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Paint & Bake

October 29, 2011
By Jenny Kirk , Marshall Independent

CANBY - For more than 40 years, Joyce Schrunk has had a passion for painting, so much so that she's filled up a number of rooms with her art.

Schrunk, who is originally from Marshall, began developing her craft when she decided to take a painting class from Johnson's Paint Store in Marshall more than four decades ago.

"I took classes for about a year and then went out on my own," she said. "I started with oil painting. After awhile, the basement got so full of oils I had to switch to something else."

Article Photos

Photo by Jenny Kirk

Joyce Schrunk has spent a great deal of her life painting, whether it is oil painting, like the ones pictured on every wall at her farmhome in Canby, or various china paintings, such as vases, plates or dishes. Flowers, especially roses, are her favorite to paint.

By that time, Schrunk lived with her husband Marion on their family farm just outside of Canby, where pieces of her carefully designed artwork were hung on every wall. In the winter, the couple would vacation in Florida. More than two decades ago, a Florida neighbor introduced Schrunk to china painting.

"My teacher down in Florida said it was 99 percent want to and 1 percent talent," Schrunk said. "I switched to china painting."

As Schrunk continued to develop a steady hand with a new art style, the special painting room in Schrunk's home in Florida also began filling up.

"A bunch of us still meet every Monday in Florida," she said. "We're all just friends. We're good enough that we can each do our own thing."

Painting is an expensive hobby, Schrunk said, but one that is worth the cost.

"I like china painting the most," she said. "You have to have a kiln and the paints are really expensive, but I'll keep doing it as long as I enjoy it."

Working with a kiln can be difficult, Schrunk said, explaining that it has to be turned on gradually and takes about two hours to get up to the right temperature.

"With china painting, it's a powder that you grind with mineral oil," Schrunk said. "You put a piece in the kiln and bake it up to 2,400 degrees."

The kiln shuts off automatically, but the process isn't finished yet.

"You don't look until the next morning," Schrunk said. "Then you peek in there and it's just like Christmas morning. You don't always know what they're going to look like."

Most of her china paintings take at least three firings in the kiln, Schrunk said, but some take more.

"I've done some with five or six firings," she said. "You have to repaint the whole thing over to get it darker, to get the color you want. Most take three firings."

The challenge is to not put too much on at one time.

"You have to keep it smooth," Schrunk said. "Otherwise, it will pop off or run. Then you have a ruined vase or plate."

While Schrunk has also painted scenery, she's drawn more to painting flowers.

"My favorite is doing some kind of flower, preferably roses," she said. "

Schrunk, who has also taught a few painting classes during the years, doesn't mind exhibiting her work, but she doesn't care to sell it.

"I used to exhibit my work at the Yellow Medicine County Fair," she said. "I always got first place. I received best in show a lot of times, too."

With a heart as huge as her talent, Schrunk would rather give her paintings away to family members than to sell them.

"We have a show every year (in Florida) and a lot them sell their items," Schrunk said. "I don't sell my paintings. I give mine away to my family, which keeps growing."

Schrunk recently gave hand-painted vases, 18 to 20 inches tall, to each of her three daughters and her one daughter-in-law. She's also sparked an interest in two of them to take up painting themselves.

"I've taught my daughter Carolyn (Gripentrog) and daughter-in-law Wendy (Schrunk)," Schrunk said. "Now we're doing painting together."

Schrunk said that both Carolyn and Wendy are doing well already.

"The most difficult part is when I have to correct my daughter," she said. "But she's doing really good. And Wendy is a wonderful painter."

There aren't a lot of people who are into china painting anymore, Schrunk said.

"The good ones are getting old and dying," she said. "I'm celebrating the 42nd anniversary of my 39th birthday. I like to be busy. That keeps you young."

Schrunk will soon be heading to Florida, where she'll pick up her brush again full time, but she is still working on the gradual move from her farm home of 50 years to a smaller house in Canby. Schrunk's son Lloyd and wife Wendy are planning to occupy the farm home.

"I'll still be 'the gopher,'" Schrunk said.

While it is bittersweet to have to pack away her belongings, including many of her precious works of art, Schrunk, ironically, is moving into the home in Canby that she and her husband Marion built many year ago.

"The circle is all connected," she said. " I'm still going to have a paint room. There will be at least one room in my house where I will paint."



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