LOVE ON DISPLAY: Art festival offers variety of wares along shore of Lake Superior

Among the newer regional art festivals is a small show set dang-near close enough to Lake Superior to toss an easel into the waves.

Lake Superior Art Festival at Brighton Beach, in its third year, features a collection of pottery, glasswork, watercolor, fibers, photography, books and jewelry, each artist invited by founders, who are also artists, Penny Clark, Nikki Johnson and Rosemary Guttormsson. It runs from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at Brighton Beach.

"We hand-picked our artists," said Clark, who promises to never include more than 40 artists. "After time, they recommended their friends. That evolved into, what is this year, a super-duper extra special show."

Here is a look at some of the 38 artist who will be showing work.

CLAYWORK

From the annals of great reasons to be unavailable to take a phone call:

"She's in the middle of making some raven legs," said Ken Larson who, with his wife, Pat, creates sculptures in clay, bronze and mixed media.

The Sturgeon Lake-based couple has been working together for the past 41 years. In 1981, when their son was born, they began working together on the same pieces, he said.

"The raven Pat is working on, I acted more as a producer or assistant," he said. "I weld the feet. I get it to a certain point and hand it off to her. Other things I may design and pretty much execute. At some point … she just sees some things better."

Larson Clayworks' website shows a mix of terracotta wall tiles and cairns with a southwestern influence, a raven with a key in its mouth and two ravens carved in stone, a sculpture of an egret with an egg, installations and human figures.

Both have been full-time artists since they graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth and set up shop on an original family homestead. They've got a studio space about 50 feet from the door.

"It's eight days a week," Ken Larson said. "No rest for the wicked … and the self-employed."

This is their first time at the Lake Superior Art Festival, though they have pieces at Waters of Superior and Sivertson Gallery in Grand Marais.

"We have a habit of throwing everything that isn't locked down into the van," he said.

DOLLS

Marcia Almquist was 5 when she began making dolls, creating stories and sewing little clothes. She had been diagnosed with Rheumatic fever and a heart murmur, and she was kept home from school and isolated from her siblings.

"I didn't feel sick," she said. "Making the dolls gave me comfort and little playmates."

She works with natural fibers, mostly dyed wool, cotton, yarn. Her style leans primitive and old-world, and she has begun describing it as folk art.

Almquist, of Wyoming, Minn., has gone through trends in 30-plus years as an artist. There have been storybook dolls and nursery book characters. She has developed a signature doll dressed in mukluks that carries a satchel, based on important women in her life. Another has a gnomish hat and buckle shoes. Mary Jane is a tribute to a late friend with the same name.

Recently, she's been favoring European style of ribbon that gives her dolls a Scandinavian look.

"I put a lot of time and effort into them," she said. "It's a labor of love."

HATS

These days, Patti Berg is really into sinamay, grass from the Philippines that can be woven into a net-like fabric that stiffens and can be manipulated into different forms.

"I can shape it with the steam from my iron and make these hats that are like feathers on your head," the Embarrass-based artist said. "There's no weight on your head. It's just magical. That's my favorite right now."

Berg has been on the art show circuit for about 40 years. She started her career as a leathersmith, which progressed to fabrics, which brought her to hats, she said. Her earliest creations were sheepskin pieces, a bit of winterwear. Now her website shows an array of curled brims, plaid fabrics, statement bows.  

"It's such a big thing with people — the way they want to look and what they want to present to the world," she said. "A hat is right around your face, so it's a big deal."

Berg works out of a 24-foot square studio space on her property, where she spends eight or nine hours a day, sometimes forgetting to even eat.

"I never walk through the door without a huge sense of gratitude," she said. "It was my total dream come true, to be validated and have this space. I go in there, and it's so magical. You are inspired. Ideas come, and I go into a space — I can't even put words to it. It's a creative space where you forget about time, your worries, your troubles, all about the world. It's incredible."

Photo courtesy of Sweetwater Jewelry Design

JEWELRY

April Witzke is a Duluth artist who makes jewelry from natural elements, including sea glass, copper and sterling. She does hand-stamping on pieces, each letter created with a hammer for a rustic finish.

"I'm also a fan of pearls — because they're pretty," she said.

Witzke was previously a banker who moved to California and was involved in a merger — and then, when it was completed, found herself without a job.

"I realized how unimportant I was to this large corporation," she said. "I loved to never work for anyone else ever again."

This is her seventh year as an artist. Her business is Sweetwater Jewelry Designs. She makes necklaces and bracelets of smooth stone, rings with irregular shaped glass, and stamps the shape of Lake Superior into her work.   

Witzke's favorite pieces are Duluth-themed, she said.

IF YOU GO

What: Lake Superior Art Festival at Brighton Beach

When: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday

Where: Brighton Beach

Tickets: Free, open to the public


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