Turlock resident Tammi DeJarnett remembers the exact moment she was introduced to sculpting. It was 1984, and an elder with the Motherlode Mineral Society was busy creating art from rock during a gem and mineral show at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds, resulting in an encounter that would introduce DeJarnett to a lifelong passion.
“I sat there and watched him for about an hour, and said, ‘If he can do it, I know I can do it,’” she said. “I had that much confidence in myself.”
Now age 54, DeJarnett worked on a new piece from the comfort of her at-home studio on Monday afternoon, crouched over a table in the backyard of her south Turlock apartment. She’s been through a lot over the years, but after taking some time away from sculpting she has developed a passion for the hobby once again.
Her skill has earned her all kinds of accolades over the years, including countless first place ribbons at local shows and even acceptance of her work into Modesto’s Mistlin Gallery. Now she hopes to share her art, as well as the works of other artists, once again with the community through a show in Turlock this weekend.
“It means the world to me…it’s a big part of my life,” DeJarnett said. “I love creating and it just makes me very happy.”
Inspired by her ancestry, DeJarnett often carves pieces depicting Native American culture from stones like steatite, alabaster and turquoise that she self-mines in Mariposa County. She also enjoys carving all things pertaining to the sea; in fact, her first sculpture was a seal. Trips to secure the stone she carves from involve a lot of digging, she said, as well as battles with the local wildlife, like rattlesnakes.
One recent piece that DeJarnett calls her “masterpiece” depicts a Native American chief with a bald eagle perched on the top of his head. Weighing in at close to 50 pounds, the sculpture took about three months to complete and is valued at about $3,000.
“I see things in the stone and I just bring them out,” DeJarnett said. “It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience, and you learn as you go.”
DeJarnett’s upcoming show will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. inside the recreational room at 1500 East Ave. and will feature her work along with the work of other artists. DeJarnett’s pieces will be available for purchase, though sometimes she finds it difficult to part ways with her work.
“Sometimes it’s very hard to get rid of pieces because I want to keep them. They’re a part of me,” she said. “But if I know they’re going to go to a good home then I can let them go.”