For years, Tuttie Peetz’s driftwood sculptures have traveled the globe.
But the 74-year-old Sequim artist, instructor and sculptor said recently this is likely the first time her work was presented to a spiritual leader on the level of the Dalai Lama.
In December, Washington Lt. Gov.Cyrus Habib presented the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyastso, one of Peetz’s sculptures during a trip to India as a representation of the state’s offerings.
“I was just blown away,” Peetz said.
“I can still barely talk about it. I’m still kind of floating. I’m incredibly honored and thrilled to have this opportunity.”
Prior to Thanksgiving, Kristina Brown, director of program development for Habib’s office, reached out to Peetz asking if she’d consider donating a piece of her art.
In an email to Peetz, Brown said Habib traveled to India to promote the Washington-India trade relationship and while there he had an audience with the Dalai Lama, who visited Seattle in 2008.
“He’s very environmentally sensitive, and they thought something like a driftwood sculpture was really representative of the state,” Peetz said.
“They thought it would be a fun thing and he’d appreciate it.”
Brown drove to Peetz’s Sequim home and chose the driftwood piece “Continual Motion” that Peetz made for the Labor Day weekend event ArtFusion.
Peetz found the western red cedar wood in a clear cut south of Forks, she said, and that it’s the first driftwood piece she’s placed an inlay metal strip (crushed copper).
Originally, “Continual Motion” was much longer when Peetz found it, but she cut it in half, reshaped it and put it back together with a metal base her husband Richard made.
“It just doesn’t stop moving,” she said of the piece.
The Dalai Lama greatly appreciated the piece from Habib, Brown told Peetz.
“(Habib) explained the significance of the found driftwood, and in particular, its importance to Washington state,” Brown said.
He blessed a necklace for Peetz, too.
In addition to the honor, Peetz said she found a new perspective after Habib, who is blind, presented her piece.
“(Driftwood) is very tactile,” she said. “I haven’t thought about someone without sight and how they would experience driftwood before.”
At shows for the Olympic Driftwood Sculptors where Peetz serves as a club instructor, there are signs on the wall that ask visitors not to touch.
“Now, I’m going to think about it more and maybe do something to pursue (allowing touching in some capacity),” she said.
“When I’m working, there’s a point I don’t look at it. I feel for the way I want it.”
Peetz retired in 1993 as credit manager for the animal health division of the SmithKline Beechum pharmaceutical company, now called GlaxoSmithKline.
She and fellow ODS members have been innovators with driftwood since founding the club in 2008.
Peetz learned of the art form 20 years ago in Seattle, fell in love with it and took a class in Sequim.
About six years later, she was asked to become an instructor of the LuRon Method that uses only natural products. She taught that form until 2008, when ODS members branched off to use other methods and encourage creativity.
As for “Continual Motion” going to the Dalai Lama, Peetz said it has a deeper significance.
“If it had gone to some famous celebrity it wouldn’t mean as much to me,” she said.
“This means a lot to me. What he represents is important to me especially what we do with the (Dungeness River Audubon Center),” an organization Peetz volunteers for and intends to serve again as a board member soon.
Over the years, Peetz has corresponded via email with sculptors as far away as China and Texas and she even hosted a sculptor from Nova Scotia for classes.
“The word is out and it’s spreading,” she said about driftwood.
ODS classes continue to host waiting lists, Peetz said.
The club meets 10 a.m.-1 p.m. the first Wednesday of each month at the Sequim Prairie Grange, 290 Macleay Road. Its annual spring show in March will be held at the River Center, too.
Brown told Peetz that they plan to invite the Dalai Lama to Washington state again and are supporting an environment-focused event remotely with him in the spring.
For more information about the Lieutenant Governor’s office, visit www.ltgov.wa.gov.