By Kristin Finney
Greene Publishing, Inc.
While the terms “flittens” and “minis” might be unknown to many, in the Von Stetina household they are everyday words. Laura and Bruce Von Stetina are perhaps two of Madison’s most talented artists. Laura Von Stetina, an employee at Greene Publishing, Inc., is perhaps best known for her book of drawings entitled Mewingham Manor, available on Amazon.com. However, the couple’s talents extend far beyond pencil and paper. The Von Stetinas are sculptors, painters, glass etchers and glass painters.
Their website offers a brief biography on the couple, it says of Bruce, “Bruce Von Stetinas love of square-rigged sailing ships has led to a career as a maritime artist specializing in well-researched historical paintings. He is a signature member of the American Society of Marine Artists and the International Society of Marine Painters, as well as a member of the Coast Guard Artist Program. Bruce’s love of sailing ships extends to the creation of museum-quality scale models. He also makes scratch built scale models for HO train layouts. Bruce is also an accomplished sculptor and mold-maker.”
The website offers this on Laura: “Laura Von Stetina is an artist and author whose work has won worldwide recognition. She is a signature member of the Miniature Artists of America and the Hilliard Society of Wells, England. Her pencil drawings, watercolors and oil paintings have won numerous awards in shows of fine art. Laura is the creator of the tiny winged kittens called flittens, produced by The Greenwich Workshop and author of the related book, Mewingham Manor, Observations on a Curious New Species. She has also worked with Bruce in the design and creation of original stained glass.”
The tale of the origins of Mewingham Manor states, “In 1875, Edwina Von Stetina, an amateur naturalist, inherits a secluded country estate from her seafaring uncle, Captain Bartholomew Katt. Soon after arriving at Mewingham Manor, she discovers some curious new animals; they appear to be tiny butterfly-winged kittens and miniature winged mice! After finding her Uncle’s journals, Edwina learns that the winged kittens are called flittens, and the tiny mice are known as minis. Captain Katt’s study of these fascinating creatures was his lifetime work, and she reads about how he collected many species of flittens on his voyages around the world and brought them back to Mewingham Manor. Captain Katt did not intentionally collect minis, but the mischievous little “mice” were not about to left behind! The existence of flittens and minis was kept secret, first by the Captain, then by Edwina and the faithful staff at the manor. Only now is the story being told. Mewingham Manor is Edwina’s sketchbook journal that chronicles her first months at the manor and the discovery of the Flittens and Minis. The 72-page book contains more than 30 paintings and 100 sketches, and has recently been published in German and French translations.”
Mewingham Manor T-shirts are available for purchase through several online websites. However, do not think that Laura’s skills stop with fantasy artwork. Laura is also an accomplished wildlife artist, with some of her paintings selling for nearly $3,000. She is best known for her drawings of wild fowl, like geese and other birds. Laura also enjoys drawing mice, squirrels and butterflies. She is also known for her oil paintings of Evel Knievel. Their websites states that the Von Stetinas “were the artists of choice of Evel Knievel.”
Bruce’s artistic abilities are perhaps most lovingly seen in his maritime paintings. He has multiple oil paintings of olden ships available for purchase. The website explains, “Bruce Von Stetina is known for his historically accurate maritime oil paintings from the clipper ship era, as well as naval battle scenes. His portfolio includes paintings of various clippers, a 4’ X 6’ scene of the Battle of 1666 from the Second Anglo-Dutch War and a 4’ X 6’ oil depicting the battle between the USS Constitution and HMS Java.”
Bruce is also an accomplished sculptor, scale modeler and glass etcher and painter. He makes not only scale models of churches, he also has made an ash conveyor, ash pit, branchline bucket coaling station, coaling tower and several scale model ships. He has sculpted everything from flittens to whalers, even a cat playing the drum, known as “Cool Cat.” His sculptures sell for anywhere from $175-$1,495.
The Von Stetinas used to work together to make beautiful glass artwork as well. They did etching, sandblasting, staining, beveling and hand painted glass. They previously made creations depicting boats, homes, unicorns, sailors, mermaids and religious figures as well. Laura told this reporter, “We don’t do glass work anymore because you have to inhale lead and fumes and it isn’t safe.”
What brings two artists of this caliber to Madison one might ask? Laura told this reporter, “My husband built custom motorcycles and we were taking photos of him riding one for a magazine, and he got into an accident. It destroyed the bike and nearly killed him. It was then that we decided we wanted to get more out of life, not focus so much on success, but more on our lifestyle and we decided to move to the country. My brother and sister-in-law had a home in Madison and called us one day saying, ‘We found your home’ so we moved up here.” Prior to living in Madison, the Von Stetinas lived in Pinellas County.
Laura stated, “Madison reminds me of where I grew up [Chesterland, Ohio]. It has that great small-town feel. We love being outdoors and I enjoy being able to garden.”
The Von Stetinas origins in artwork are humble. Laura’s mother was an artist, “I have done this all my life.” Bruce simply enjoyed painting motorcycles and one day he had a friend ask him to paint a certain style motorcycle and Bruce enjoyed painting it, so it just stuck.
To see more examples of the Von Stetinas artwork visit their website, www.vonstetinaartworks.com.