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'Make it your own'

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DEMONSTRATION: Artist Karen Eilts-Walter brings her work to local youth each summer through her educational art camp.
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DRAW: Harrison Hoover works on his craft during a lesson from Karen Eilts-Walter.

by HEATHER COX - hcox@wabashplaindealer.com

What started as working on pottery for fun with her mother at the Honeywell Center In the 1970s then sparked an interest in Karen Eilts-Walter to create an art studio of her own.

Since 2001, Walter has been using her art studio, Make it Your Own, in downtown Wabash to encourage creativity.

Though Walter was born and raised in Wabash, she took a short 10-year hiatus to work in the television industry. But while Walter was out west, she and her friends would frequent a shop called Color Me Mine, where they would work on painting pottery.

“I would go with my friends and while my friends would do one piece, I would have like nine pieces done,” she said. “And they’re like ‘how are you doing that?’ and I’m like ‘I don’t know, but this is so fun! Maybe it’s because I did it with my mom’ … so I said, ‘You know what when I get home I think I’ll open a studio.’”

She says it was a “flippant comment,” but the idea soon became reality.

Upon arriving home from L.A., Walter told her mother about her new dream of opening an art studio. Her mother passed away soon after, but Walter was driven to keep her promise. Walter’s studio has evolved throughout the years, and now provides those in the community with much more than painting pottery. Today, attendees can also choose from painting a canvas or a mosaic, or perhaps even try their hand at the wheel in pottery class. Walter even hosts an art camp for youth each summer, too.

The tradition started 16 years ago when Walter’s sister, Karla Panariello, suggested the idea.

“My sister was a teacher at St. Bernard and the kids loved her teaching them art,” Walter said. “So when they would get to summer, they would all say, ‘Oh we hate that we don’t have art over the summer, we (want to) do something with art over the summer.’

“My sister felt ... that there needed to be a place for them to go.”

Panariello led the two-week art camp until she died in 2010. Walter, who is now an art instructor at St. Bernard, said she wanted to keep the practice alive after her sister’s passing.

This year’s art camp started on June 4-15, and is for children ages four and older. Students started the two-week program with the pottery wheel and have moved on to other tasks like working with chalk pastels.