Palettes and paintbrushes aren't to be found in Laurie Keeley's studio.

Instead, there is a line of well-used rakes, shovels and pitchforks hanging along one wall of the large warehouse-like space Keeley currently occupies.

A table-top drill press stands at the ready on a work surface, not far from where an old-fashioned tool carry-all bristles with the handles of screwdrivers, pliers and other hand tools. Large chains —— of various sizes and in various stages of oxidation —— are piled in one corner.

A circular saw sits on the concrete floor. One can find brooms and bolt-cutters, leaf blowers and Bowie knives. Outside is everything from animal figurines to cast-off pieces of small planes.

What isn't here —— and its absence is something Keeley has been fretting over for some time —— is about $15,000 worth of artificial turf.

It's a special material, which Keeley uses for many of the functional and artistic pieces she creates for her business Furn.

"It's UV stable, so it doesn't fade," she said. "It's very soft to the touch, but it's also extremely tough. And I have no idea where my latest shipment is. My supplier is in Norway, and they have no idea where it is.

"That's one reason why I said to a friend of mine the other day that I'm feeling like scrambled eggs," Keeley said, laughing. "It's all part of the fun of being one person running a small business."

Keeley's Furn studio is one of the stops on the 2014 Tulsa Art Studio Tour, which will give participants the chance to visit the workplaces of 13 Tulsa artists, from the emerging to the established.

The event is sponsored by the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition.

Keeley started out as a garden designer with a business she called Yardistry.

"My goal is always to bring out the soul in a space," she said.

Not surprisingly, she describes the creation of Furn as "growing out" of her garden design and maintenance work.

"About five years ago, I had this big garden design job, where the client basically told me to create everything," Keeley said. "So I started reclaiming and reinventing all sorts of things for this space, and realized when it was finished that I come up with some things that I thought were pretty cool. And —— even better —— might sell."

Keeley put some pieces into a charity auction and was surprised at the high price they fetched. She did some more test marketing of her concepts, "and everything's been pretty much a blur after that."

She moved into her current work space, west of the BOK Center, about eight months ago.

"Before, I was living in the Owen Park neighborhood and was surrounded by nature and trees and birds and butterflies," she said. "Now, I'm surrounded by trains. I had to put in a glass garage door just to have some windows in the place."

This is Keeley's first year to be part of the Tulsa Art Studio Tour —— in any fashion.

"I've never been able to take the tour in the past because this is the busiest time of year for me," she said. "I get most of my sales between April and June, so I've always been busy when this tour has been offered."

Keeley plans to have a variety of work on display for visitors taking the tour, such as her "Faux Grow Topiary" pieces, couches, steel-coil stools and sculptural pieces covered with turf that looks and feels like lush grass.

"And we're going to have something I know no other place on the tour will have," Keeley said. "A friend of mine, Lyndsi Baggett, runs The Wurst food truck, and she's going to set up here, so people can get a little lunch before they head out for the next stop on the tour."

She will also have on display plants such as cacti and other succulents that she sells and incorporates into her garden design work.

"That's sort of the irony of this place —— the real and the fake side by side," Keeley said, laughing.

The other thing Keeley hopes people take away from a visit to Furn is the realization that it takes a great deal of work to make this kind of art.

"No one understands what goes into making industrial art like this," Keeley said. "You can't expect to find everything you need down at the Home Depot. The amount of steel and lumber I go through, and all the heavy stuff I have to move around —— I'm getting tired thinking about it.

"But this is what I've always wanted to do because it's what I need to do," she said. "I just have to create things, whether it's a sculpture or it's working in the garden. I've got to get out and get my hands dirty and make something. If I couldn't do that, I'd probably rack up some serious psychiatrist bills."


See the work of a diverse range of artist

The 2014 Tulsa Art Studio Tour is a self-guided tour through the work spaces of several Tulsa artists.

The participating artists this year include graduate students in the University of Tulsa's master of fine arts program and some of the city's most established and successful working artists, creating art in a variety of media.

In addition to designer and sculptor Laurie Keeley, the artists are:

Rachel Ann Dennis. Dennis is a print, book and paper artist who runs OK Lovely, a printmaking studio that allows her to explore and preserve the history of these art forms, as well as putting them to contemporary use.

Samantha Extance. Extance owns Bohemian Romance Steampunk Jewelry and Accessories, creating new pieces from found objects.

Patrick Gordon. Gordon, a Claremore native, has long been one of Tulsa's most popular artists. He first earned fame for his meticulous, often whimsical still-life watercolors and now works in oils as it allows him to paint on a large scale. Gordon's work is on permanent display in the Tulsa PAC and in the Lorton Performance Center at TU.

Jose Antonio Pantoja Hernandez. Hernandez developed his surrealist style of painting while living in his native Cuba, as a way to express his dissatisfaction with Cuban politics and society.

Derek Penix. Penix is a self-taught artist whose work has been inspired by such influential Southwestern artists as Nicolai Fechin. Penix's paintings are represented by galleries in California, Colorado, Michigan and New Mexico.

Jim Polan. The son of an acclaimed artist, Polan grew up in his father's studio and quickly developed an affinity and talent for art. He refers to his work as "edited abstraction," as many of his paintings begin with a series of shapes or images to which Polan later adds negative spaces.

Chuck Tomlins. Tomlins is a longtime professor of art at TU, and his own work embraces a variety of media —— drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, video and performance.

University of Tulsa MFA Students. Five TU art students will have their work on display. They are:

Kyle Blair —— illustration and printmaking

John Bryant —— printmaking

Megan Curtis —— painting and drawing

Taryn Singleton — painting

Libby Williams —— painting


THE 2014 TULSA ART STUDIO TOUR

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday- Sunday

Where: Various venues

Tickets: $5 in advance, available at The Gadget Company, 104 E. 15th St.; Lovett’s Gallery, 6528 E. 51st St.; Nielsens Gifts, 8138-A S. Lewis Ave.; Ida Red, 3336 S. Peoria Ave.; Made: The Indie Emporium Shop, 501 S. Boston Ave. and 1317 E. Sixth St.; or online at tulsaartstudiotour.org. Day-of-tour tickets are $10.


James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478