Chris Moench was raised in the Colorado Rockies at 8,600 feet with a pair of hiking boots on. His field geologist dad, poet mom, and siblings embarked on perennial romps amid ponderosa pine forests and snow-swept crags. Early memories of that wild country inspired his interest in art, land preservation, and wilderness travel.
Chris's Aunt Marge, a spirited sculptor, painter and art professor, planted seeds of revelation in her youthful nephew's head like: art is a path for self-expression.
Later at "Open School," a public alternative high school, Chris's enthusiastic and creative art teacher, Susie Bogard, boosted his mud-slick path. His senior project, "ceramics and glaze chemistry," made it possible to co-start a pottery studio in the San Juan Islands of Washington where, at 18, Chris moved to raise his new young family in a hand-built cabin minus electricity and running water.
Chris has subsidized his love of art by being a chimney sweep, hay farmer, oyster-grower, news printer, legal assistant, and criminal defense investigator. In 1992, Chris fled a desk job doing legal work to pursue a full-time career in pottery. He founded Dancing Dog Clayworks and produced garden sculptures, tiles, and functional houseware including everything from "butter fish dishes" to mountain-range sconces to, yes, kitchen sinks, too.
Chris also deepened his art by mudding his sleeves with the Masters. Internationally acclaimed Master Potters, Paul Soldner and Peter Volkus, and Architectural Ceramist Peter King have inspired and instructed Chris's technique and craft. Vince Pitelka, Ceramics Director of Appalachian School of Crafts, shared his pre-Columbian clay techniques with Chris.
In 2000, Chris's claywork took an unexpected, but wondrous new direction. The reason: coping with the terrible gas pipeline explosion tragedy in his hometown. It was this awful calamity that moved him to sculpt a memorial "story" on the outside of a three-foot-tall clay cylinder. Without knowing, he created his first prayer wheel. Later, mounted on a revolving stand at an outdoor gallery, the wheel became a vessel for people to place thoughts and prayers inside on pieces of paper.
Today, Chris works full-time designing and sculpting modern prayer wheels for his company "Axis of Hope.™" His prayer wheels have been revolving and evolving at public exhibits across the west: American Craft Council Exhibition of Fine Craft in San Francisco; Sun Valley Center Idaho Arts and Crafts Festival; Best of the Northwest Shows in Portland and Seattle; and "Ashes to Art: Funerary Art" in San Francisco and Philadelphia.
Now, father of two grown children, Chris lives with his wife, Jennifer Hahn, a writer and wilderness guide, in Bellingham, Washington. When not in the studio, Chris and Jennifer explore by kayak and on foot the Cascades and Inside Passage of Alaska, British Columbia and Washington – where North America's brawniest glaciers, hula-dancing kelp forests, rollicking salmon streams, yammering brown bears, lolling humpback whales, lushest eagle roosts and raven-skied Old Growth Forests flourish in wild wetness.
"In nature I discover ideas for Prayer Wheel designs. My wife and I kayak and hike every chance we can get. My son North and daughter Yarrow are also avid climbers, campers, hikers and trail runners with an appreciative eye for small wonders like alpine blueberries that melt on your tongue. I feel completely blessed and wish to give something back. My work and life are extensions of my belief all things are intimately linked."
Chris also volunteers as a board member of Whatcom Land Trust, a non-profit dedicated to preserving farmland, forests, beaches, and salmon streams.