Tag Archives: detail

At Home With The Shoults

December 4, 2014 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Nestled in a far west expanse of Omaha is a rather unique property that often causes passersby to do a double-take. The former one-room schoolhouse built in 1938, Sunny Slope School, is owned by Kelly Wirges Shoults and her husband, Randy.

“We have a love for this building,” says Wirges Shoults. “It just feels good
inside these walls.”

The original concrete school sign was salvaged and is prominently displayed. It serves as a reminder of simpler times when the teacher, legend has it, would arrive on horseback. Happy times, when students would take part in festive activities like dancing around the maypole, building a snowman, or planting trees together on Arbor Day.

It is that foundation of warm memories of learning that serve as the bloodline for the base of operations for Wirges Shoults’ business, ProMax Training and Consulting. As CEO of ProMax, Wirges Shoults travels nationwide providing inspirational training to media companies.  Key words found in her curriculum include “passion,” “plan,” “process,” and “perseverance.”

It is evident that those same guiding principles were followed during the process of creating their property. She is inspired by her parents. “My father is one of the most positive people on the planet. My mother is always focused on accomplishing tasks, large and small, by giving 200 percent effort
to each,” she says.

Sun shines through a gauzy, leopard-print curtain in the bathroom. Leopard is a design staple of the office. “There’s just something sassy and elegant about it, if you do it right,” says Wirges Shoults.

“We do things ourselves,” she says. Many remodeling tasks like painting gate doors and staining cupboards are jobs that others in their situation might typically hire out. “Sometimes we’re just more pleased with the outcome,” Shoults says.

“There’s pride in it when you’re done,” Wirges Shoults, the woman who embedded 380 plants on her property, says.

In keeping with the building’s scholarly tradition, the office walls are lined with books. “I’m an avid reader of all types of books,” she says.  An impressive catalog of design magazines are meticulously arranged on shelves near the kitchenette. The room is lit by no less than five decadent chandeliers.

The basement of the office serves as a guest bedroom. A creative daybed designed by Wirges Shoults features two single-bed mattresses on a frame along with a number of hand-sewn pillows. “I wanted to do a built-in so it could sleep more,” she quips.

The couple built a complimentary house of brick and stucco next to the old schoolhouse and moved in about a year ago. The two buildings are joined by a majestic courtyard guarded by stone lion statues.

Every element of the aptly named Chateau de la Mirabelle was carefully hand-picked. “What I love is that every room has interesting touches of design flair,” Wirges Shoults says. From the highly embossed Lincrusta wallpaper, a type once seen on the walls of the Titanic, to the gold crown molding lining the heavenly tall ceilings, the end result is pure, high-end glamour.

The couple’s attention to detail is evident at every turn. “One of the things we did when we were designing it is that we wanted it to be wherever you looked, there would be a ‘wow,’” says Wirges Shoults, who holds a degree in graphic design from Platt College. “We really enjoyed putting our own personal touches on it.”

The process was a labor of love, with both sharing their ideas and time. The duo met online later in life after years of missed connections. They attended the same high school, Millard South. They lived in the same apartment complex, but never met. When Wirges Shoults lived in California, she later discovered that her daily drive to work passed by his mother’s house. Even upon recalling a memorable blizzard in Des Moines, the duo discovered they were both holed up in the same hotel, yet still didn’t meet.

Kelly and Randy have downsized from their previous home, mainly because they didn’t need the space. Also, the size of the home was determined by the space of the existing lot. “We moved from a house that had over 4,000 square feet and all we did was clean rooms that we never went into,” Shoults says. “We use every inch of this space.”

“We like each other,” Wirges Shoults says, “so we don’t have to escape each other like some couples do.”


Two Perspectives

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Nancy Lepo and Corey Broman are expert draftsmen. Both use the tools of their medium to create precise markings which address color, the movement of light, a sense of direction and shape, and the nuance of mystery, depth, and genesis. She carries her tools in a canvas lunch sack; his require a studio. Lepo uses traditional pen and ink on paper; Broman draws with a diamond wheel on glass.

Both artists’ work will be on view in a dual exhibition at the Nebraska Arts Council’s Fred Simon Gallery this summer. NAC staff, who determine the exhibition schedule, found the work of both applicants compelling and promising interplay.


