Spotlight: Chris Rentmeister (Goldfinch4)

By Nancy Polanski (nap) on May 3, 2010

You probably know her for her intarsia creations. She recently wrote an article about it for the Wood Crafts Cubit. I saw the article and wanted to learn more, not only about intarsia, but also about Chris. She's got some interesting things to say about her hobbies and her life. I invite you to meet Chris Rentmeister.

I had a feeling Goldfinch4 was going to be an interesting lady.  It seemed like the hobbies she mentioned were not your average fare.  Most people don't have the tools necessary for such intricate woodworking as intarsia.  And she does cement work like other women might do crocheting or needlepoint.  I was eager to know more about this person....


Q.  Let's get right to it, Chris.  I'd like to know you better.  What part of the country are you from?

Chris: I’ve lived in Wisconsin most of my life (once I got over my wild-child wanderlust after high school) and now live about one mile away from my parents. I am one of 4 children but the only one who lives in Wisconsin. I try to see my parents every day, even if only for a few minutes.

Q.  How nice!  It sounds like you are family oriented.  I can appreciate that.  Do you have kids?

Chris:  For the past 23 years I’ve been married to my fantastic husband and we have one married daughter and two young grandsons. We’re pretty much home bodies but do enjoy riding our Harley. Every summer we take a week’s vacation on it, usually out West.2010-04-23/nap/6912d2

Q.  I have to ask...How does one travel with a week's worth of clothes, etc, for two people on a Harley??

Chris:  Packing on a Harley? If we plan on being gone for 5 days we take 5 of everything except jeans, and then we only take one extra pair. I usually throw in some flip flops and a pair of shorts for when we stop at night. We stay in hotels, don't camp, so that saves room packing. But then we pack our leathers, rain gear, etc. too. You only take the necessities. It's not really necessary to try to look great because after 10 hours of riding you're going to look rough no matter what! (Can you say helmet hair??)

Q.  You told me that you've had a number of not-so-typical jobs in your life.  Can you expand on that?

Chris:  I guess I have held some unusual jobs in my life: worked in a laboratory raising white rats, worked with a helicopter crew in the mountains of California spraying fields, drove tractor for canning companies in the summer. Oh, and I used to work in the office at the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh, WI. Every summer they have a huge air show - "Home of the World's Greatest Aviation Celebration". While working there I got to personally meet President Jimmy Carter and I also got to ride in the Goodyear blimp!  I really enjoyed every one of these jobs – even raising rats isn’t as bad as it sounds!  Now I’m an office manager in a sales office and have been here for almost 23 years.  This job is pretty boring compared to some of my other jobs.

Q.  You met a President of the United States.  That must have been a very special moment!  And the helicopter job sounds interesting. I suspect other people will be curious about that too. What specifically was your role? How do you even find such unusual jobs?

Chris:  The helicopter  job was marking off the fields, mixing chemicals for spraying, loading the helicopter, etc. The pilot was my neighbor and asked if I wanted a part time job. Sounded like fun so I said yes! We flew the helicopter from the airport right to the fields and a truck met us there with the other equipment we'd need. The pilot took his German Shepard along in the helicopter too! It was pretty cool.

Q.  I understand you have a real passion for flowers, and grow a lot of them.  How extensive is your garden?

Chris: My mother a2010-04-25/nap/19d479lways had gardens and her green thumb must have rubbed off on me. When I was young my mother let me have a little area of her garden for my own. I’ve loved gardening as long as I can remember, and it has actually led to2010-04-23/nap/acac43 some of my other hobbies. Our lot is about 100 x 300 ft., and I’m guessing over half of it is gardens. I started out with one small perennial garden and just kept adding more over the years. I don’t have a particular garden style but just add plants as I go. It seems that every year I have a new plant obsession – clematis, peonies, heuchera, sempervivums, coleus, lilies (well, lilies is a never ending obsession!). This year it’s echinaceas. Since I’m working full time I don’t plan on making any new gardens in the near future. I have enough to maintain now! Tw2010-04-23/nap/f0119bo years ago my gardens were in our city garden walk and it was a really fun event. Out of the 6 gardens on tour that year I was the only one who had labeled my plants and people appreciated that. I was surprised at the genuine interest in the various plants. We don’t have much locally in the way of businesses selling plants. I order quite a few on-line so there were a lot of plants that most people hadn’t seen before. I have no idea how many plant company websites I gave out that day, but I’d be rich if I’d have gotten a commission!

Q. Now it's about time I asked you about your hobbies.  You are very talented in creating garden art.  Please tell us more about it.    2010-04-23/nap/82ee6e

Chris:  Sempervivum multiply so fast that I wanted some place to put my “extras”, so I started making hypertufa pots to put them in. (Hypertufa is a man-made imitation of lightweight tufa rock that’s made by mixing dry cement, sand or perlite, peat moss, and water.) Here’s a “how to” article I did on making pots: Hypertufa.  A person only needs so many pots so I started making other hypertufa garden ornaments. I had to try my hand at cement leaves too. Here’s a tutorial I did: Cement Leaf.  While I was playing with cement I thought I’d give a few other things a try and ha2010-04-23/nap/332d01ve lots of one-of-a-kind garden ornaments. Having so many sempervivums, I did some topiary and wreaths last year too. (Sempervivum Wreath)  I eventually ended up with so much stuff I decided to have a Garden Art Sale at my home. I sent out flyers, put ads in the papers, put up posters in stores. I live on a highway so I had a lot of drive-by sales. The sale was more successful than I had hoped and it was a lot of fun.2010-04-25/nap/401b79

Q.  I'm not surprised to hear it was a success.  These photos of your garden art are fabulous!  What does your husband think of your hypertufa/cement hobby?  Does he help?  Is he supportive?

