Duane Bolster


Scratch Pad

A healer and harp builder

Duane Bolster found musical success through medicine

Q:  To Coast Weekend Arts and Entertainment/ The Daily Astorian: “Your article on March 6, 2019 about Duane Bolster, the Celtic harp builder. Lovely timing for the article came out right before St. Patrick’s Day. May I reprint your article and share it?”

A:  “Please do. Thanks.”  Erick Bengel, Coast Weekend

 

For decades, Duane Bolster, a harp builder from Portland, tried to learn one instrument after another — piano, clarinet, coronet, accordion — but reading music remained mysteriously difficult for him. He couldn’t comprehend how musicians sight-read so fluidly.

Then, about seven years ago, an ophthalmologist discovered growths on the focal points of Bolster’s retinas. His center of vision is gone in both eyes. He couldn’t notice the disorder; his brain fills in the missing visual information automatically. For example, a word with six letters might, to him, appear to have four. He can read text in his peripheral vision, but tracking sheet music, it turns out, is nearly impossible for him to do.

He told me this story in the presence of a Celtic harp he built, now displayed in the window of Fairweather’s House & Gallery, during the year’s first Seaside Art Walk, held earlier this month. The instrument, fashioned out of ribbon mahogany, stands near his wife Carol’s handmade baskets, for which Bolster created the wooden bases.

Bolster, 70, hails from a family of engineers and inventors, and can figure out the physics of a thing just by looking at it. He has been making harps for about 15 years. The harp at Fairweather’s took him about 60 hours to complete.

The harp that took longest to make — an elaborate, circular work of Bubinga, a hard, heavy African wood — was made for the Children’s Cancer Association in Portland and required 200 to 250 hours. He crafted it so that the inside opens outward to project the sound — a design that led appraisers to remark, “You don’t build harps like that,” he recalled.

“I could never stand doing something like somebody else did,” Bolster said. “You don’t get progress unless you improvise.”

Bolster could probably have foregone the final 50 hours of detailing — the sanding, polishing and perfecting of the roundness — without really changing the look. But it was only his second harp, and everything had to be just right.

Bolster spent his career working as a registered nurse at Pacific Northwest hospitals, doing dialysis and aphaeresis, specializing in children and newborns — kids who were critically ill and those suffering from chronic conditions.

He remembers harpists who would visit the children and play for them, a ritual that at times eased the distress in the room better than pain meds and physical therapy. “The children just loved it,” he said. “And that was one of the things that inspired me to make a lot of harps.”

When he retired from the medical field seven years ago, he did so knowing his harps would be used in medical ministry, to sooth sick children and other patients in hospitals and care centers.

“They just do magic stuff,” he said. “Kids in pain … you’d just see them relax,” he said. “It was amazing. I watched that for many years.”

He hasn’t taken up harp lessons; he’s been so busy making them and can’t stop. But he can tune them by ear. If he were to start all over with music, “I’d learn how to play by ear, and that would have solved it all,” he laughed.

 

Basket crafted by Carol Bolster with wood bottom by Duane Bolster.

 

The most distinctive process in making Bolster baskets is the use of wooden molds. The molds ensure accuracy in size and shape. In addition, some of the Bolster baskets are adorned with some form of decoration, whether it be a finely woven flower or seashell. The baskets are both useful and collectible. A finely crafted basket will also increase its value with age. A Bolster basket is considered to be a family heirloom that should be passed on to each generation. Each basket is unique. Signed in wood by the artist, Carol Bolster.

 

 

December 2018

Celtic mahogany harp by master builder Duane Bolster

Q: What is a Celtic harp, you ask?

A:  The Celtic harp is a triangular harp traditional to Ireland and Scotland. It was a wire-strung instrument requiring great skill and long practice to play, and was associated with the Gaelic ruling class. It is said the music heard in heaven is the golden sound of harps. Today the Celtic harp has an aura of mystery because the average person has never seen a harp except at the symphony and has never heard of an Irish harp.

 

“I build ’em, don’t play ’em. Please give it a try.  Play it. Pet it. ” Duane Bolster

 

In 2006 Duane Bolster received the  Hero award from CCA “For Creating a Magnificent Harp for the Music Rx Program” and in 2010 received The John Barry Award from Northwest Kidney Kids Inc. “For Providing Exceptional Care to Children with Kidney Disease”

 

I don’t play, not even a little. A note on my not playing the harp; I have studied a few instruments over the years; accordion, clarinet, piano, and harp to name a few, but mastered none. I frequently have people express surprise when they find out that I build harps, but don’t play the harp. They get a chuckle when I mention with a laugh that I know some people who even though they play the harp, they don’t know how to build one!!”—Duane

 

Fairweather House and Gallery, located at 612 Broadway, in downtown Seaside will host a “Harp Instrument Petting Zoo” throughout December.

This free event is open to the public for adults and children in their first attempts to engage the harp instrument.

Each participant will have the opportunity to play featuring the instrument crafted by Duane Bolster, master harp builder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“All is Calm”

Fairweather’s December Exhibition.

 

 

Fairweather House and Gallery

612 Broadway

“All is Calm”, an exhibition featuring the art of Susan Romersa, among others.

 

The Seaside artist paints in oil celebrating the beauty in portraits and figure paintings.

Susan was ordained as a Minister of Religious Science after many years of study.

 

Fairweather’s  fourth annual harp petting zoo features  a beautiful Limerick harp by NW wood artisan  Duane Bolster.

