By day, Amber Schueler quantifies antigen levels in production animal vaccines and tests samples from vaccinated livestock as a technician at Epitopix in Willmar.
"I have a technical job," Schueler said. "I found early on that I needed to find a creative outlet."
The 29-year-old first tapped into that creative outlet in high school -- not in a science lab, but behind a camera lens. Her best work is currently being displayed, and it's not in a test tube or under a microscope slide: her photos are hanging in the Willmar Area Arts Council Small Works Silent Auction exhibit.
Nearly 28 area artists entered work in the Willmar Area Art Council's annual event, which has been open to the public at the Willmar Education and Arts Center WEAC Gallery since Nov. 1. Like Schueler, few artists featured in this years' silent auction maintain artistry as a full-time career, according to Willmar Area Art Council director Janet Olney.
Schueler still maintains her career as a technician, but as her interest and skill in photography grew, so did her demand as a photographer. In 2006 the Willmar native opened AMS Photography to accommodate her clientele, which had outgrown her circle of family and close friends.
AMS Photography's online portfolio is made up of senior portraits, family sessions and weddings, but it was Schueler's own more artistic still shots -- taken locally -- which were selected for display.
Between scheduled photo sessions and the lab, Schueler maintains a tight schedule, but two of her three pieces entered were taken at opportune moments in which her camera happened to be nearby.
"Rustling Grass" was a shot taken while Scheuler was on a walk with her sister at sunset in the countryside of Kandiyohi County. "Winter Wonderland" was taken outside her parents' home in Willmar, in what she describes as "one of those beautiful mornings with frost on the trees."
"I go out whenever I can and just shoot," Schueler said. "I need to do this on occasion to be happy -- to be sane." Schueler said she was nervous to enter more personal work in the event and nearly missed the application deadline.
"I saw the ad, chose my prints and contacted the photography lab to order my prints the next day," Schueler said of the fast action required to get her entries in on time.
Schueler's prints are three of the 86 works that make up the silent auction, being held at the Willmar Education and Arts Center. The silent auction will conclude tomorrow with a public reception from 4:30 until 6:30 p.m., at which time each piece will be auctioned.
All entries meet the auction's one small requirement: each piece entered must fit inside the area of a 12x12x12-inch space.
The auction's lenient requirements allowed for a broad interpretation of entry items. In addition to paintings, artists entered jewelry, pottery, woven baskets, glass art and needlework.
Olney entered her own woven wall art in the event -- a first for Olney, who has been selling her own woven baskets for years.
Though the Small Works Silent Auction is the smallest event for the Willmar Area Arts Council, Olney said the event is one of her personal favorites.
"We even ring a final bell at Friday's auction," Olney said.
The gallery will be open for its last day of viewing tomorrow from 9 a.m. until 4:30, when the reception and final auction begins. Olney says many artists will be on hand to promote their work.