By Kevin Penelerick
Reader Art Columnist
Weezil Samter is as unique a character as his name. He is an artist who recycles the world around him into his creations and has a desire for sharing his lifetime of knowledge with others.
A love of the arts was imbued in Weezil from his early childhood, his mother being a painter who used oil on canvas. As a young adult in the ‘60s, he traveled around doing beadwork, selling his creations in various shops and teaching others his techniques in exchange for food or lodging.
In his 40s, Weezil’s son asked him to craft a set of armor he could use for full-contact fighting in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), which is an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating pre-17th-century European history. This led to a connection with the local Medieval Society that has become a central part of Weezil’s artistry.
He attended camp-outs and tournaments with his son, setting up an armor repair station on the edge of the battlefield. Many children were in attendance with their parents and would gather around to watch him work. He soon realized there was little for these young ones to do, so he would give them a hammer and a piece of metal and set them about the task of ‘Cold-Forging.’ “Kids and hammers go really well together,” Weezil said with a smile. They would create their own hammered copper rings.
Before he knew it, he was coming up with projects to keep a variety of ages of children busy. They learned they could change one thing into something else and Weezil learned how fulfilling sharing his knowledge was.
Weezil is mostly self-taught, starting out sketching designs in middle school, inspired to create by the work of M.C. Escher. He would also cast his own toy soldiers as a child. He was given a book by a librarian on how to make wire jewelry. One chapter, in particular, inspired him to learn the craft of twisting copper wire into rings.
As he made connections in the Medieval Society, friends would share with him things they learned, such as how to make Egyptian Links from wire. These can be used to make things like the coin belts belly dancers wear.
Weezil traveled for his job with the railroad and would take his projects on the road with him. Setting up at farmer’s markets and craft fairs in the different towns he found himself in. Here, too, he would set up a children’s table and teach them how to make the very creations he was selling. His passion to teach and share, often over-riding his time spent making money.
For years, he worked in an environment where he saw things being thrown away and said, “I could do something with that.” He collected items he thought would be useful, and in time these items have been recycled into his projects. For instance, he cuts a piece off an old copper pipe, which he repurposes into a hammered ring.
Living in North Idaho has influenced him to make items that are both creative and useful. He takes old horns and turns them into Viking drinking horns. They look cool and are functional to boot.
Is it art or craft that he does? Some define art by asking, “Does it create an emotional response from within?” For Weezil, creating is an emotional response to his environment. By taking cast-off materials and re-purposing them into functional and useful items, he creates recycled art, born out of his passion for creating. Since the emotional response of one person to art differs from the next, one can only say in this case, the creator of the art is filled with passionate emotion.
If Weezil had the opportunity to create a piece of art for the community, it would be like his life: Instead of creating something tangible, he would like to share his knowledge. He would love to educate people on the geological history of our region. This includes things like how the Selkirk mountains came to be or how the fossils below the swinging bridge at Kootenai Falls outside of Libby, Mont., are some of the oldest fossils known.
Weezil Samter is a passionate and creative man with knowledge he is excited to share with all who take the time to show an interest. He occasionally teaches a Ring Making & Wire Working Class at the Sandpoint Library. The next one is April 13. Check the library’s web page for more information. Are you an artist or do you know someone who is creating something unique and different in our community? Shoot me an email at email@example.com for consideration as a future interview subject for this column.