 

 

 

 

 

# 1 Image 2017: Beaver Tales  habitat lecture at Fairweather’s by biologist, naturalist, wildlife photographer Neal Maine. 

 

 

#2 Image from 2017: Kimberly Kent, artist and art broker  meets her art on display at Fairweather’s.

 

 

#3 Image from 2017: Most viewed  Linda Fenton-Mendenhall photo collage from a  Fairweather Art Walk.

Pictured top row/ left to right:  Reneé Hafeman; a round of applause from art patrons; Paul Brent artist talk. 

Middle row/ left to right: table top display;  Britney Drumheller  artist talk;  artist Emily Miller;  emerging artist Whelpsy Whelp. 

Bottom row/ left to right: marine debris artist Karynn Kozij;  Art Walk hostess Joan modeling art;  Fairweather sponsored Pop-Up Gallery and Studio with artist Paul Brent, Gail and Ellen, hostesses; Denise,  Kemy Kay, Joan and Saundra having fun.

 

 

 

#4 image from 2017:  Artist Carolyn Macpherson  offering a Seaside Painting LIVE ™ episode at Fairweather’s.  

 

#5 image from 2017: Michael Gilbert, wood artist, meets Mike Brown, wood artist at Fairweather’s.

 

 

 

#6 image from 2017:  Master calligrapher Penelope Culbertson offers a Seaside Scribing LIVE(tm) event at Faiweather’s.

 

 

 

 

#7 image from 2017:  Shirley 88 performs LIVE on the Fairweather grand.

 

#8 image from 2017:  Flynn, the most handsome American  Kestrel, assists Wildlife Center of the North Coast Executive Director Joshua Saranpaa, during a LIVE Doing Good Works ™ auction at Fairweather’s.

 

 

 

 

#10 2017 image:  Irish Lands opening reception at Fairweather’s featured a family heirloom brought to America in the 1850’s.

 

 

Artists represent the heartbeat of the Fairweather Gallery.  What we strive to put out in the arts community is  the artist’s conversations.  We have been fortunate to experience the sharing and giving of many, many creative minds  for over 11 years.

 

So, for us,  in 2018, the opportunity to continue to present an arts platform forward  is all about shining a bright light on the reminder that we are all connected… artists, patrons and community.

 

 

Fairweather House and Gallery

612 Broadway

SEEK, an art exhibition, through December

Opening reception images

“As the hectic holiday season approaches, we seek beauty, in its solitude and silence, as well as seek time with family and friends.”

 

SEEK, Fairweather’s opening reception December art exhibition featured Duane Bolster, master harp builder and his harp petting zoo. For nearly 50 years, he worked in operating rooms and Intensive Care Units. He witnessed the wonderful healing and soothing effects that harp music had on the children he cared for, and on their parents. He won The Hero award from CCA “For Creating a Magnificent Harp for the Music Program”.

 

Featured December artist Renee Rowe offered an artist’s talk during the opening reception of SEEK. The artist, an Oregonian, spoke about being inspired by the beauty of nature.  She produces abstract art by following her heart. For the artist, celebrating art and life are inseparable.

 

An art patron appreciates the artist stories that are posted with the art on display.

  Fairweather’s represents 200 regional artists, showing original works of art through rotating exhibitions throughout the year. 

 

And, too, Fairweather’s welcomed new historic Gilbert District business owners of The Whet Spot during the opening reception of SEEK at Fairweather’s.

 

NW artist, Carolyn Macpherson offered a Painting Seaside LIVE ™ demonstration during  the opening reception of SEEK at Fairweather’s.

 


Vintage jewelry artist, Brigitte Willse, was introduced during the opening reception of SEEK at Fairweather’s.

 

And, too, Neal Maine, naturalist, biologist and wildlife photographer, lectured about the ecology of the local habitat at the Fairweather Gallery during the opening reception of SEEK.

Forever honored to show Neal Maine’s PacificLight Images in the Gallery in support of NCLC, North Coast Land Conservancy.

 

 

Seek, inquire, search for, pursue, long for, wish for, desire, look for, expect from…

 

Please visit http://www.fairweatherhouseandgallery.com for more info about the gallery and the artists.

 

Photos by Linda Fenton-Mendenhall, photographer/ artist with Fairweather House and Gallery, as well as the photographer for Seaside First Saturday Art Walk.

 

Please visit http://www.facebook.com/ Seaside First Saturday Art Walk for more info about the event.

Annual Harp Petting Zoo by master harp builder Duane Bolster.

 

 

 

 

Fairweather House and Gallery

612 Broadway

SEEK, an art exhibition.

December 2017 

As the hectic holiday season approaches, we seek beauty in nature, in its solitude and silence, as well as seek   time with family and friends.

Seek, inquire, search for, pursue, long for, wish for, desire, look for, expect from.

Featuring Duane Bolster, master harp builder and his harp petting zoo. For nearly 50 years, he worked in operating rooms and Intensive Care Units. He witnessed the wonderful healing and soothing effects that harp music had on the children he cared for, and on their parents. He won The Hero award from CCA “For Creating a Magnificent Harp for the Music Program”.

 

In addition, Oregon artist Renee Rowe, inspired by the beauty of nature, produces abstract art by following her heart. For the artist, celebrating art and life are inseparable.

 

 

Art by Renee Rowe

For more about the artist, please visit http://www.fairweatherhouseandgallery.com/ …artists/ …Renee Rowe