AFTER BARB SACHI moved to Port Townsend five years ago, she joined a book club in Seattle, necessitating a commute to monthly meetings.
Then one day, a friend heard about the trips, told her that the Port Townsend branch of the American Association of University Women had interest groups that included book clubs and invited Barb to one of the general meetings.
A retired schoolteacher, Barb liked the group and joined.
“Everybody was so welcoming,” she said. “The women were smart, nice and funny.”
An avid reader, Barb also plays the violin and paints water colors.
So when she received an e-mail announcement about an art contest from the national AAUW organization last February, she read the details.
Each artist could enter two works, it said, with the winning entries, chosen by online vote of the membership, used in the AAUW calendar and on notecards.
The clincher: each winner’s AAUW branch would be highlighted with the artwork.
“I thought, ‘I can give back,'” Barb said. “I love being a part of this group — they are such strong women with ideals. They don’t just talk about things. They do something.”
She entered two paintings, and in April returned home from a trip to find a phone message on her machine telling her that both of her submissions had been chosen.
That was out of the 300 entries, with more than 5,000 votes cast.
“They said it was unprecedented,” she said. “They had never had two from one person before.”
Even more amazing — it was the first contest Barb had entered since she took up watercolor painting 10 years ago.
She never even took lessons, she said, just an introductory workshop, and that was mainly to find out what art supplies to buy.
“It just came,” she said of painting watercolors. “It felt right.”
She also never exhibits her paintings, with the exception of last year’s Jefferson County Fair.
Like Emily Dickinson, the closets of her home on the outskirts of town hold stashes of her work.
They include light-filled, colorful landscapes of Greece and other places she has traveled and quietly powerful rural scenes of the Midwest.
For the AAUW contest, Barb chose two recent works, one of a rose she photographed at Butchart Gardens in Victoria and one of tulips in her backyard.
The two were among the 19 winning entries — 14 for the 2011 calendar and five for notecards (to see the winners, go to www.aauw.org/contests/winners.cfm).
In addition to painting and gardening, Barb works 20 hours a week for her daughter, Anna Lange, who has a vintage clothing store in Seattle, The Pretty Parlor.
Anna has her own line of “re-purposed” clothing, which she designs.
“We dissect clothes and resew them — remove sleeves, redo the neckline or make fabric roses to cover stains,” Barb said.
Anna comes by the talent naturally.
Her grandfather, Barb’s father, was a tailor who emigrated to St. Paul, Minn., from Germany in 1923 and opened a tailor shop on the east side.
Barb’s mother emigrated from Germany three years later.
They had 10 children and lived in a small house behind the shop, which was across from a factory and on a street of other small businesses, including a shoemaker.
Barb and her siblings all worked in the tailor shop after school.
“We started with buttons, then went up from there,” she said. “When we showed we were able, we worked on customers’ clothes, mostly cuffs and waists.”
When Barb graduated from high school, she was not allowed to go to college — nice girls from European families did not — but after marrying and raising a family, she went to college and earned a degree.
That her AAUW chapter supports education for young women by giving scholarships is one reason she believes in the group’s concept.
“We’ve all been in that situation,” she said.
Barb also plays the violin with the Port Townsend Family Orchestra with spouse, Dave Sachi, who plays the cello, and both sing in RainShadow, an a capella group.
“I never thought retirement would be so exciting creatively,” Barb said. “It’s so revitalizing.”
In AUUW, she signed up for the cycling group and the kayaking group and became active in the gardening group.
“This story starts with looking for a book club,” she said. “But I never joined.
“I was too busy.”
Barb Sachi is displaying the two watercolors chosen for the calendar at the AAUW/PT meeting Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Port Townsend Yacht Club. Meetings are open to the public.
Jennifer Jackson writes about Port Townsend and Jefferson County every Wednesday. To contact her with items for this column, phone 360-379-5688 or e-mail jjackson@olypen.