Broman has been blowing glass for about 15 years, following a spark lit when he was a child on vacation, “watching an old man crafting a glowing ball of molten glass.” That spark was reignited by an exhibition of Chihuly glass at Joslyn Art Museum. Finding a glass studio in the phone book, he went immediately to Crystal Forge (hotshopsartcenter.com/crystal) and knew with certainty that “that’s what I want to do.” For months he watched, took classes, and assisted. Owner Ed Fennell encouraged him. “He referred me to Hastings College,” says Broman. “He gave me hope.”

Today, Broman is a full-time glassblower with a growing online business, Corey Broman Glass. In contrast to most studios, where a master works with a team of specialized assistants, he works solo, adapting and improvising his unique system of handling glass heated to 2,000°F. Molten glass is a thick, viscous material, constantly changing temperature and plasticity. This calls for a calculated choreography of gathering, blowing, rolling, and swinging a blob of hot glass on a 7- to 10-pound rod. He also does all his own cold work—the design and finishing of cooled glass—switching the emphasis from the physicality of sculpture to the precision of surface detail.

Lepo’s attention seems always to be on a small scale, but one can find infinity in her intimate landscapes. There is the expanse of a Southwest sky, opening over the canyon to our view just as surprisingly as it did to hers. Or sensing in the density of a spinning planet the cold vacuum of the surrounding void. “Drawing,” she says, “is a means of looking at something again for the first time.” And how better to really see than to map a landscape with tiny dots of ink, to define a tree branch or the trace of wind across sand by the proximity of one dot to another?

Lepo’s unconscious apprenticeship as a pen and ink artist began with her exposure to a variety of cultures during her childhood, her curiosity, her wondering. Later, as an engineering technology student, she understood the power of a drawing to convey information. “Looking again” is her impetus to move such utilitarian drawing to a deeper level of engagement. With the simplest of equipment—sketchbook, India ink, pens (the nibs rattling around in a small tea tin), water dish, pencils, an eraser—the self-described “nature-centric” artist can create a sketch whenever her wandering says “pay attention.”20130507_bs_4431-Copy_web

Finishing, then inking the drawing in her studio, Lepo employs pointillist techniques to describe form, light, and movement in detail, using only black ink and the white of the paper. The tonal gradation she achieves via stippling, hatching and cross-hatching, and layering is extraordinary—a picture may take up to 100 hours to complete. Working in her spacious north-facing studio at Hot Shops, her attention articulates the relationship betweenherself and a particular moment and place (whether real or imaginary). Surrounding that focal point, the world expands in scale and scope: Wind and falcon’s cry become the voice of the North Rim, the persona of the Grand Canyon, the panorama of the Southwest. Lepo’s anchor is a tree silhouetted by sunset.

Broman’s studio is an efficiently organized cubicle in a busy industrial plant. In just a few steps, he can reach his three furnaces (furnace, for melting glass; glory hole, for reheating; annealer, for controlled cooling to room temperature), his workstation/bench, a cupboard of supplies, and wall of notes, sketches, and recipes. There’s also a sandblaster, which he can use to create surface effects of layered color or a frosted appearance. Glassblowing is a sequential process, and running three furnaces is expensive, so time in the studio is carefully planned.20130507_bs_4464-Copy_Web

Vista embodies several techniques. Three blown glass pieces are assembled in a custom-welded stand. The diamond wheel was used to make thousands of light-reflecting cuts in the stem, and to engrave the disc with its delicate scene. The graceful leaf was treated with an acid bath for a matte finish.

Like Lepo, Broman appreciates the outdoors. He finds peace in moments of stillness and challenge in the variability of light. Both artists use the language of art to express a unique response that, in turn, informs and enriches viewers and bids us to pay attention. Finding the affinities and distinctions between their work, we learn to see again for the first time.

Nancy Lepo, Drawings/Corey Broman, Glass will be on display at the Fred Simon Gallery, Nebraska Arts Council in the Burlington Building (1004 Farnam St.) from June 24 – July 26, 2013. For more information, visit nebraskaartscouncil.org.