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ELY WINTER FESTIVAL

Sled dog love aids art career

Tower watercolor artist featured in Ely Art Walk

Jodi Summit
Posted 2/1/18

TOWER- Ashley Thaemert has always loved art, though her passion was sled dogs. But it was her love of her sled dogs that has jump-started her art career.

“Last August [2016],” she said, “I …

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ELY WINTER FESTIVAL

Sled dog love aids art career

Tower watercolor artist featured in Ely Art Walk

Posted

TOWER- Ashley Thaemert has always loved art, though her passion was sled dogs. But it was her love of her sled dogs that has jump-started her art career.

“Last August [2016],” she said, “I had a dog with a really bad injury and needed to raise money for his surgeries.” A plea for donations went out, and it seemed natural to volunteer a custom pet portrait painting for those who made larger donations. She was able to raise enough money to help pay off her vet bills, and ended up doing over 20 pet portraits. (Falcor’s surgeries were successful, and he is now back running on the trail.)

“Then I started getting requests for private commissions,” she said. “It’s becoming more of a profession, not just a hobby.”

While she started with the focus on pet portraits, she really enjoys all types of wildlife art, and also loves experimenting with color. She works mainly with watercolors and pen and ink, from a small well-lit studio in her off-grid homestead in rural Tower.

Thaemert’s art will be on display in Ely in February, as part of the annual Art Walk, in the windows of the Ely Folk School.

Thaemert moved to Tower last year, after she and her partner Mike Tam purchased 40 acres of land near the Lost Lake Peatland. Mike works seasonally for the forest service, and this winter has been concentrating on getting their homestead up and running.

With a stable of 24 sled dogs, Thaemert starts her day with dog chores, keeping the outdoor dog kennel areas clean, making sure the dogs have food and water, and also spending some time petting and grooming each of the dogs. The dogs are mostly Alaskan Malamutes, large thick-furred dogs bred for strength to pull sleds. But the couple has collected some other breeds of sled dogs, and adopted some “seniors,” too old to pull sleds, but happy to become part of their dog family.

“I really like how this area is centered around outdoor recreation,” she said. “And it is a really good area for dog sledding.”

Dog sledding in the Boundary Waters area is quite different from her previous experiences in Colorado, where she worked as a trainer and guide for a dog sledding company in Pagosa Springs. She said she is learning the ropes of wilderness dog sledding and camping, Boundary Waters style, from many other dog sledding enthusiasts in the area. She said the local dog sledding community has been very friendly and supportive.

“There is definitely a lot to learn,” she said. “I am basically starting my dogs’ training all over…They are doing really well and getting better every time.” More days than not she is out on area trails, lakes, and little-travelled gravel roads with her dogs, but is still finding time most days for her painting.

In the future, she hopes to work as a guide in the area, doing introductory trips with tourists as well as doing longer trips with fishermen into the Boundary Waters.

Right now about half her dogs are retired or nearing retirement age, and the rest, except for a few lead dogs, are quite young. So most of her energy is focused on training her 12 younger dogs, and slowly building their endurance and stamina. Once her team is more experienced, she hopes to run area races in upcoming years, such as the Wolftrack Classic.

She is also looking forward to meeting more local artists and becoming more active in the local art community. You can find more of Thaemert’s artwork online at https://www.ashleythaemertfineart.com.

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