The Levis Commons Fine Art Fair had stories to tell this weekend.
|Ann Baronas shops during the Fine Art Fair Saturday afternoon at Levis Commons in Perrysburg. (Photos: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
To start with there was the Goldilocks weather, neither too hot, nor too cold, under clear blue skies on both Saturday and Sunday.
And then there was Perrysburg photographer Clyde Vermillion, who was exhibiting for the first time at the show. It was several years ago that he met professional photographer Paul Christopher James, whose workshops helped Vermillion grow from taking snapshots to exhibiting his own work at art shows.
Max Clayton, the executive director of the The Guild of Artists and Artisans which produces the event, noted that one traveling family’s quick pit stop at the center resulted in painter Kim Rhoney making a sale.
Clayton said the family had pulled over so the father could get a coffee at Starbucks. He spotted Rhoney’s floral paintings and was so taken with them he returned to the car to bring back the rest of the family,.
Those are the kind of connections that can happen with an art show in a lifestyle center, and part of the reason why the Guild is so pleased with the nine-year-old show. “It’s a park-like setting but with easy access for wheelchairs and strollers,” Clayton said. The Guild had high hopes for Levis when it started the show, and “it has proven even beyond our expectations,” Clayton said.
Vermillion said he was glad to be exhibiting his work in his hometown. He sees many friends, including some long-time acquaintances who didn’t know he was so serious about photography.
It was a passion, he said, he was able to pursue after he retired from the building trades. He was a union steamfitter, pipefitter and welder.
Best of Show honors went to another artisan who made a post-retirement entry into the art fair circuit.
For Tom Stahl, of Fairfield, woodworking is the most recent in a varied worklife that included time in the Army, in higher education and, most recently, as a training consultant.
Stahl said he comes from seven generations of woodworkers on his mother’s side dating back to a Revolutionary War Era coffin maker in central Pennsylvania.
He did his first woodworking out of necessity. He was a newly married military intelligence officer at Fort Knox, and didn’t have any furniture. So he went to a workshop on the base and learned to make some.
Over the years he built furniture, concentrating on clocks. Again necessity played a part in developing his craft. His source for spindles needed to make a certain clock design dried up, so he used a basic lathe to make some. He needed four, so he made 10 and used the best of the lot.
|Lorene Yoxtheimer looks at artwork Saturday afternoon during the Fine Art Festival at Levis Commons in Perrysburg.
But that experience with the lathe piqued his interest, and he found a simple pattern online for a segmented bowls.
These are fashioned with small sections of contrasting wood.
He’s now made almost 1,700 pieces that use wood from five continents — North America, South America, Asia, Australia and Africa.
The Best of Show at Levis was his first best of show ever, he said, though he’s won other blue ribbons in his particular media.
He did not launch into the art fair circuit lightly. “As I was approaching retirement I knew there was a subculture and protocol associated with art shows,” Stahl said. “I spent five years learning the trade.”
He used his military experience in logistics to figure how to travel from show to show in a minivan without having to tow a trailer.
Doing the circuit, he said, amounts to “running a retail operation and camping at the same time.”
For all the dozens of jobs he’s held, Stahl said this was the first one that involved dealing with the general public.
He enjoys talking with patrons. “Old men want to tell you about the bowl they made in 1922, and it’s fun to talk to them.”
Stahl especially enjoys talking with his fellow artists. They range from art show lifers to a rocket scientist who retired to become a painter.
Clayton said that sales have experienced “a very long slow climb back up” after the economic collapse in 2008. Perrysburg is a barometer for the Guild, she said, because “it’s been such a supportive community.”
“The crowd has been here,” she said. “They’ve been buying. It’s a very positive show.”
First place winner Amy Johnson, a jeweler from Grand Rapids, Mich., said sales have been doubling at shows this summer.
Among those buying at the Levis fair on Sunday was Angelica Swartz, of Fremont. She’d purchased a small glass slug-like figure from Paula and Charlie Shoulders, Brighton, Mich.
She’s a frequent attendee to the Levis show, and she always found something for her house. Her newly purchased glass slug will find a place on a wooden box she bought last year.
Other winners at the show were:
• Second Award — Diane Sicheneder, Rochester, Mich., painting.
• Honorable Mention — Jason Bove, Oregonia, ceramics; Mary Miller, Vandalia, Ill, mixed media; and Stan Goldberg, Louisville, Ky., photography.