By Susan Kelleher
The Seattle Times.
Judith Luchino’s paint brush flicks quickly across the sanded wood surface of what will soon become a Christmas ornament bearing the likeness of Santa Claus, one of scores of hand-painted decorations she plans to sell over the holidays.
A few dabs, and Santa’s got cheeks. A few more delicately applied dots, and it’s snowing. Another tiny dab, and Santa’s got a gleam in his eye.
Luchino leans back to clinically appraise her work through square reading glasses. Satisfied, she sets the ornament aside.
When it’s dry, it will travel with her to craft shows across Puget Sound until someone pays $15 to make it his or her own or a gift for someone else.
“It’s an absolute passion of mine,” says Luchino, 73, who took up tole painting in 1975, when she owned a hair salon in Lakewood, Wash. The salon is now her studio, the place where she created four ornaments selected to decorate holiday trees at the White House.
Even after 40 years, Luchino paints daily, usually from 8 a.m. to noon. She paints at home, too, or when traveling with her husband in their RV. Selling her creations earns her enough to attend a national tole-painting convention every year, and to pay for the hundreds of paints that line her cozy studio, a one-woman workshop that has become a shrine to all things Christmas.
“I work all year for the shows in the fall, and that’s my payday,” she says, dipping a thin brush into a tiny pearl of crimson paint. “I’d rather sell it than hang on to it forever.”
Soon, Luchino will be packing up for a holiday fair at the Tacoma Dome, a four-day show that costs about $1,000 for a booth, plus another $10 a day for parking and $75 for Wi-Fi to process automatic credit-card purchases.