by Billie Jean Plaster
Copyright 1996 © Sandpoint Magazine
The great-great granddaughter of L.D. Farmin, the man who platted Sandpoint in the late 1800s, has contributed something that may prove just about as permanent as the layout of the city's streets.
Last summer Tammy Farmin created 22 metal sculptures that have been hung as banners to dress up downtown streets. Given that they're made of 12-gauge steel, the different designs - a bear, osprey, fish, windsurfer and skier - could be hanging around town indefinitely. "Or until they fall down or people get tired of them," Farmin quipped.
As a member of one of Sandpoint's founding families, Tammy wanted to do something to help the community, too. Offering a bit of herself through her artwork seemed fitting.
Tammy has long had an interest in art, but metal sculpting was an new undertaking for her. She had taken classes in ceramics, jewelry, watercolor and silk screening while studying at the University of Idaho. And she had dabbled in photography as a hobby.
But seeing metal artwork in a gallery in British Columbia about a year ago piqued her interest. She arranged a meeting with the artist, who introduced her to the tool used to "draw" the steel, a plasma cutter. As soon as she returned home, she bought one on her Visa and proceeded to learn how to create artwork in the new medium. Luckily her father, Ted, has a shop where she can use her plasma cutter and his other tools for welding.
In May, Tammy was commissioned by the development group Sandpoint Unlimited to make the banners, her first big job as an artist. The resulting designs not only reflect her personality, but that of the town's as well.
"When I drive through town and see my pieces hanging, it's like seeing my childhood mapped out before me," Tammy says. An avid skier, Tammy's favorite piece is the skier. Each piece represents a significant part of her life, she explains.
"I like that about art," she said. "One can let their imagination run wild."
Even so, Tammy admits the two-month-long project verged on overwhelming. "At one time I felt it was more than I could handle," she says. But that was quickly forgotten once the 6-foot-by-2-foot sculptures weighing about 25 pounds each were completed and hung with the help of GTE and Washington Water Power crews.
The metal banners replaced tattered cloth banners that had been used downtown since the early 1980s. A committee of Sandpoint Unlimited charged with sprucing up downtown funded the project with a $5,000 grant from Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce Ambassador members. The campaign to enhance the downtown continues; also last summer, several downtown fire hydrants were painted into whimsical characters by local artists who volunteered their time.
SU Executive Director Ann Kritzeck loves the new metal sculptures.
"They are unique to the town and depict the community's outdoor spirit," Kritzeck said. "Every time you look at one, it looks different."
The banners are in many locations downtown, so just look up while you're driving or walking and you're sure to see one.
As for Tammy, she's starting a liftside espresso stand at Schweitzer Mountain - providing people with a little different kind of pick-me-up this winter.
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