On my first tour of Windstone Edition’s new Northwest production facility, John Alberti (the mechanical wizard behind Melody Pena’s superb figurines) led me up a flight of carpeted stairs, where a stack of Harry Potter books had come to rest permanently on the third step, to the large room that serves as the design studio for Melody Peña.

Melody was in a side office, sketching a design for the envelope that would announce to dealers across the country that Windstone had relocated to the Northwest. She interrupted her sketching to show me her sculptures, which line two tall bookshelves on either side of the room.

As she showed me her mythical menagerie, I realized that I had seen her work before. It was a full decade before, and yet I remembered it clearly. Windstone creations make that kind of impression.

First contact
My first exposure to Windstone figurines was the result of a neighborly dispute between Corvallis’ oldest ballet studio and the city’s premier New Age gift shop. The Regional School of Ballet and The Northern Star are neighbors on Third Street, separated only by a wall.

When ballet was being taught, there was no issue between the studio on one side and the bead shop on the other. However, when my wife, Kelly, a former professional dancer, fired up a jazz dance class, a seismic issue arose.

You see, jazz dance is done to rock and roll music. The harder the beat, the better. When Kelly stepped in front of the mirrors, the Regional School of Ballet rocked like it had never rocked before. And so did the walls.

The dancers loved it, but on the south side of the wall, they weren’t so pleased. The hammering base beat was rattling the crystals on the shelves. The bead shop asked the studio to turn it down. Being a good neighbor, Kelly complied, and I was dispatched to visit the Northern Star to make sure that all was quiet on the southern front.

Treasures and tchotchkes
The Northern Star is a treasure trove of eccentric and eclectic gifts. It has the best assortment of beads in town – drawer after drawer. Stained glass panels hang in the window. A curvaceous mannequin models an alluring, blue, belly dancing outfit. There are black light posters and counter-culture bumper stickers. There are off beat birthday cards and Native American dream catchers. And there is rack after rack of fanciful figurines — fairies, elves, angels, mermaids and the like. To me they were just tchotchkes, undifferentiated dust catchers, so much clutter in search of a shelf.

Then I came to the locked glass case where the Windstones were displayed. I remember the moment clearly. In a store full of figurines, the Windstones were distinctive. Perhaps it was the lustrous paint that made the Black Dragon appear luminous. Perhaps it was the realism – the naturalness – of their detailing. Or maybe it was just that these pieces were larger and more substantial than their faerie kin. They looked like they would be heavy.

I did not ask to have the case unlocked to verify my impression. I was not there to buy. I was on reconnaissance. I gave the Windstones a long last look and returned to the studio, mission accomplished.

Deep memory
Now, 10 years later, I was once again admiring Windstones. This time they were not behind glass. I was picking them up, feeling their weight, and the artist who conjured them from her imagination was standing beside me, explaining the challenges of each piece. (“You have no idea how hard it is to paint a black dragon.”)

What does it mean when something that leaves such an impression comes again into your life? Is it just a coincidence? Or is it an omen?

Corvallis, Oregon