Blue water appears to flow toward a cloudy horizon between two rocky brown and white canyon walls in one of Linn Enger’s tiny rock mosaics.

A dark tree is backlit by what might be a fiery orange sunset in another.

Enger was among numerous artisans with exhibits Saturday at the 81st Annual Northwest Federation of Mineralogical Societies Gem and Mineral Show and Convention at the Nez Perce County Fair Building in Lewiston.

The event drew hundreds, who browsed at vendors selling jewelry and admired the offerings of Enger and others.

Enger’s works are examples of a type of mosaic-making called intarsia that involves piecing together stones in intricate shapes.

His are considered to be jewelery sized, small enough to easily fit into a human palm, but other varieties of intarsia can be larger.

A member of the Hells Canyon Gem and Mineral Club, Enger has been a rock hound for decades, spending hours seeking, finding and polishing stones.

But it wasn’t until about 15 years ago that he was introduced to intarsia, through a friend, Jerry Blimka, who had a display next to Enger’s.

Blimka learned the craft from a nowdeceased Nez Perce County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy W. A. “Abe” Frye, who is credited with bringing intarsia to the club after a trip to the Southwest.

“It allows you to be creative with a hand full of rocks you might otherwise not do anything with,” Enger said.

He doesn’t sell what he makes, partly because of the large number of hours involved.

“The main ingredients that (go) into it (are) time and patience and lots of both,” he said.

He often starts with an interesting rock, frequently dendritic agate, which is known for having formations that look like ferns or trees.

Other times he pieces together dozens of fragments into multi-colored patterns inspired by quilting squares.

Everything is miniature. The stones he cuts range from less than one tenth of an inch to about 3 inches.

“I kind of invent it as a I go,” he said.

His workshop in his basement is where he may spend as much as a two to three months working intermittently on a single piece, partly because each section has to fit together “absolutely perfect,” Enger said.

Sometimes his knuckles get sore, but mostly he finds the complex work relaxing.

“You can let your imagination run wild,” he said.

Retired after a career in plumbing and working on heating systems, Enger has built much of the equipment he uses for intarsia.

“I love to tinker around,” he said.

Not far from Enger’s intarsia, members of the Puyallup Valley Gem and Mineral Club were showing a 6-foot, 3½-inch tall replica of Seattle’s Space Needle.

The model, made mostly from Washington state materials such as petrified wood, was constructed using the original blueprints of the landmark that debuted in 1962, said Bill Clark, a member of the Puyallup club.

Members of a different group, Puget Sound Gem & Mineral Club, are estimated to have spent more than 3,000 hours on the project.

The Space Needle replica was displayed at a number of shows before club members decided it was too cumbersome to move it around and donated it to the Seattle Museum of History and Industry.

Rather than being displayed, the replica was kept in storage at the museum for a period of time and then restored in 1977.

The effort was led by a Puget Sound club member who dismantled it and organized the pieces on his kitchen table so they could be cleaned and reassembled, Clark said.

The Puyallup club became the owners of the replica in the mid 1990s, when the Puget Sound club disbanded.

Clark and his fellow club members take it on the road as much as possible, carrying it in a custom-made wooden box with Styrofoam braces. At public events, it’s protected by a Plexiglas case to prevent onlookers from touching it.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Clark said. “It’s a real draw.”

The gem and mineral show resumes today. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Nez Perce County Fair Building at 1229 Burrell Ave.

Williams may be contacted at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.

Recommended for you