Posts Categorized: Artist Features

Interview with Local Author Jennifer Gipp: ‘Breaking Through the Fog’

JenGipp_WebDecorah author (and Optometrist!) Jennifer Gipp is celebrating the release of her first novel, Breaking Through the Fog.

Breaking Through the Fog explores the unique culture and art scene in San Francisco and offers a unique perspective on life, love, relationships, and the resilience of the human spirit.”

You can catch an author reading at one of the local dates below, or purchase a copy of the book here.

July 8: Dragonfly Books, Decorah, 7 pm
July 22: Badger Brothers Coffee, Platteville, WI, 4 pm
July 23: Platteville Public Library, 10:30 am
August 4: Decorah Public Library, 6:30 pm

We caught up with the newly published author (and Mom, Book Cover-Breaking Through the FogRotarian, literal Marathon runner… we could go on!), to ask her a few questions about being a self published author in the Driftless!

I: For our readers who don’t know you, by career you are a successful optometrist with Gundersen Health System, currently based in Decorah. How did you make the leap of writing a novel!?

JG: That’s a great question!  I’ve always loved reading and creative writing, but didn’t have time to do much writing until I had to stay home from work because I was sick one day in 2011. I didn’t want to waste the day, so I pulled out my laptop and started to write a story. I enjoyed the process and wrote 5,000 words by the end of the day. I liked the characters and kept working on the story for several months. Before I knew it, it was a full-length novel!

I: Through your schooling and travels, you have seen a lot of different locations – near and far – how did you pick the locations set in the book?

JG: I visited San Francisco and the Bay Area with my husband when we first started dating. He was a wonderful tour guide and I quickly fell in love with the area. I wanted my book to include the America’s Cup Yacht Race and decided that a city located on the water like San Francisco would be the perfect setting.

Many of the characters are from places that I’ve enjoyed visiting. Jonathan is from New Zealand, where I lived as a foreign exchange student in high school, and Claudia is from London, which is one of the cities my husband and I visited on our first anniversary.

I: What has it been like to self-publish a book? Is it a crazy process?

JG: Self-publishing worked out really well for me. I did a lot of reading about various publishing options.  In the end, Kindle Direct Publishing and Amazon’s CreateSpace seemed like the avenues that aligned the most with my goals. I was able to design the cover and format the book to my exact specifications.  Amazon’s CreateSpace uses “print-to-order” technology, so I can order books based on demand, which has been a wonderful tool.

I: Your sensory detail and attention to character detail stand out often in the book – did it take a lot of work to get these details right, or was it something that just happened along the way?

JG: The best part about writing the book was that I got to remember all the wonderful details that I love about San Francisco and really hone in on the food, the atmosphere, and the neighborhoods. I’m a bit of a foodie, so it was fun for me to think back on some of my favorite dishes that I’ve eaten in San Francisco and then write about them.

I: Do you have a favorite character from the book?

JG: Although I like all the characters in the book, Alexis is my favorite. I admire her because of her tireless dedication to her patients, her incredible medical knowledge, and her willingness to forgive and move on with her life even in difficult times.

I: Are you excited to get out and read in front of audiences?

JG: Yes! I’ll actually be giving a presentation on creative writing rather than doing an actual book reading.  I’d like to share my experiences with others and encourage those with a passion for writing to pursue it.

Find out more about the author and get your copy of “Breaking Through the Fog” here!

8 Things We Love About ArtHaus


8 Things We Love About ArtHaus!

It’s hard to remember a time when ArtHaus wasn’t around – they just seem like an old friend we’re happy to see while walking down Water Street. We’ve been lucky enough to have ArtHaus in our community for going on eight years. Hooray!

It’s been eight years of fun and lots of hard work for founders Kristen Underwood and Lea Lovelace, and, as of 2014, current co-directors Jenni and Eric Peterson-Brant.

So what’s behind those cute windows on Water Street? First and foremost, ArtHaus offers super awesome, high-quality creative classes, events, and programs for all ages (starting at age two).


ArtHaus also hosts free and low-cost events throughout the year such as art fairs, gallery openings, poetry slams, and live music concerts.

That’s thanks to lots of people: Jenni and Eric, a great crew of professional teaching artists, an active board of directors, and interns and volunteers who help to develop and facilitate year-round programming.

It’s also thanks to YOU! Want to know how you can help? Check out the ArtHaus Annual Art Gala & Fundraiser tonight (April 29, 2016) at the Hotel Winneshiek. There’s gonna be great music with John Goodin and Erik Sessions, courses of gourmet tapas, and a cool auction items including art from the area’s top creative talents and packages that mix music, theater, recreation, and food. Doors open at 6:30 pm and the fun continues through 9 pm. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door.


Can’t make the event? Donate online here!


So, in honor of eight years of awesome art, here are eight things WE love about ArtHaus:

1. Art makes lives better, period.

2. The mess isn’t made in your house!

3. Excuse for weekly friend dates.
Make a plan to take a class with a friend – you get a night out, and learn fun new stuff!

