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Made with love: Art is family affair

Brooke Herling showed interest in art at a very young age. Both her mom and grandmother are artists. "This is how we have always created work," said her mother, Pam Musser. "Kind of all over the place, making messes and going into it full speed ahead."

Growing up, Pam Musser was a self-proclaimed tomboy. Tramping through the woods, she often would tag along with her mom, Doris Gardas, who would use the natural world as the subject for her paintings.

Musser, now a grown woman and mother, works full time creating one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. But it was those early years, watching her mom work and sometimes taking part in the creative process that instilled in her a deep love and appreciation for art.

"I liked to draw," Musser recalled. "But it was frustrating because I'm not a realist like my mom; she is very gifted in drawing and painting."

"It comes easy to me," Gardas said talking about her history with painting and drawing, "most of the time."

Gardas grew up with a natural knack for art.

"I was four and a half years old when my mother saved one of my drawings," she said. Gardas still has that piece tucked away and to this day enjoys pleasing people with her nature-inspired work.

She added, "It makes me feel good when someone looks at one of my paintings and says 'That looks great.'"

Musser went to school at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls where she studied fibers and painting. After school and a move to southwest Minnesota, she needed to find a way to occupy her time.

"I sort of taught myself how to wire jewelry," she said with a laugh. Taking classes on fusing fine silver, she re-hatched the artist within. "When I found jewelry-making, I found my niche," Musser said.

Currently she works from home - creating, designing and exploring the art of jewelry.

"I enjoy working with fine silver," she explained, "It's so fluid and flexible, I enjoy the process."

Perhaps her mom's eye for natural beauty was passed down to Musser. "I will be outside somewhere and see a color combination or lines and textures," she explained. Using those natural color palettes, she finds inspirations for new pieces.

"I don't see myself doing anything else," she said. "I have a peace about what I am doing."

With a love for art running through the family blood, Musser has passed on her creativity given from her mother to her own daughter, Brooke Herling, who -- when she feels "calm and at peace" -- makes art using pastels.

"I attribute all my art skills to my grandma," Herling said. She recalls being at her grandma's house as a young girl surrounded by the outdoors and art. From Gardas' art magazines to her teachings to gifts, "everything was art-related."

"I would constantly want to play in her oils and acrylics," Herling said. "She showed me how to put colors together."

Following in her family's footsteps, everything she creates is nature-based.

"The art really draws us closer together," Gardas said while reflecting on her family full of artists. "It is something positive and brings joy to our lives - I'm just so proud of all of them."

"It's my outlet," Herling added.

You can find all three artists at one place during Red Wing's spring Studio Ramble next weekend from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday April 27 and Sunday April 28. Musser opens up her studio for the tour's site, 27096 Sevastopol Road.

Her guest artists are her mom and daughter.

"I think it is an honor for us to do this together," Musser said. "It is who we are."

"The three generations of love and art," Gardas added. "That's what I call it."

This is first year the three join together and share a site on the Studio Ramble tour.

"This has been grandma's dream," Herling said.

Find more information about the Studio Ramble at

Musser's work is also available on - a website hosting thousands of artisans' work. Find her at

Stacy Bengs-Silverberg

Stacy Bengs has been a photojournalist at the Red Wing Republican Eagle since 2010. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota.

(651) 301-7880