Wonderful artist and really nice person Els VandenEnde died last night.

I met her exactly eight times in my entire life and each time she greeted me like a long-lost friend. We corresponded more online than in person, and always meant to get together but somehow never really did.

There’s a term I use for work that’s physically as well as visually rich, one I stole from fiber artists: “Good to the hand.” Els’ work was always good to the hand–it visually filled the eye with intriguing colors and patterns, made you want to touch…and when you did, it satisfied there, too.

Els the person was just as satisfying. She had a peppery wit that always found the right thing to say, and never backed down just because her view might be anathema to the uninformed. Many artists (including me) are opinionated as hell…but Els also had the facts, which made her opinions worth listening to. Best of all, she had the generosity and sunny kindness that made you want to listen.

Last summer, Els participated in what’s gonna be called the New Summer of Love any day now, a fabulous Pilchuck-based exercise led by artists Steve Klein and Richard Parrish.

Els used it to take her work in a new(ish) direction, and the results went on display at the Northwest Museum of Art last month. She used hundreds and hundreds of precisely placed pieces of glass rod, fused and slumped into simple shapes that were, again, good to the hand. They are incredibly different and incredibly Els, and their bright 1960s colors make you smile.

I’m going up there next month with friends to see the exhibit; I expect that there will be smiles through the tears. Rest easy, Els.