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Style Magazine

Virginia Dains

Apr 30, 2010 05:00PM ● By Style

Photo by Dante Fontana

Botanist and ceramic multi-media artist, Virginia Dains is passionate about a lot of things.

Goats, Border Collies, art, science, open spaces and recycling really get her excited. “I call myself a guerilla public artist,” Dains says. “I see a blank wall and I want to put art on it.” She loves projects that involve engineering, construction and using all types of materials.

A self-proclaimed “pack rat,” Dains finds items from nature, her home and everywhere she travels, and turns them into art. She can truly be inspired by anything to create a unique piece of art. “There is so much good stuff that people throw away,” Dains says. Her studio grounds, as well as the building, are piled high with all types of interesting items, including several vintage restroom sinks. “I have something in mind for them.” She admits.

Artist Dains is a regular on Auburn’s Annual Autumn Art Studios Tour each year. Among the stacks of future work, she has many finished pieces scattered around to appreciate. One is a lovely meandering walkway crafted in handmade tiles depicting red tailed hawks, magpies, oak leaves and other beautiful images.

In 2007, Dains saw a wall at the Placer Nature Center near Bowman and offered to craft an art piece to celebrate the Center’s 15th anniversary. She created a huge 9 x 15-foot wall sculpture of an indigenes Valley Oak surrounded with local wildlife and donor names. The “Giving Tree” now stands on the formerly barren space and is an inspiration for all future donors and docents. Dains also created 250 “donor leaves” individually shaped and glazed to be used for future dollar and docent hour donations. Center Co-Founder and Executive Director Leslie Warren contacted Dains to lead nature tours of the property. “You never know what gifts people will bring into your life,” says Warren.

One of Dains’ most current projects is the “Firehouse Dog Totem” that was recently installed near the firehouse in Historic Old Roseville. This eight-foot-tall brightly colored sculpture is a testament to Dalmatians and their heroic masters.

Dains does not offer her work for sale in shops; she works on commission for the community, friends and others. “I do things for myself,” Dains explains, “if other people find value in them, I am happy.” She is also a very positive person. As a potter and a mosaic artist she uses her huge gas-fired kiln frequently. As all potters know, opening a kiln is a wondrous experience. You rarely know what to expect of the pots or the glazes. If some don’t survive the process, it’s not a problem for Dains. “If a pot breaks in the kiln, I save the pieces for my next tile project,” she says. That it is the ultimate in recycling and reusing.

For more information on Virginia Dains’ work, visit