Working the PM nursing shift at an Ames, Iowa hospital and caring for four children during the day might be enormously fulfilling for most women, but Shirlee Aho Daulton felt an itch. When a neighbor suggested an evening painting class, she jumped at the opportunity to get out of the house for a few hours. Shirlee had never really given “art” a second thought, especially herself as creator. Dabbling in drawing and pottery eased her evolving sense of creativity.Outside

Little house Big surprises

Published 3:56pm Monday, August 12, 2013

Shirlee believes in serendipity. In 1986 she and spouse Mert moved to MN lakes country for the summer and Shirlee retired from a forty year nursing career. “What will I do now?” was the question that haunted the budding artist until she built a 10 x 10 foot studio. What could be misconstrued for a fish house waiting for winter on the shores of Rush Lake is actually Shirlee’s Arthouse. But fish do take center stage in this mini-museum.

According to Shirlee, “One should paint where you are. When I was in Iowa, I was all about barns. Here in MN, I want to create fish and cattails.” She also creates all her own paper for prints/wood cuts/stencils/stationery – all from plants readily available where she is such as wild rice, corn husks, grasses, zucchini and onion.

One unique method for Shirlee is to create wood prints on homemade paper with fish she caught herself off the shore right behind the studio. The hand crafted papers are gorgeous textures and the colors she can produce using the real fish scales are amazing. It’s her description of the process that makes a visit to the Arthouse so delightful.

The process is the secret to Shirlee’s fulfillment as an artist: the Arthouse is her outlet. All winter long she creates and during the summer months, she enjoys sharing her treasures. What makes the little house so unique is Shirlee’s insatiable appetite to learn more, experiment more, create more. Over most of the past twenty five years, the colder months have found the artist exploring new media in warmer environs. She attends conferences, workshops and galleries, then experiments and produces. The Arthouse is an eclectic mini museum of pottery, print making, jewelry design, textiles, origami, metalwork and specialty arts. The charming, tiny, two story gallery has been expanded to accommodate all the whims of its caretaker.

Shirlee and her potter daughter, Sandra Shaughnessy , a pottery Instructor at the Edina Arts Center, put on pottery workshops every summer at the Arthouse. Yet another endeavor promoting the love of the process and a fun way to encourage emerging potters in the art of Raku or horse hair fired pottery.

Could it be the nursing background from Shirlee’s first career that set the stage for such inner emotions as empathy, caring and curiosity to come bursting through her creations? That energy is what envelopes the little Arthouse. Shirlee’s enthusiasm is not reserved just for her own creations but for her customers even more. She doesn’t concern herself as much with a sale as with a good visit.

Her delightful enthusiasm is as contagious as the poison ivy along the lake’s country roads – minus the itching and scratching. Oh, one might develop an itch to purchase, but no scratching required.


article & photos by Maggie Vertin


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