Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Driftless Area Art Festival 2014: an adventure with my new friend Kris!

If you didn't make it out to the Driftless Area Art Festival this past weekend, you missed out! 

I met-up with Kris, a new friend of mine, and we drove out to Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, on Saturday. Kris did the driving while I probably did too much of the talking! :) We couldn't wait to experience this awesome art festival that we'd heard so much about. Our dear friend and excellent ceramicist, Kate Chandler, would be showing her work at the festival, along with numerous other magnificent artists. Just check out the list of awesome talent that was present at this year's festival, and you'll see what I'm talking about!

As an artist myself, I am drawn to the creative process, meeting the artists behind the work, seeing new techniques, color and texture, people-watching, yummy beautiful food, learning, enjoying, and collecting art. Attending a fine art festival is an excellent way to soak in all of these experiences and see a diverse variety of art. At art festivals you can find great prices on beautiful original work and support local artisans at the same time. It's a win-win!  

This bright beautiful display belongs to Kate Chandler, from Elkader, Iowa. While I visit her studio and shop regularly, it's always fun to see her art displayed in a new light! Visit Kate in Elkader, Iowa; Thursday-Saturday from 10-4pm. 

Did I mention that I love festival food? (Especially the fancy art festival kind!) Lucky for me, Kris and I have very similar tastes and we were able to share everything! 

After we had visited several artists' tents, we decided to break for fuel. Pizza for breakfast? Why not! We were excited to have some HomeGrown Pizza for breakfast. After our pizza dough was freshly tossed, it was drizzled with olive oil, topped with fresh veggies, and sprinkled with sea salt. Then we got to watch it cook in their fiery pizza oven-on-wheels. This pizza pie was loaded with homegrown kale, garlic, squash, caramelized onion, mushrooms, and fresh mozzarella cheese, then cooked to crispy perfection. My mouth is literally watering just telling you about it!

To go with our Happy Kales to You Pizza, we both had a homemade ginger and honey Wisco Pop. I think this it was one of Kris's favorite treats all day, and I can't blame her; I loved it, too!
After our morning pizza break, we continued through the rest of the festival. We went to tent after tent of amazing creations. We saw pottery, paintings, drawing, mixed media work, wood working, a beautiful gallery of gourds, glass, metal, jewelry, culinary arts, a puzzle maker, brewers, wine, and more. For those ready to take a load off and rest for a few, there was a tent in the center where you could sit, eat, and listen to various musicians. My mind was constantly being blown by the level of creativity, skill, and content at this fun festival. I loved talking to the artists and seeing them beam as they discussed and exhibited their work.

I really appreciate that the Driftless Area Art Festival pays attention to detail and supports art for all ages. I loved walking through the kids' art tent and seeing the ribbons and awards next to their masterpieces. Encouraging kids to make art is encouraging them to dream, encouraging them to develop thinking and problem solving skills, and encouraging them to grow. 

Artists pour their souls into their work, and when you connect with something they've made, you've connected in a sense with that person. When you purchase a piece of art from someone, it's like you get to take a little bit of their energy home with you.  

Often I meet an artist and feel an immediate connection to them or what they create. A spark. These next few artists did just that.... 

I love pottery, perhaps to the point of addiction. I really liked the texture of George Lowe's ceramic vessels. The contrast between the smooth shape, the lines, and their rustic earthy colors drew me in immediately. As I began to to talk to George, I found out that he not only was familiar with North Carolina, but that he taught 8 weeks at Penland School of Crafts in Penland, NC. I also learned that he had taught pottery on the university level for twenty years. While he currently lives and works in Decorah, Iowa, he will soon head out on a three-month adventure to teach at a new university in Palestine. I'll definitely keep him in my thoughts and prayers as he travels to share his talents with students abroad. They are in for a treat! (See George Lowe's clay baskets on the Iowa Studio Art Tour in October. Or find his work in galleries throughout the midwest.) 

Next, you see whimsical ceramics by the lovely Linda Day. As soon as Kris and I approached her tent, Kris knew she had to have one of her brilliant creations. Linda has been a potter and cartoonist for 25 years. It was such a pleasure to meet and talk with her about art, festivals, and life.  Her personality radiates through her quirky fun work and we wanted to take home every single piece! 

And then there were the puzzles! I was completely surprised when I walked up to William Waite's Puzzlemist booth. He creates wooden brain teaser puzzles so intricate and hard to solve they will have you puzzled for sure! Don't worry; he has some "easier" puzzles for the beginner, too! It was interesting to talk to him about his work and how many different ways you could solve some of the puzzles. Several of the puzzles with multiple solutions will give you examples on the back, but for "the mouse and cheese puzzle"... you're out of luck! His mouse and cheese puzzle really stumps folks, and you won't get any cheats on the back! I think I know what I'll be ordering my mom for Christmas! Check out all of the designs available at puzzlemist.com.

I felt drawn to Christine Larson's works and really enjoyed talking with her. Below you'll see a couple of folks taking in the bright colors that filled her tent. Christine's paintings felt alive with texture and color. From across the festival, her tent boomed with energy; y
ou couldn't help but be pulled her direction. She spoke about the idea of another sense that we seem to often miss out on and how she likes to try and capture that sense in her work. I definitely felt her paintings to be spiritual, playful and energized. You can see more of her work on her blog, http://chrislarsonnoble.blogspot.com/.

 Here are folks checking out paintings by Christine Larson
After spending several hours exploring all of the wonderful booths and meeting countless artists, we were ready for a lunch break. Kris and I had to try the French Crepes booth. Like me, when Kris heard someone talking of a mushroom crepe, they had her at "mushroom." I laughed and told Kris that often my choice at a restaurant is simply determined if whether or not the dish has mushrooms in the description. I love them! We moseyed on over to the line where we ordered our mushroom crepe from a couple of French gentlemen. We were informed that this elegant French cuisine would be about a 15 minute wait. That was okay with us, as we got to watch a master crepe maker make his crepes. It was fun listening to him speak French, talk to customers, and work his magic. We weren't the only ones willing to wait for our crepe; these guys were slammed! He handed me our crepe ("your crepe, madam") and I felt as though I was on the streets of Paris!

...and it was definitely worth the wait!

Finally, Kris and I had made it through the entire festival. We had tasted enough delicious food and we were ready to head home with our new treasures. On the way home, we made a quick stop at Sunrise Ochards, where we picked up jellies, apple cider doughnuts, and a beautiful bag of Honeycrisp apples. 

In short, Kris and I had a blast getting to know each other, making friends, tasting delicious cuisine, looking at amazing art, and meeting all sorts of awesome people! 

With our big move last year I wasn't quite ready to apply for this festival season, but I sure do look forward to submitting applications for next year! Maybe you'll find JWebb Fine Art in a booth at Driftless next fall!

                                    Cheers to good food, 
                                      friendships, & art!
                                             ♥ Jillian

PS  KRIS! Thank you so much for driving me out through the beautiful countryside, for spending the day with me, and taking me to my first Midwest Fine Art Festival! Let's hang out again soon!! :)


  1. Wooot-wooot! What a fabulous article and great photos! You beautifully a great event, fine food and arts (& I love the featured artists focus) and all-around awesome day! Cheers to you, Jillian! :)

    1. Thanks so much!! :) It was an awesome event and an all around fabulous day! xoxo