Olive M. Colhour

   Olive Colhour was born on April 2, 1898 in New Zealand. Her mother, Ada Violet Lye was born and raised in a stone castle, 12 miles outside of London, England. She moved to New Zealand where she married Olive's father, a champion weightlifter. After a divorce, she moved the family to Vancouver, B.C. where Olive trained to be a pianist and singer.
   Olive had two grown sons from a previous marriage when, in 1937, she met Ralph Colhour, a machinist and builder. They soon moved to Keyport, Washington, where they built two houses.
   During World War II, she worked in the machine shop at the torpedo station in Keyport. While making and checking torpedo parts, she learned precision, a required skill for studying blueprints and for working the machines to cut master gears for torpedoes. Careful thought and planning became ingrained: the ingredients of her later success in artistic achievements required absolute order and complete organization.
   After the war she resumed being an average housewife. But by chance, while visiting her daughter-in-law in Burbank, California, she was advised by neighbors, the McPheeters, well known lapidaries, to attend a display at Expo Park in Los Angeles. This was a first step in showing forth nature's beauty through the flash and color of nature's own minerals. Using her uninhibited imagination, she began a pilgrimage of trial and error, which was to become the cornerstone in her search for new approaches to the fine art form of lapidary.
   In 1955 she began to sculpt fire agate, an art form largely ignored by Americans. In 1959 she created her first Florentine mosaic (intarsia), African Belle.

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   Her natural feel for color, design, rhythm, harmony, line, and emphasis, plus determination and drive, has won for her every American Federation of Mineralogical Societies award in all nine categories entered within four years of her initiation into the lapidary world.
   Her fortuitous marriage enabled her to become a 'field tripper', hunting, digging, and maneuvering for every needed element. Ralph, always supportive, helped build "homemade" machinery and tools for her, as well as packing cases and display cases for the many shows she entered all over the country.

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   Being a perfectionist, Olive often spent long hours finding the right materials for the subtle tints and blends of hues which are required for the intricate shading of Florentine mosaics (commessi). Without counting the search for materials, some of Olive's pieces took her almost 2,000 hours to complete.

   Part of the success of Olive's work has been her philosophy…her personal approach to art. Olive has always felt that art should express the good emotions, peace, joy and kindness, love of beauty, faith, and harmony. She felt that her final product should be decorative and esthetic, and that it should show something of the spirit and mood with which she created it.

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   Olive produced an enormous volume of work, some of her sculpture is among the finest ever made in any medium, and her commessi are second to none. She completed her last picture, Mother Teresa at the age of 92. She feels her work "en masse" is for the masses to enjoy, even future generations; and she would like to live long enough to see lapidary art on a par with painting and sculpture. Hers certainly is. The complexities of art have been united with the simple elements of nature.
   For many years Olive wondered what would become of her life's work. She wanted it kept together above all. Now a new museum at Oregon State University will accomplish this for her…and for us. Sadly, Olive passed away on November 25, 2000.

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