Window paintings opening doors

South Routt artist and full-time mother takes crack at new career

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Many years ago, Amy Cham--berlin's high school counselor asked her what she wanted to do with her life.

Chamberlin thought about it carefully before telling her counselor that she wanted to be an artist. Her counselor scoffed at the idea and told her she would never get a job. Chamberlin told her she would be an art teacher instead. Again, her counselor scoffed and told her she would never get a job as an art teacher, either.

Chamberlin since has accomplished both goals.

"I was always very artistic as a child," she said. "I think my mom let me do it just to keep me busy."

Throughout the years, Cham--berlin has turned her passion for sketching and painting with watercolors into serious ambition.

She recently started dabbling with a new medium: windows. The windows on which Chamberlin paints are not your typical windows, either. Every window she has painted has come from a Yampa Valley home that's at least 100 years old.

"It's neat to use these windows because I decided to leave the paint chipping. You can actually see the layers of paint people have put on the window frames over the years," she said.

Chamberlin said she paints what she knows, and she knows nature. Most of Chamberlin's window paintings feature local flora and fauna such as rainbow trout, aspens and columbines.

Chamberlin also has painted a Steamboat Ski Area gondola car and the famous More Barn, though her 2-year-old son, Mason, had a different take on what should have been on the window.

"He took a marker to it, and I ended up having to scrape the paint off the window and starting again," she said, laughing.

Mason, however, has played a significant role in his mother's development as an artist, particularly because she decided when he was born to quit her job as an English teacher and become a full-time, stay-at-home mom.

"My daily schedule depends on my son. Some weeks I can only get one painting a week done, other weeks I can get three done. It really does depend on his mood for the day how much I get done," she said.

Quitting her teaching job forced Chamberlin and her husband, Soroco High School and Middle School Principal James Chamberlin, to make some sacrifices. But turning her hobby into a career was a good way to make extra money, she said.

"I can only do my art when I am inspired. I need to work on learning to do it more on a deadline so I paint more," she said.

Chamberlin said she wouldn't have had the courage to pursue a career as an artist is she didn't have the unwavering support of her family and friends, who told her that if they would buy her art, anyone would.

"I think my art is unique, because the windows are authentic to the valley and because the paint I use is really translucent. People can create unique lighting effects by hanging the windows in front of natural sunlight or artificial lighting," she said.

Because selling art is new to Chamberlin, she was unsure what to charge for her work. At first, she charged too little for her pieces.

"People said to me, 'If you're going to charge that price, you might as well work at McDonald's,'" she said.

Most of the windows sell for about $60, she said,though there are some pieces that cost more than $100.

Chamberlin has painted 17 windows and hopes to use the rest of the windows she salvaged from her old home in Oak Creek to create more.

"If I can sell some of my art, that's great, but right now I am really just looking to get some exposure and to get out there. A lot of people don't know I even do art. This is just a start," she said.

"South Routt is changing, though. I am optimistic that this will go well."

Anyone interested in Cham--berlin's window paintings can call Chamberlin at 736-8263 or e-mail pankoninaj@yahoo.com.

-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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