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For the week of May 30 through June 5, 2001

Western art with a grin

R.C. Hink’s boot-wearin’, gun-totin’ furniture


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

R.C. Hink, a garrulous 45-year-old with reddish-blond hair and a goatee, strolls around his Ketchum gallery in a bright red Hawaiian shirt sporting flying fish and palm trees. In this gallery, that’s camouflage.

"We splash color around," Hink said of the cluttered showroom he runs with his wife, watercolorist Lynn Toneri. "We have fun. We break the rules."

R.C. Hink with some of his creations. Courtesy photo

Hink’s whimsical, tongue-in-cheek Western furniture is surrounded by multi-colored glass works. Above them on the walls are the yellows and blues and fuchsias of Toneri’s exuberant landscapes. An eight-foot-tall pink flamingo ¾ wearing cowboy boots and hat, and clutching a red rose in its mouth ¾ stands guard outside the door. A similarly sized saguaro cactus with a handlebar mustache practices rope tricks on the other side of the doorway.

"You’ve got to be able to smile or you’re not going to like my work," Hink said. In fact, he added, "If you’re not smiling, I’ll kick you out. I just think there aren’t enough smiles in the world."

Even the ceiling has not escaped attention. Carved trout swim there, giving the viewer an odd sensation of walking through an underwater fantasy land.

"When people come in and say, ‘You know, we just don’t have any more room for more artwork,’ I just point up at the ceiling," Hink said.

Hink’s fascination with Western motif dates from when he played cowboys and Indians while growing up in Montana. By high school, he was building furniture. He picked up more woodworking skills as a carpenter. Then, in 1985, he was prompted by his love of fly fishing to start carving wooden fish.

One night he took off his old cowboy boots and decided they would make good carving subjects, too. Carved wooden boots became his trademark—he estimates he’s carved thousands of them—but his array of subjects has expanded considerably since then. Hink’s pieces currently being shown in the gallery include:

·  A matching burled pine dresser and armoire, with cowboy-boot feet and six-shooter drawer pulls. (You can even spin the barrels.)

·  A carved wooden barstool in the shape of a saddle, with swivel and spring-loaded, bucking-bronco action. ("If you fall off, then you’ve had too many.")

·  A brown-and-white stool with carved wooden cow legs and a real cowhide seat.

·  Cowboy boot and hat Christmas tree ornaments.

The gallery, Hink said, serves mainly to introduce prospective clients to his work; about 80 percent of his pieces are done on commission. He said people who connect with his work walk in and say, "Finally! You’re the artist we’ve been looking for!" He now has clients in 14 countries—enough for business to spread by word of mouth.

In 1998, Hink and Toneri became better known throughout Idaho when Idaho Public Television broadcast a segment on them and their works.

In his furniture and sculptures, Hink uses primarily ponderosa pine, white pine, cedar and lodgepole pine, as well as some hardwoods, including walnut. He said he finds and cuts most of his own wood—sometimes after receiving calls from ranchers he knows who say they’ve got some trees that need to come down.

Starting from scratch by cutting his owns logs is part of a do-it-my-own-way attitude that pervades Hink’s work.

"We have lots of visitors to Sun Valley who are looking for something unique," he said. "A lot of my clients are looking for something that’s different from everything else in their house."

Probably not too many people are going to walk up to the Lynn Toneri-R.C. Hink gallery, see the pink flamingo in cowboy boots at the doorway and say, "Nice, but I’ve already got one of those."

 

 

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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.