Mid-valley residents might be more familiar with Karla Chambers as the co-owner of Stahlbush Island Farms than as the artist who created the work featured on this year's poster for the Corvallis Fall Festival.
But chances are good that they've seen Chambers' work before, every time they pick up a package of Stahlbush frozen food: Her artwork has graced the packages for years.
And Chambers herself doesn't see any distinction between her artwork and her work with the long-running Corvallis business: In fact, the lines between them have long since blurred.
"I now paint at the food shows I go to," she said in a recent interview. "It brings a whole new dimension to our food booth."
And those shows attract kindred spirits, she said. "The food world is a creative crowd. ... Our business and this art travel so well together."
Chambers is an untrained artist who started painting not quite a decade ago, and she can recall the weekend that triggered her artistic pursuit: She and her husband, Bill, were spending an autumn weekend at a fly-fishing resort in Montana. On a particularly chilly day, Bill went fishing while Karla spent the day inside the lodge with a friend and three professional artists. Inspired, Chambers bought art supplies on her return to Oregon and started working.
She prefers working in acrylic paint, for its strong textures, and loves vibrant colors — colors, she said, that are inspired by the mid-valley's agricultural bounty. "I always understood the power of color, being around food and presenting color," she said.
That color and texture attracted the eye of Christine Hackenbruck, the executive director of the Fall Festival, when the call went out for artists to produce this year's poster. Chambers applied, and the committee members charged with picking the artist to be featured on this year's poster selected her. A trip followed to the Stahlbush farm, where Hackenbruck helped select the specific piece to be featured.
For her part, Chambers said she's thrilled to be featured on this year's festival poster.
Since starting her artistic career, Chambers has shown her work in a number of fine art galleries in locations such as San Francisco and New York.
But it took a nudge from Debbie Cozzetto, a Stahlbush vice president, to convince Chambers to bridge the gap between the farm business and the art world. "I was keeping my art completely separate from the business," she said, until Cozzetto told her that her paintings needed to grace Stahlbush's packages.
Nowadays, Chambers said, she understands that the distinction she was drawing between the two worlds was artificial to begin with: "Looking back, I can't think of two worlds that travel better together."