One thing led to another, and the next thing Sharon knew, she was creating small cloth figures decorated with found oddments. Interest in them grew, and they evolved, as did Sharon’s vision. Sharon makes each figure out of repurposed materials and likens her creations to “bosom buddies” or friendly companionate spirits. The Zingari collection is a perfect example of Sharon’s endless creativity and technical skills, indicative of a lifetime of artistic development and inspiration.

Just as Sharon’s work has evolved, so has the community in which she lives. Her gentle example has served the community well as it has grown and welcomed many new faces over the years. Sharon and John were a window on the future of Louisville. They provided a rich example to all of us by honoring and enriching the community through their art, kindness, and commitment to the rich history of their home.

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