Chris:  My husband always tells me I'm nuts! Usually the only thing he helps me with is lifting heavy objects biggrin But one time I had started to make a concrete leaf and my Dad had a medical emergency and they took him to a hospital out of town. I took my Mom and knew I'd be gone several days. My leaf needed to be finished by removing the actual leaf from the cement leaf, which is a tedious, time consuming job. So I figured I'd just have to throw it out when I got home. My sweet husband surprised me by finishing it for me! When I came home it was happily soaking in water being cured.

Anyway, hypertufa/cement and gardening are my summer hobbies. In the winter I do woodworking, mostly intarsia. I2010-04-23/nap/33280fntarsia is the process of cutting, shaping, fitting and gluing various species of wood onto a wooden background for decorative purposes. (Intarsia Article)

Q.  I'm so impressed by your talent.  The detail on these photos is so artistic. Your creations are perfect, but I heard that your first project didn't go so well.

Chris:  Well, it takes a while to get the hang of intarsia and the first piece I made was a mess – I didn’t cut it out very accurately, didn’t quite understand the shaping and contouring processes, I glued it on the background as I finished each piece. What I ended up with was 2010-04-23/nap/160b3fa bunch of pieces that didn’t fit well together, since I had glued them as I went I wasn’t able to reshape any pieces to fit the overall project better and it was just too difficult a pattern for a first try. So after that I started out with smaller pieces and worked my way up. It takes quite a while to make a project but it’s exciting to see it take shape as you work.2010-04-23/nap/f73014 

I also do fretwork, which is decorative designs that are cut into a flat piece of wood. I went through a birdhouse-making phase too. The basement is filled with my woodworking tools: table saw, planer, oscillating spindle sander, belt/disc sander, drill press, band saw and scrollsaw.

I’ve done several shows with my intarsia and fretwork but these days I’ve been selling most of my work by word of mouth and haven’t built up enough stock to do another show.  The most popular subject matter is birds, followed by snowmen and angels and I have  many designs of each.2010-04-23/nap/7243e7

Q.  How can our readers purchase your work, Chris?

Chris:  I don’t have a website (yet) but if anyone is interested in seeing what I have available for sale or any requests you can always contact me via Cubit’s C-mail .

My most recent endeavor, which I’ve only started, is making a compilation of intarsia dragons. I’ve been a big fan of dragons for a long time. I have a pretty good sized collection of pewter dragons, castles, wizards, etc. I have a dragon and gargoyle garden and also have 6 dragon tattoos. I like the realistic looking ones (like there’s such a thing as a real dragon!), not the cutsie kind.

Q.  Is it true that you are also creative in the kitchen, and that you once had a recipe published in a cooking magazine?

Chris:  I do enjoy cooking. I’ve had several recipes published in Quick Cooking magazine including Garlic Carrots and Dijon Pork Chops. My husband is the “grill-master” at home and does all of the cooking on the grill while I do the inside cooking. Once in a while we work together in the kitchen. We generally enjoy comfort foods, nothing too exotic. Grilled steak, home made bread and corn on the cob or a fresh salad is my favorite summer meal. On weekends I try to make large meals so I have leftovers and don’t have to cook the first few days of each work week.

Q.  Can you share one of those Quick Cooking recipes with us, Chris?

Chris:  Yes, here is the Dijon Pork Chop recipe: (It was from the March/April 2001 issue)

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 boneless pork loin chops
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
pepper to taste

Spread mustard on both sides of pork chops. Place in a greased shallow 2-qt. baking dish. Combine crumbs and pepper; press onto top and sides of chops. Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until meat juices run clear and topping is lightly browned.

Q.  That really does sound good, and easy!  I will be trying the recipe this very week!  ( and I'll bet I'm not the only one trying it! )  Chris, thank you for the time you've spent with us today.  I have enjoyed meeting you, and have learned a lot about garden art.   And now I hope you won't mind taking some questions and comments from our readers.


If you would like to chat with Chris, ask questions, compliment her beautiful designs, please feel free to do so here.........

And thank you for visiting Who's Who Spotlight !

Related articles:
biography, crafts, garden, hypertufa, intarsia, interview, spotlight

About Nancy Polanski
I live in Western New York. I'm retired, after working for 30 years in the Microbiology Labs at our county hospital. My time now is spent mostly with the Karen refugee population in Buffalo, advocating for them, teaching, helping and enjoying them. I've twice traveled to their camps in Thailand and experienced their culture. It seems they have taught me more about life than I have taught them.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
WOW Chris!! putteringpossum May 7, 2010 6:24 AM 3
Varied Interests kaglic May 5, 2010 6:25 AM 2
Hello Chris.. Sharon May 5, 2010 6:10 AM 5
Very Talented Lady Ridesredmule May 4, 2010 6:51 AM 2
Interesting Bubbles May 3, 2010 5:07 PM 5
Facets valleylynn May 3, 2010 2:55 PM 2
Nice to get to know you UniQueTreasures May 3, 2010 2:08 AM 2

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