Niece Lundgren finds home in Saluda

Published 10:00 pm Friday, June 20, 2014


Since growing up near Chicago, and attending the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, Niece Lundgren has lived in Louisiana, Greenville, Helena (Montana), Hendersonville, Missouri, Tryon, Brevard and Saluda. Wherever she’s been, art has been a major part of her life.
Lundgren, who lived in Tryon for five years, has lived in Saluda for four. Since 2012, she’s owned and operated Honking Tonkers, a combination coffee house/art gallery, at 78 East Main St, Saluda.
“I like it here a lot,” Lundgren said of Saluda. Visitors will find “more upscale” products there, including organic coffee made with filtered water; IZZE sodas (rather, sparkling juices, with no added sugars); smoothies, Van’s Chocolates; gluten-free baked goods; juices; and plenty of locally and regionally-crafted art, including David Paris pottery, paintings, photographs, and works by Lundgren.
Honking Tonkers also offers healing salves and locally made goats’ milk soaps. Area artists and other makers are represented in the gallery as much as possible. Why the emphasis on higher-end products?
“I used to work in health food stores,” she mentioned, explaining her gluten-free and other offerings. Lundgren, who admires bicyclists because of the challenge of climbing many of the region’s hills, and who enjoys hiking and walking; hopes to attract more cyclists to her shop. There, they can fill their bottles with filtered water at no charge, and also find Do More (brown-rice-based) food bars made in Pisgah Forest.
She enjoys hiking (and plans to do more of it), creating art, and meeting visitors at Honking Tonkers, but she also finds time to relax. One of her simple pleasures is hanging laundry outside, where it takes on a quality of freshness unknown to those who dry everything by machine.
“To have life that slow that you could take the time to hang out the clothes, that’s a treat,” she said. “I like that.” Another simple pleasure, almost dreamlike is to glide into the tree house on her property by way of an adjacent swing.
“It’s fun to sit up in the tree house and think.” She’s also passed on that skill of swinging into the tree house, to two of her grandchildren. “My grandchildren are getting just old enough to go up there,” she observed. Travel, for many has become a chore, rather than a pleasure, but on recent road trips to Montana, Lundgren has left the cell phone behind and let herself take in the wonders along the way. “There was something extraordinarily beautiful to see on the road every day,” she remembered. But, she returns to Saluda.
“I just kind of like it here,” she said unabashedly about her adopted home. “It’s comfortable. A self-described “water person,” she also enjoys taking the time for tubing on the lower Green River, just outside Saluda. When hiking on some local trails, she discovers, “You just lose track of time.”
Besides the outdoors, art and creativity are constants for Lundgren. Never one to follow the crowd, “I was the first girl to take wood shop in (her) high school. They wouldn’t let me study automotive.” Lundgren has studied various art forms under skilled teachers. Much of her current work is with colored pencils (“I love how bright and vivid colored pencils are”), but I did a lot of watercolor in art school. I love color– lots of color. That’s one of the reasons I switched to pencils. They have such vivid color.”
Later, she studied watercolor under Barbel Amos. In addition, “While I was married,” she said,” I always took art classes. I had to keep on doing something.” Basic letters and selected words fascinate Lundgren. “I want to start writing quotes and sayings. I like saying things that are positive and good, and reinforcing them. I like the letters I love calligraphy. Watching (Saluda artist) Ray Pague letter, it’s like watching ballet with the hand.” While Lundgren feels she is not creating enough of her own art, she promised, “That will happen.”
A saying on the back of her business card sums up much of her philosophy:
“Together we can do what we can’t do alone.”


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