Anni and John Furniss are two peas in a pod. This loving couple had their first date in a community garden in a pea patch and three years later married in that same patch. While that’s a fun story, there is a much deeper story that focuses on their personal challenges and how they help each other to achieve their separate visions as artists.
Anni Becker Furniss is a multi-media artist and photographer. As Anni expresses on their website, “after we were both handed pretty hefty challenges, we used art to overcome. We believe that art has the ability to heal and transform.”
She leads a busy life working at Evergreen Habitat for Humanity and working on her paintings, many of which will be on display at an upcoming open studio tour. She is a sensitive person who has dealt with bouts of anxiety. She is also a person who believes in community and is always eager to be involved in charitable endeavors and projects that serve to bring people together.
Anni’s art is ever-evolving as is she. Anni recently took on a 30-day challenge she discovered on Pinterest. The challenge was to make a new work of art each day and while creating the piece explore the feelings and ideas that came with it. She achieved the challenge, posting her progress on her Facebook page. With that challenge came a desire to move from more crafty type projects to stunning fine art paintings. She explains, “the challenge opened up something inside me. I wanted to explore new techniques.” She’s happy with her progress and eagerly shares her new works.
Anni credits her husband, John, with keeping her on the artistic path, supporting her in discovering what may be and helping her relax. John is her rock. She shares, “John is a calming force in my life. He understands me. We jokingly call him the Anni whisperer.”
While the story of John’s support for Anni and how that frees her to explore her creativity, is a good story, there is much more. John is blind. He has been since he was a teenager. He is also an amazing person who has overcome barriers to achieve his artistic goals… as a woodworker.
John has received quite a bit of press recently, the most recent being featured on Portland’s Channel 12 where he talked about his training in woodworking through classes at the Utah Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired and finding that the main difference between a sighted woodworker and blind one was how they measured things.
John has a studio behind their small home. The backyard shed is full of woodworking tools such as hand tools, a table saw, band saw and lathe. John has always loved woodworking and for a while used his talents, and some of these tools, in rebuilding pianos. As we might surmise, there wasn’t a huge call for people to rebuild pianos. John shares, “You only rebuild a piano once.” So with Anni’s support he started working with wood, creating bowls, vases and even a lovely table that the couple keeps in a special place in their home.
John explains, “Woodworking is a visual release to me. I can visualize the piece and then turn it into a work of art.” John has gotten so good at this he can create ten or more pieces in a week, but not without a few cuts and scrapes.
His pieces are prized by those who buy them. Anni shared that “one man came up to our booth at a festival and just placed his hand on one of John’s bowls and said that he wanted that piece… our art speaks to people’s emotions.”
You might guess that having Anni by his side is quite helpful since John is blind. She does go with him to buy wood. John judges wood by the feel while Anni can describe the colors to him. She also drives him to appointments and events but he’s adept at using public transportation too. People unfamiliar with their relationship will say to John, “You are sure lucky to have Anni.” Anni is quick to say, “I’m lucky to have John!”
John stresses that he creates functional pieces of art. He uses an all natural wax and oil finish which is food safe. The bowls are meant to be used.
Together But Separate
While John and Anni need and support each other they also give each other space. John works alone in his workshop and Anni has her own space to experiment with art, get quiet time and reflect. When John heads to the bus stop or goes out to his workshop, Anni calls out, “Have fun and be safe!”
So what’s next for this creative couple? Anni explains, “It’s all real organic, so we’re open to following paths to see what happens. We don’t have a destination but know we must follow along a path in life.”
Upcoming Studio Tour
John and Anni will be displaying their art and have an open studio during Washougal’s first Open Studio Tour on Saturday, May 12, 2018 and Sunday, May 13, 2018 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. John will be demonstrating how he works on a lathe.
You can see more of their story and view their art on their website.