Sunday, November 30, 2014

Local Art Seen: Otlak Holiday Fair


"Tis the season. Thanksgiving is behind us and Christmas is less than four weeks away. In between analysts will study retail sales numbers to determine the strength of the economy as we move into the new year. The numbers they study will be taken from big box retailers and their online cousins.

A piece by Patty Salo Downs.
There's another group who's sales data will not be reflected in these statistics. That is our local artists and artisans. Every community has them. And Christmas is a season for finding them because they're offering up personal, creative work that is not mass-produced in India.  

One of Erika Mock's artsy designs.
If you hate trying to find parking at the mall this time of year, you might try to locate some of the art sales taking place in various locations. Yesterday I had to run an errand downtown. I took advantage of the opportunity to stop at three places while there: Studio 15, Art in the Alley, and the Otlak Holiday Fair in the Zeitgeist Atrium.

The aim of this blog entry is to introduce you to four fiber artists whose work was on display in the Zeitgeist. The name Otlak comes from Mary Reichert's Otlak Felt Studio. Last year they were up on the fourth floor of the Dewitt-Seitz Building, not exactly in the middle of the holiday traffic flow.

Mary Reichert; inspired by nomadic culture in Central Asia
Reichert draws much of her inspiration from nomadic herding cultures of Central Asia. Before urban living, felt was deeply entwined in the daily life--from saddle pads to yurt walls, clothing to kitchen accessories, with incredible attention to detail on every piece. In her artist statement she writes, "It is such an elegant, and seemingly simple, way to say thank you--going slow enough to constantly create beauty and remember the stories from the fiber and food giving all our shelter, clothing, and daily sustenance."

When I think about my own hectic pace of life I envy this countertrend movement "slow living" that is taking place in Europe and pockets in the U.S.

Patty Sampson piece with shibori deco.
There were actually six women showing work at the Atrium yesterday. The four fiber arts were: Patty Sampson, who makes jackets from vintage kimono fabrics; Patty Salo-Downs of Miina Designs, who makes one-of-a kind felted scarves, wraps, and handbags; Swiss-born Erika Mock, veteran of the troop, has been making fabric art in her Textiles for Body and Soul studio for... ever; and Reichert. They were accompanied by Sally Cavallaro with her handmade eco-friendly jewelry and Esther Piszczek showing new directions that her Zentangle-inspired designs have taken her.

Patty Salo-Downs created here wraps and clothing from silk and marino wool. It's an interesting technique with deceptively beautiful results. She calls it "painting with fibers." She also showed some camouflage designs for gals.

Fabric detail is lush. (Piece by Patty Sampson)
Patty Sampson's jackets were fascinating, utilizing fabrics from Japan. Some of the pieces were created using a shibori technique, which is a Japanese method of dying fabrics. If I understood it correctly, it is a technically advanced form of tie-dying. I especially liked the jackets with Raglan sleeves.

The Otlak Fair was but for a day but there will be many more such pop-up shows in various places over the next few weeks. For an artsy space with store hours make sure you stop in at Art in the Alley sometime this season. I stopped and it was not only crowded, every person I saw had a bag full of stuff they's found, a pretty good sign that they might be on to something there.

Here are a few more photos from my brief meandering yesterday.

Patty Salo-Downs finds inspiration from birds.
Esther Piszczek's designs on glass... original splendor.

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