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Washington Voices

Corbin Park Artist Discovers Some Elbow Room Next Door

Thu., May 2, 1996

Wendy Franklund Miller’s house, a 1910-era, two-story Corbin Park structure, is packed from top to bottom.

It’s filled with dozens of ceramic bowls of every color, paintings, wall murals, sculptures and handmade rugs.

Like many artists, Miller and her husband, Jake, have turned their home into a place to store a sizable collection of art.

Which led to the problem of not having enough space anymore for her own studio, where Miller makes paper art.

Having a home too comfortable to give up, the Millers looked outside for a solution.

They ended up looking no farther than the house next door.

Instead of having to move to larger quarters or rent extra space, it was easier for Wendy Miller to buy the house adjacent to her back yard and convert it into her studio.

“A lot of my friends have moved out of town, bought land and enjoy living out there.

“But I’m an urban person. I like living (in this neighborhood) where I’m only four minutes from everything,” said Miller.

After buying the house next door, the Millers gutted it and changed the main floor into one large studio.

“My studio in the old house kind of took over the basement and then began taking over the rest of the house,” said Miller.

Earlier this year they moved in her shelves, work tables, paints, dyes and pulpmaking equipment.

Miller now spends a good part of each day there, working on her projects. Her art, known nationwide, is based almost entirely on making her own paper. She avoids using paper made from wood products; paper of that type yellows and degrades over time.

Miller, like most paper artists, uses only cotton-rag paper.

To have more control over the end-product, Miller recently spent $6,000 for her own cotton pulp maker, a rugged device that now sits in a corner of the new studio.

The device takes chopped-up pieces of cotton rag and starts mashing them into pulp, the base material that later is dried and shaped into paper.

Her art starts with specially dyed sheets of paper made in her studio. Often Miller will add items - rocks or shells, for instance - to the paper, creating pieces that have three dimensions.

The new studio, spacious and well-lighted, is now a gathering spot for many of Miller’s artist friends and associates.

More often than not, they conclude the visit with a quick cup of coffee inside her real house next door.

By making her work space separate from the house, Miller has found she enjoys her living environment more.

“I love the freedom I feel in this house,” said Miller, enjoying a break in the kitchen last week.

“I may wake up and say, ‘Hey, that wall might look great painted green.’ And if I find the right shade, I’ll get on it.”

The house has a sense of constant evolution: “It’s like a piece of art itself. We’re always adding something or changing colors,” she said.

They enjoy the Corbin Park neighborhood for the same lack of pretense.

“It’s got all sorts of people,” from blue-collar families to professional couples living next door to each other, said Franklund Miller.

“We decided this is the type of area we felt most comfortable in,” she added.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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