How do I put over 50 years of artistic achievement into a couple of pages? I guess the best way to start is that I was born at an early age in the state of confusion! LOL! That’s because I’m 1/4 Norwegian and a natural blonde. Actually, I was born in Seattle, Washington, August 15th, 1953, the youngest in a batch of two (being only the second set of twins born at Northgate Hospital in its history). Coming from a family of artists and horse lovers on my Mom’s side, it seemed inevitable the two would overlap and develop into a noteworthy equine art career.
I began my love for horses early on and started riding before I could walk. This developed into a desire to create equine artworks; so, with the encouragement and guidance of my Mom, I was taught to draw horses at age five and to create, sew and market stuffed animals (especially horses) to the corner drug store.
Through my adolescent years, I developed the God given ability to see and recreate things in three dimension. In Junior and Senior high schools, I focused on arts and crafts, mostly crafts, including ceramics, lapidary, leather tooling, wood carving, macramé, copper enameling etc. I also was instrumental in creating the first girls shop class at Edmonds Junior High School (back in the mid-60’s that was no small accomplishment!). I also received The Junior Chamber of Commerce Award two years in a row for outstanding contribution to the community with my art talent.
My horse career began at age twelve with an ornery dappled buckskin Tennessee Walker/Quarter Horse mare with four white stockings and a bold white face that went all over the map. She was striking to behold provided you could catch her long enough to look at her. You see, the owner had drugged her the first time I rode her; we all thought she was so calm and collected that, for a bargain of $175, she was promptly trailered to my Aunt & Uncle’s house to become our project, of which a year’s worth of wages and allowances had bought. The newness soon wore off when, after about a week, the previous owner had the nerve to call my folks and ask if “Dusty”, as we now called her, had bucked everyone off yet. One by one, we regretfully acknowledged the man, all the while rubbing our sore behinds as painful reminders of Dusty’s handiwork.
Not quite sure where to go from here, my parents enlisted the advice of some dear friends of my Dad’s folks (who used to double date when they were young), Harry and Mary Bretz of Bretz Arabians. Mary assured us that breeding Dusty would most likely calm her nerves. So we took a trip to their farm in Bothell where we beheld the most beautiful red chestnut Arabian stallion, Ra Saudi who performed a liberty act for our delight. We were so impressed, we didn’t have to think twice before deciding to breed our flighty mare to Ra Saudi. The resulting colt, Ra-Du-Aba (Ra for Ra Saudi, Du for Dusty and Aba because it sounded Arabian) was promptly gelded after running down everyone and everything that stood still longer than he did. Years later, we would come to understand the meaning of the word “Aba” (Father) and realize that “Raudi” would never live up to his name!
The one good thing Raudi did do was to introduce me to the wonderful world of Arabian Horses! Through friends and acquaintances, my family entered the breeding business with Cascade Hills Arabians (aptly named for the spectacular view from our farm of the Cascade Mountains and because all the resultant offspring would bear the farm initials, CH, which looked pretty good before each horse’s name). We leased the *Bask son, Trask from Harold and Jill Land and acquired the dwindling herd, lock, stock and barrel from Barney Lawson (better known as BK Lawson) of which included Rhonara Rose, cover girl for the Arabian Horse World of the Tournament of Roses Parade being ridden by Lois Ann Kroll. I showed Trask at halter against some of the stiffest competition, including Howie Kale and Woody Madsen at several of the local horse shows.
All the while, my love for the Arabian horse deepened. My Dad, who didn’t exactly share my enthusiasm, was never-the-less talked into being gate steward one day at The Mid-Summer Classic at Trails End in Olympia, Washington. He was just minding his own business waiting for his wife and daughters to go into the ring. My sister and I made it into the class, but my Mom came up to the gate just as the whistle blew, signaling my Dad to close the gate right in front of her face! The tears and protests from my Mom did nothing to shake my Dad’s determination to keep the gate shut. “Rules are rules” he insisted, and soon his feat became legendary. “Any man who had the guts to shut the gate on his wife” people said, “had the makings of a natural born leader”. My Dad was promptly railroaded into becoming president of the Half Arabian Club of Washington. With involvement in the Half Arab Club, I quickly gained notoriety by designing their newsletter logo, their year end High Point awards for two years in a row and later designed the club logo that they still use to this day, over 21 years later!
While still in high school, I fell in love with the horses of Ed Choluj, particularly Ed’s Sheba (Pacific Slope Champion in halter). When I saw her first colt, I knew that it would not be long before he became a permanent addition to our farm. I sold my 1/2 Arab gelding which I broke and trained to ride, for a weanling bay colt, whom I named El Saki Abu. I raised and trained him until the age of four, after receiving numerous championships, including Legion of Honor and US Top Ten Halter Gelding shown by RG “Mo” Morris. At this sad time in my life, I sold my horse and got out of horses to put myself through college. Working full time and carrying a full load of credits, I majored in marketing while all the while taking as many art classes as I could fit in to my hectic schedule. I received an Associate of Arts degree from Bellevue Community College and transferred to the University of Washington only to find the classes I wanted to take (for an Art major) I would not be able to get into.
