By Sarah Smith
There were newcomers and old-timers at Art Leap 2014, but they all shared a common theme – if you want to make a living as an artist, you have to supplement your career with a “real job.”
Meticulous, time-consuming pieces of art took hundreds of hours to craft. Glass and pottery items that take dozens of hours just to fire and cool down sold for under $50.
The weekend event was blessed with spectacular weather.
Kris and Bob Sauser’s Nevis studio participated for the first time, selling fired glass and pottery.
“It was a learning curve,” Kris Sauser said, “Most of the pottery sold Saturday.” Next year, she plans to stock up on pottery, but her glass works were selling briskly as well.
Several kilns were firing in the Creative Minds studio, keeping it toasty warm. The couple doesn’t need to heat the building in the winter.
Kris said she bought her first kiln and potter’s wheel at age 16.
Then came the interruptions that naturally occur with a family and four kids. Kris and Bob also operate the Owl’s Nest Resort on Fifth Crow Wing Lake.
Kris served for years on the Nevis School Board so spare time was a luxury. Bob is an R.N. at CHI St. Joseph’s Health in Park Rapids. He kept his day job.
They’ve managed to parley the art studio attraction with the north woods, luring artists and budding potters to try out the studio as they enjoy the serenity of the resort. Especially on rainy days, Bob said, resort guests migrate toward the art studio to throw a pot or learn the intricacies of glass dropping.
“It’s been a draw for the resort,” Kris acknowledged.
“We had such a wonderful turnout yesterday,” said artist and realtor Gary Wolff, who operates WolffWorks Studio north of Nevis with wife Marsha and son Eric, also a realtor.
“It was just spectacular,” Gary Wolff said of the tour organized in 2005 by the Park Rapids Lakes Area Arts Council to promote area artists and musicians through “creation, education and performance.”
“This event promotes arts in the area very well,” Gary Wolff agreed.
Hundreds of people took the driving tour of studios that stretched through Hubbard and Becker counties, incorporating art studios, art stores and outdoor venues.
Bemidji fiber artist Kristin Majkrzak was also a first-timer, set up in the Smoky Hills Art store in downtown Park Rapids.
Her miniature tapestries were testaments of patience, dedication and an eye for detail. She operates Two Eyes Weaver studio in Bemidji, teaching classes and capitalizing on the circuitous path she took to her art, teaching French and working in nature centers.
She finds beauty in nature, transferring what she sees to grids of threads.
“In a way it’s like working with pixels,” she said.
A shelf fungus on a tree “looks like an old guy with a hat,” she explained.
Indeed, the fungus came alive on “Old Man and the Tree,” a play on Ernest Hemingway’s famous novel.
She was working on a lady slipper design, mixing and matching threads with a critical eye.
“I can’t mix a paint palette but I can mix yarns,” she said as she tried a silvery half thread with some mint green yarns.
Boyd Sharp was an “old-timer” who was appearing for the first time this year. The Osage artist’s paintings were crowded into a corner in Smoky Hills, where the bluegrass music by “Unpolished” was anything but.
Many of the exhibitors keep regular studio hours into the fall, and some through the winter. Those are the artists who have left their day jobs.