Monthly Archives: August 2017

History in the making YBGR youth make breadboards out of grain elevator wood

History in the making

Our very own Ron O’Leary

 

Banking on the eclipse: Billings artist designs hundreds of eclipse souvenirs

 

Ron O'Leary
Eclipse shirt back

T-shirts by O’Leary show the line of the total eclipse on the back. They sell for $24.

JACI WEBB/Gazette Staff

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JACI WEBB/Gazette Staff

When Billings artist Ron O’Leary gets behind something, he doesn’t go halfway.

That attitude fits perfectly with the total eclipse of the sun on Monday. Around Christmastime in 2016, Ron and his sister, Kathleen O’Leary of Riverton, Wyo., were talking about the eclipse. Riverton will experience the eclipse at 100 percent at 11:39 a.m. on Monday.

Folks around Riverton started planning early for the onslaught of viewers looking for a place to stay and ways to celebrate the eclipse. There will be a two-day Dark in the Park festival in Riverton on Saturday and Sunday. Kathleen O’Leary is allowing some camping on her ranchland but has no more spaces available.

Encouraged by his sister, O’Leary put his artistic side to work to make souvenirs. A ceramic artist, he created a wall plaque in the shape of the sun with the date of the eclipse painted around it. A perfectionist who loves color and design, O’Leary hand-paints each sun, using various color combinations to create different effects. Each one is different.

“What’s funny is these items that took the most time and resources aren’t always the ones people like. One day, two different people said their favorite was one I considered my worst,” O’Leary said.

He calls one the goth plaque because it has no bright colors, just black, white and gray. Another has a vintage look, which he calls “retro road sign.” It is painted with a patina made with iron oxide.

O’Leary’s teenage daughter, Lilly, and his partner, Linda Hofer, helped with some of the painting. But for the most part, it’s been O’Leary hunched over a table in his backyard studio painting the sun.

O’Leary has taught art and music at Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch for 18 years and his studio reflects that with shelves of ceramic work he can’t bear to part with.

Over the summer O’Leary traveled through central Oregon, where the eclipse will also be 100 percent. Some of the shops took his sun plaques and others asked about items like T-shirts and coffee mugs.

As soon as he returned to Billings, O’Leary got busy again, designing solar eclipse T-shirts, coffee mugs, key chains, flashlights, book bags and eventually a poster showing a bison with the date of the eclipse and the longitude and latitude of Riverton. The items are for sale at ronald-oleary.squarespace.com, Etsy or will be sold in Capser, Wyoming, on Thursday and in Riverton this weekend.

“What’s kind of fun to think about is all the different designs people have come up with. There are 23 pages on Etsy of solar eclipse merchandise, all the way from tacky to real nice artistic designs,” O’Leary said.

O’Leary has never seen a solar eclipse and he said he’s getting excited for the experience on Monday.