4. Plus family time is planned for you too!
They even host family classes so you can all get your art on together. Cool…

5. They create the perfect “campfire” for the artists and art community in our region.

6. Poetry Slam!!!

7. Scholarship programs (because art should be available to anyone who wants to participate)

8. ArtHaus is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All contributions and gifts in support of ArtHaus are tax deductible. (Donate Here!)

More Than a Hobby: Tim Blanski


Tim Blanski of Granary Woodshops, Spring Grove, Minnesota

Story and photos by Kristine Jepsen • Originally published in the Fall 2015 Inspire(d)

Historic dream home you’d finally saved up for? Check.

Corporate tech jobs and a community of friends provisioning a predictable retirement? Check.

Logical next-step: Give it all up for an acreage in the rural Driftless, funded by woodworking skills dated to junior high?

Wait. What?

TimBlanski“It’s true,” Tim Blanski of Granary Woodshops says. “We hadn’t been in our dream house in St. Paul nine months – a house we’d walked past for years and saved to buy – when an ad for this acreage caught my eye in the paper.” One tour of the 1880 brick farmhouse and outbuildings at 18666 County Road 4, north of Spring Grove, Minnesota, had both Tim and his wife, Lisa Catton, testing fate. “We got back in the car, and she asked, ‘Do we make an offer tonight, or tomorrow?’”

MoreThanHobbyLogoThe problem was, they’d have to make a different living to make the move. As a marketing executive with an eye for salable detail, Tim set up a woodworking shop in the acreage’s original granary and turned his attention to the growing trend of artisan crafts made from reclaimed antique wood. “At first I made just gift boxes, picture frames. I’m not God’s gift to woodworking – this was stuff straight out of your average school shop class,” he says with a laugh.

Lisa, who continued contract tech consulting part-time, pitched in with varnishing and managing the fledgling business’s public relations, and they peddled their first goods at craft shows across the Upper Midwest. Soon, Tim found his niche: a rare patience for not only salvaging historic barns and sheds but in working the wood just enough to let its story shine.


“All my wood is trouble,” he says, explaining that he’ll spend days matching up weather-worn grooves at the mitered corners of a box, or travel a state over to have a one-ton white oak burl sawn into slabs with the live edge (the outermost bark or surface) intact. “I’m giving people the story of this wood, its history,” he says, “and that means not shearing it down to its smooth heart. I leave the saw marks, the nicks and grooves mice have worn a passageway through.” He also believes in letting the material’s colors create their own mosaic. “I don’t paint or stain anything. I work with the texture of the wood’s original paint or patina.”

Now specializing in custom furniture, particularly farm tables and decorative side pieces, Tom will build four or more buildings into a single piece: walnut for the base, cherry for the upright table trestle, rare 1-inch-by-12-inch barn siding across the top, oak trim fumed to a deep mahogany color by the ammonia of its previous installation: a horse stall.

LiveEdgeWood BlanskiShop

He also aims to give his furniture a full life of its own, calling in the mechanical expertise of other craftsmen to make the leaves in his tables sturdy, for example. “This is mortise and tenon,” he says, pointing to tiny rectangles inset in a table’s edge, “and these hold a single oak bridge across the leaves when fully extended,” he says, jigging a discrete set of polymer tension knobs just out of sight. “Reclaimed, antique wood is some of the sturdiest, most valuable wood to grow on earth,” he says. “Its worth is not just in looking pretty. It’s in doing a job, part of daily life.”


As his finished pieces have expanded in size and notoriety – it’s been nearly 15 years since that first handmade gift box – Tim has pared back art show travel, preferring instead to host prospective customers at the farm, where they can walk with him through his neatly stacked trove of woods in his barn and express exactly what they envision for their table or chair or entryway mirror frame. He makes a steady stream of contacts through his website,, and on, where clients are looking for something a little extraordinary.

“I started out woodworking to make a living, almost a desperate living,” Tim says. “And instead I found a passion. Creativity came pouring out of me. I get up every day excited about what I get to make next.”

Learn more about Tim’s work at or by setting up a visit to The Granary Woodshops in rural Spring Grove, Minnesota.


Kristine Jepsen understands the compulsion to ‘make things,’ as evidenced by whole drawers in her home of light-gage wire, glitter, beads, fabric scraps, papers and, especially, writing instruments. She’s proud to call the Driftless home, where creatives are far from the exception.


Check out Tim’s work in Lanesboro!

Lanesboro Arts presents “Story Wood: Combining Nature & Rural History”, an exhibit of 3D woodwork by Tim Blanski. The exhibit opens with an artist reception on Saturday, April 16, 2016, from 6-8 p.m., and runs through June 12, 2016. The reception will include wine and hors d’oeuvres, as well as live music. Always free and open to the public, the Lanesboro Arts Gallery is open five days a week through May and six days a week through December. Inspire(d) is a proud sponsor of this exhibit! 🙂