Bits 'n' Pieces: Ex-teacher has a bead on new direction

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Tracing the strands of Dennise Larson’s necklaces is like tracking her travels. There are tagua seeds from an Amazonian palm tree, turquoise from Arizona, and beads from China. She has woven together bits of her personal story amongst the stones and metals.

Larson, who taught band for 25 years at Hockinson High School, was surprised by the response she got when she tried her hand at a self-made necklace. “Someone wanted to buy it right off of me,” she said. That sparked an interest in sharing her pieces with others.

What began as a hobby 11 years ago has now turned into a business, Snagridge Jewelry, named for the old-growth tree left over from the 1902 Yacolt Burn, the largest fire in state history, which can be seen from any window in her home.

Larson can spend anywhere from just an hour to a full week on a piece of jewelry, depending on the complexity of the piece. She said the heavy-gauge wire wrapping, which she twists into the form she desires, is the most difficult. From her home in Washougal, Larson has designed necklaces, earrings, and bracelets but finds she likes “necklaces the most, I can fit more of myself into them.”

Though her jewelry work is her creative outlet, the business is a team effort with her husband, Jon, who calls himself the “helper guy.” He assists with the set-up and tear down of the show booth.

“I could not do shows without him,” Larson wrote in an email, explaining how she’s been diagnosed with Meiere’s Disease, which affects the ear, causing vertigo and dizzy spells. That doesn’t deter her from sharing her passion with others.

Larson’s jewelry has been featured at the Tacoma Art a la Carte, the Sequim Lavender Festival, and Art in the Vineyard in Eugene. She’ll be displaying her pieces at the Vancouver Wine & Jazz Festival from Aug. 26-28 at Esther Short Park. To see more of her work, visit http://snagridge.com.

Washougal native picked to perform in Germany

An odd thing happened to Annie Kruger after auditioning for graduate school as an opera singer. The 25-year-old, who grew up in Washougal, got a job instead.

Kruger reached the final round of applicants at Indiana University and The Juilliard School in New York this summer, but was not accepted to either graduate program. A professor who saw her audition at Indiana University was so impressed, though, that he recommended her for a two-month job performing a lead role in Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte in Germany.

She will perform with the Lyric Opera Studio of Weimar and can take classes in acting, staging and the business of music while there.

“It’s an extension of my education and a huge addition to my résumé,” Kruger said. “Going to Germany is basically my dream come true.”

Kruger recently graduated with a music degree from Western Washington University. Her family isn’t in a position to pay the $3,000 she’ll need for air fare, tuition and food while in Germany, so the singer is staging a fundraiser to help pay the expenses.

She will perform her favorite opera music at the Washburn Performing Arts Center at Washougal High School at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Admission to the semi-casual event is free, but donations will be welcome and appreciated, she said.

Bits ’n’ Pieces appears Mondays and Fridays. If you have a story you’d like to share, call Courtney Sherwood, 360-735-4561, or e-mail features@columbian.com.