What makes a person eagerly go to work every day for forty-one years? My answer: passion.

Even as a child, I loved art. In contemporary parlance, art was my happy place, but hardly considered a viable career. Declaring art as my college major promised as much security as stepping onto a tightrope. I landed an amazing job in the corporate world just after graduation. I went to my downtown office every day—a very spacious corner office with two walls of glass on the twenty-second floor, I might add! It offered stability, but I could feel my heart die a bit each day. Saying goodbye to that job I described as “perfect”—for someone else—was scary, but I never regretted it. I learned a lot in that job, for which I am very grateful, and used those skills to form and grow my own art business: Stone Hollow Studio, LLC, launched in 1979.

The artist spent last November in the Umbria region of Italy just before COVID-19 emerged. It was peak season for wine and olives in the region, which inspired her scrimshaw on this twenty-four-inch diameter tabletop. Scrimshaw is engravings and carvings done on bone or ivory.

An artist should never become stagnant. Each work created is fresh, unique, better than the previous work. As laws changed over the years regarding materials that can be used for artwork, I adapted my scrimshaw techniques to work on polished cow bone. I expanded the subjects I etch beyond traditional nautical themes (scrimshaw is a historical, sailors’ art). And I’m pretty sure that my scrimshaw is better now than when I started so many years ago.

My personal mantra—imagine, believe, inspire—painted on my studio walls, sustains me. Imagine what you can do, believe you can, inspire others.

Multiple avenues into the arts keeps me fresh, too. I teach some classes at St. Louis Community College (studio painting, business skills for artists, etc.). I am the arts editor for The Healthy Planet, a St. Louis magazine, and have written a monthly column for over fifteen years. The responsibility to give back compels me to serve on several grant-review panels and to mentor emerging artists. With many in-person art shows cancelled during this time, I am grateful for the shops across the country that carry my scrimshaw and continue to place orders for more.

Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky

Working toward the next show was the norm in my studio, but COVID-19 actually provided me extra time to explore ideas that have rattled around in my head for a while. I’m using this expanded time to scrim larger pieces—much larger pieces such as mirror frames, a tabletop, large boxes. I create these pieces without concern for their marketability, simply because the process of bringing these works to fruition brings me joy. I think that joy may translate to something my customers will want to own.

Oil painting gives me a colorful break from detailed scrimshaw. My travels supply inspiration for those paintings. Although actual travel is currently restricted, paint brushes take me far away for a refreshing break. My most recent works on canvas have garnered attention in regional, national, and some international exhibitions.

After forty-one years, I’m still passionate.

Visit StoneHollowStudio.com to browse an online catalog.