A passion for art runs in Amber Dallmann’s family. Her mother is a jeweler, her grandmother paints amazing landscapes, and her great-grandmother was a ceramic sculptor. Her grandfather was also a woodworker and a photographer. Her lifelong love of art is now shared with the students at Aberdeen Central High School, where Amber now works as an art teacher.
“Making art is in my genes,” Amber said. “I learned the magic of art early. I was always doing some sort of art or craft since I was old enough to hold onto something long enough to make a mark. It was natural for me to start and continue being a creator.”
Originally from Richmond, an area near San Francisco, California, Amber moved to Aberdeen at 25 years old and chose to study at Northern State University. Growing up in a crowded, urban environment influenced the themes that she explores in her art.
“What inspires me most is nature, history, and mythology from all over the world,” Amber said. “My family would go camping yearly in a place surrounded by thousand-year-old sequoias and redwood trees, with moss and ferns complete with ethereal fog which rolled in like smoke over the forest.”
Amber read countless books on mythology growing up, and she would often draw the creatures that she imagined were hiding out in the wild during her family’s trips into nature. Her hometown is a cultural melting pot, so her friends’ parents and grandparents would share their culture’s version of the mythical creatures and legends.
“The tranquility nature provides, along with the mysteries it hides, are a great inspiration for me. People are the same – you can look at a person’s face or posture, and learn so much about them if they’re unguarded. Taking the ‘mask’ off and showing the true feeling and expression is why portraits are fun.”
Amber explores these themes and ideas with three main mediums. Many of her works are paintings, created with watercolor, acrylic, and oil paints. She also loves mixed media assemblage, combining different mediums into one creation. Currently, her happy place is sculpting with clay.
“I don’t have just one medium I love. Things come in waves – I do six months with one, then take a break and go to another, and then I circle back again.”
She is most proud of her mixed media sculpture Dragon Elf, made from ceramic clay, wood, and fake flowers. It was a labor of love, and though it’s not perfect, she was able to take a lump of clay and made a thought of hers into a physical, 3D form.
When she moved to Aberdeen to pursue her career change, Amber knew it was important for her to invest in herself, and getting educated was the best way to do so.
“My high school was a rough one, but it was one of the only stable things in my world when I was an adolescent,” Amber said. “There was a lack of funding and budget cuts, but I loved to learn how the world was outside of my community. Teachers showed me that life could be different, and all I had to do was believe I could be more than just a statistic.”
Now that she is a teacher herself, Amber shares the gift that was given to her by her family and those special influential teachers she had. Now it’s her turn to inspire the future generations to see the beauty in the world when it’s hard to see. Teaching art also helps build confidence in her students.
“Not everyone is a genius with math, science, or English,” Amber said. “I love working at Central and watching the students grow and mature. Seeing the spark of creativity within themselves that allows them to create something out of nothing is extremely rewarding.”
Learning different forms of art and symbolism gave Amber a healthy outlet and coping mechanism when life got hard. Art was a form of escapism, something to feel good about when she struggled with traditional academics.
“When I’m mad? Go beat up clay. Sad? Paint or draw something that makes me happy. I took these feelings and turned them into something constructive that other people related to. The dedicated teachers who helped prevent me from becoming a statistic of inner city schools were there for me when other adults were not when I needed advice.”
Right now, her favorite part of teaching is seeing a student who thinks they aren’t creative or bad at art creating something amazing that they are proud of. Sometimes, students discover they love a medium and then start to do it in their free time.
“Those ‘aha!’ moments when they’ve solved an artistic problem are amazing. I love when kids come back a year later and say ‘Hey Dallmann! Can I show you what I made over the summer?’ It’s the best.”
Amber usually has a work in progress piece in her classroom for demonstrations. She uses these projects to show students what she uses and how to make those works of art. Outside of the classroom, Amber shows her art in the Aberdeen area a few times a year.
“I kept my maiden name, Amber Couch, as part of my artist name to help with repeat customers collecting my work,” she said.
After taking some time off to spend time with her children, she sold at Arts in the Park and will be a vendor at the Celtic Fair this September. She also occasionally participates in shows at the ARCC – so keep a look out. //