Lenore Louise Kobayashi

wp_ss_20150307_0001Lenore, 72, died with dignity of abdominal cancer on October 31, 2014, surrounded by friends and family in her beloved Woodinville home. A Seattle native, she was born to Donald Wells Keys and Mildred Louise Lovett on September 13, 1942, and she lived in the Seattle area her entire life.


Lenore studied illustration and graphic design at the Burnley School of Professional Art in Seattle. There she met Irish visual artist and instructor, Austin Dwyer, who she later worked with through the Cohen Dwyer Advertising and Marketing agency. Initially, Lenore used her art degree to design logos for area newspapers and malls. Later, she published several short stories, created book illustrations and taught life drawing classes.


Art was always a major focus of Lenore’s personal and professional life. From fashion drawings, jewelry, delicate glass powder enamels, handmade dolls and puppets to exotic costumes, everything she created reflected her wild imagination, keen visual eye, and exuberant personality. Many of her joyful creations were shown nationally, and sold internationally. This smart, fast-talking, prolific human dynamo (fueled preferably with chocolate) added creative touches to everything in her environment, people included.


And she loved hats. Lenore studied under master hat maker Wayne Wichern at the Carol Campbell Millinery Studio, and applied what she learned to a remarkable collection of eye-catching head adornments. If her Dr. Seuss-like hats didn’t have multiple layers to them, they were often topped with curious critters.


Lenore was close to renowned Austrian artist Lisel Salzer, whose work was often exhibited at Seattle’s Frye Art Museum. (Salzer escaped Nazi Germany and adopted friends and students as her surrogate family.) Lenore learned exquisite etching and 16th-century Limoges enameling techniques from Salzer that she incorporated into her own artwork. Lenore and her husband of 52 years, Tatsuki Kobayashi, served as guardians for Salzer in her later years until her death in 2005.


Whimsy always played a huge role in Lenore’s life and art. She owned fairy-themed books, animal and fairy garden art, and theatrical and humorous costumes. Her artistic style was always visible in her impeccable dress, makeup and hair. She especially loved getting dressed up for Halloween and often wore a comical lobster hat on other occasions. Science fiction also fascinated her; she created homemade Klingon outfits. And she loved South Korean theatre, particularly any drama that included popular (handsome) South Korean actor, Song II Gook.


Making and collecting dolls, and creating costumes for her extensive porcelain doll collection, were other passions. Some of her treasures were displayed at the Rosalie Whyel Museum of Doll Art, and she donated a large artisan puppet collection to the Northwest Puppet Center. Posthumously, some of Lenore’s handmade creations were displayed by the Pacific Northwest Needle Arts Guild (2/19 to 4/10/15) in a collaborative show called “Intersections.”


Lenore doted on her pets. Five llamas lived in her backyard; kinkajous and chinchillas once Kobayashi2shared her house. She made elaborate costumes and beaded collars and leashes for her beloved Saluki dogs, a few trained as service dogs so they could visit patients at the Evergreen Hospice Center. She also volunteered at the Woodland Park Zoo, and for many years, donated her artwork for their annual fundraisers.


A self-described animal nut, Lenore had an extensive collection of exotic stuffed animals, and she used her dogs and llamas as models to create her own soft sculptures in life-like poses. Each animal sculpture was carefully crafted using a wire base wrapped in foam then covered with beautifully hand-stitched faux fur. Lenore’s patient attention to detail was reflected in all of her artwork, but especially in the realistic animal heads and faces she created for each of her soft sculptures.


Everyone appreciated Lenore’s easy smile, quick wit, and contagious laugh. She had a big generous heart. No one was more effusive with praise when talking to or introducing her many friends, and her homemade chocolate-dipped apricots and walnut tortes delighted confidants and acquaintances alike. She treasured and always encouraged her special friends, especially those at Woodinville Weight Watchers, where she often treated them to healthy creations she brought to each meeting.


Lenore is survived by her husband, Tatsuki Kobayashi, her step-sister Lyn Kartiganer, and her daughter, Gina Marie Becker from her first marriage to Francis Joseph Becker. She was preceded in death by her step-mother Evelyn Keys and her step-brother James Hopkins.


We will miss you, Lenore. Not only could you light up a room with your unique dramatic flair, but you truly made life interesting and memorable for all of us.


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