I began sculpting professionally in 1976 and in 1977, I married Bob Moss. My wedding present was the 1/2 Arabian filly, out of Ed’s Sheba by El Sabre (Ross’zi x Elba) whom I named Bathsheba. Affectionately called “Pumpkin”, this filly went on to win many Championships in halter. She was shown up and down the west coast under the capable guidance of Bruce Howard, including twice Top Ten Canadian National Champion, and US Top Twenty in halter with Greg Knowles. I used Pumpkin as the model for my sculpting business, called Maranatha II, working diligently from life to perfect that talent, but found my medium in clay to be too restrictive.
In the fall of 1979, I set a course in my art career that would become my “Destiny” – I created my first bronze sculpture, aptly entitled, “Destiny”. My model was the black-bay stallion, Aza Destiny, who at the time I sculpted him, was owned by Mr & Mrs Alex Robertson and was standing at stud in Redmond, Oregon. Traveling by bus with a wax model on my lap, I endured the frigid temperatures all the way to Redmond, Oregon to forever change this beautiful stallion into an everlasting art treasure, thus beginning my journey into the world of bronze sculpting.
In 1983 I unveiled the half life size bronze of Ar-Nett Perlane+ (now owned by Wayne Newton). I had so many people asking me at the shows how bronzes were made, that in 1984, I financed an 11.5 minute documentary on bronze casting called “The Creation of National Treasures“, produced by Ferman Ansel of Starlight Productions. This video has traveled all over the world, is used in classrooms for teaching purposes and is included in The Museum of Man in Los Angeles.
In February of 1985, I divorced my husband of seven years and in August of 1985, I founded the corporation Hallelujah Bronze with my sister and brother-in-law, Jim and Vicki Keeling. Working together as a team, my sister and I became the first twins to sculpt as one entity. Our styles were blended to become the hallmark of the Hallelujah Bronze legacy, creating hundreds of bronze sculptures, including some of the most famous Arabians in history. I worked under the name Hallelujah Bronze for seven years only to face impending doom, as health reasons forced me to set aside my artwork. I developed carpal tunnel syndrome and was told by a physician to stay away from the thing I loved most, my sculpting, to preserve my hands. I left Hallelujah Bronze in 1993, not really sure where I should go from there. The one thing I did know was I had to give my hands a rest.
I spent eight months driving for Shuttle Express. From there, I worked for a house cleaning service, and in three months, launched my own house cleaning company called Angel of Mercy. On January 29th, 1994, my horse’s 15th birthday (Saki Starlight, daughter of Bathsheba by BR Al Fatah), I met and fell in love with a wonderful man, Larry Backstrom. Introduced by a mutual friend, I reluctantly agreed to a blind date. The one good thing was that he was a horseman, and a good one to boot. I drove up to the barn to see this tall man jumping over three foot fences on his 17.1 hand Dutch Warmblood-TB cross bay gelding and I knew at that moment, he had jumped into my heart as well!
Larry and I quickly hit it off and became close friends, doing horsey things together, even riding into the sunsets hand in hand, it was so romantic! We were secretly engaged almost from the start, and began to plot the rest of our lives together. We enjoyed so many of the same interests, that we found ourselves doing everything together, whether it was working late into the night on one of our pet projects or backpacking into the wilderness to enjoy the mountain splendor. For three years, we worked twelve to sixteen hour days, seven days a week building our business. On August 29th, 1998, Larry and I were married in a garden ceremony at the home of my Dad and step-Mom, Dick and Faye LerMond, to became husband and wife, much to the relief of our families who thought we would never have the time to get married!
With all my new found notoriety, there still was something missing – a nagging in my soul to go back to the thing I loved so much, sculpting. I was helping my husband, Larry with his business, now it became time for my husband to help me back. Larry, being a software engineer, helped me design my website for our new company, HorseModels.com in the year 2000 to carry my name and work to new generations of equine enthusiasts worldwide. If you haven’t already done so, go to my Photo Gallery to view my past creations and my newest creations. My husband and I started our own casting facility called ICS (Immaculate Casting Service); I created and sold out dozens limited edition resin sculptures; I purchased my first Purebred Arabian black-bay mare named Radiant Windsong (Melody for her barn name); we were adopted by an adorable Toy Red Poodle which we named Dillon the Red of Duvall, Dillon for short and we bred him to get the pick of the litter which we named Dillon’s Trouble in Paradise, or DJ for short. We moved from Duvall after 30+ years to live happily in Plain WA, a small community nestled in foot hills of the Cascadeso. I still won’t end this with “The End” because this is a new chapter in my life, so, for now, I will leave it with “The Beginning…”