MN: Land of 10,000 Art Fairs

Last week I attended junk maven Ki Nissauer’s Spring Junk Bonanza. It’s a twice-yearly pilgrimage for lovers of all things vintage, fans of architectural salvage, artists, designers and those who love the thrill of the find. Thankfully, it was indoors, as it was a rainy day. But I whiled away the hours marveling at three auditoriums full of fantastic displays, created by talented visual artists with a flair for grand statements.

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Goofball and good guy, Don Short of West End Salvage, HGtv & DIY Channel

Artists like Vanessa “Kiki” Johanning brought much-needed color and warmth to the Early Bird line, snaked around the front of Canterbury Park at 7:30 a.m. Kiki’s rowdy entourage, with their laughter and cheers made everyone smile. At MN events the people-watching is paired with a healthy dose of Minnesota nice. Strangers become friends.

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Artist Kiki Johanning  #squadgoals

I found a few pieces of Hull Magnolia pottery and craft supplies I couldn’t leave without, but mainly I was at the Bonanza for the mood boost, the dopamine rush I get from seeing makers, junkers and artists doing their thing.

By the time I left JB, my anticipation for the beginning of art fair season had reached a fever pitch. Because if it’s a summer weekend in the Twin Cities, there are two things you can be sure of, massive road construction and art fairs.

I like to think of art fairs as the museum’s rebellious kid sister, the wild child with the wandering soul. And in Minnesota, we have almost as many outdoor celebrations of art and artists as we have lakes. Better still, most of these festivals are held right beside some of our most scenic bodies of water.

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View of the historic Mill District from the Stone Arch Bridge Festival

It only seems right that art should be displayed outdoors in the elements, as so much artwork draws inspiration from, or evokes nature; human, but also earth, the heavens, water, flora and fauna, animal. In fact, many Minnesota animals are huge art fans. Literally.

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An Irish Wolfhound admires all the pretty things.

We show up regardless of the mercurial weather. But a hot, sunny day beside the Mississippi, during the Stone Arch Bridge Festival will take your breath away. A magnificent canopy of trees, grassy knolls and park benches provide cool spots to escape the heat and take it all in: art, people, food, classic cars, architecture and nature.

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Pickled Eggs by Kimber Fiebiger

Meandering the posh boulevard running along Lake Minnetonka’s Wayzata Bay during the Wayzata Art Experience and happening upon a whimsical pair of bronze Humpty Dumpties, toasting with martinis, is the type of whimsical surprise that makes it a can’t miss event.

The Uptown Art Fair is the crown jewel of Minnesota’s summer line-up.

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Lake of the Isles, nestled in the heart of the Uptown Art Fair, showcases Minneapolis’ mix of outdoor lifestyle & city living

Located only blocks from three of the city’s most popular and picturesque escapes, Lake of the Isles, Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun, the Uptown Art Fair features over 350 artists from around the world, and has been honored with over 140 Pinnacle Awards by the International Festivals and Events Association.

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My dog Bacon loves Uptown

The Uptown Theater takes its name from the funky urban epicenter of Minneapolis called Uptown, a neighborhood that showcases the diversity of people, food and culture in the Twin Cities.

Food trucks pepper the streets around Hennepin & Lake. The delicious aromas of cheese curds, bbq and paella fill the air. Icy cold beverages abound. Ahhhh, this is the life.

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You won’t find Happy Mouth Pickles at the MOMA

If Coachella had a midwestern art fair cousin, the Uptown Art Fair would be it. Live music, beer gardens and the eclectic Uptown vibe contribute to a party atmosphere. The right brain is fully engaged.

For me, the art fair versus gallery experience is transcendent. Don’t get me wrong, I love museums. But when was the last time you went to a museum and actually got to talk to the artist whose work stands right before you, to ask questions about the why and the how of it? When I see artwork that intrigues me or speaks to me, I usually find that I share some commonality with its artist, whether it’s experience, place or feeling or sense of humor. What a treat to be able to meet all of these colorful, passionate human beings with the courage to pursue their vision and embrace their innate talents.

 

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Copyright Artist Kina Crow

“Adrift with just a tutu and her everyday tiara” 

Kina Crow is one of my favorite art fair discoveries.  While Kina will be traveling only as far west from her home in Pennsylvania as the St. Louis Art Fair in 2017, she was an Uptown Art Fair regular for many years. In fact her whimsical clay and paint dioramas were awarded Best in Show, Mixed Media in 2008 and 2009.

The first time I saw Kina Crow’s cheeky little humans made of clay, pondering the great mysteries of life, I laughed out loud. Okay, I probably snorted, unabashedly, as I am known to do when something really tickles me.

Kina’s artwork reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from author Elizabeth Gilbert, “Don’t ever be ashamed of loving all the strange things that make your weird little heart happy.” Kina’s little people with their angsty adorableness (I know it’s not a word, but it should be) ARE the strange little things! She celebrates that lingering bit of awkward adolescent in all of us, who stumble about in this big old world trying to make sense of it all, and she does it with humor, and the aforementioned quirky adorableness. Kina’s new book, I Wonder, is a work of art itself.

So while art fairs may be a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy a gorgeous summer day, surrounded by interesting people, listen to music, taste delicious food and pet all the dogs, what really makes it amazing is finding art and artists you will fall in love with and enjoy for the rest of your life.

Ferris wheel

 

**** Main Image and all images of Kina Crow artwork are copyright-protected and used with permission from the artist.****

 

The Lady Delaney: Artist, Style Icon, Muse

 

I’m so excited to introduce a new feature to Chickadee, a featured female artist who inspires me with her talent, kindness and entrepreneurial spirit. The first woman is Lauren Delaney George. She is someone whom I’ve admired since I first discovered her Etsy shop in 2013, where I was surprised and delighted by her amazing shop, full of miniature delights.

Lauren attended NYU, where she spent 2 years in the school’s prestigious MFA program, and started her career working for E. Jean Carroll of Elle magazine fame, helping with a kooky side project social media game site that she had created, “Catch27.”

Since that time, I’ve discovered that she is a costume and set designer with feature films to her credit. She has worked with the likes of Colleen Atwood, 14-time Oscar nominee, on the film Public Enemies. Lauren’s clients include FAO Schwarz, Monique Lhullier, Erin Featherstone and the Cancer Research Institute. Her original artwork, The Exile of Prospero, debuted at the National Building Museum. She is a style icon with her amazing throwback vintage glamour. And most recently she published her first book, All Dolled Up to critical acclaim, with a second already underway.

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Lauren’s office is located in the back of a fabulous vintage clothing store on Magazine Street in New Orleans, Century Girl.

Blog Summary: Lauren Delaney George is EVERYTHING. #allthegoals #ladyboss #shero #girlcrush

Whew. I had to get my fan girl enthusiasm out-of-the-way in order to write any further. Now that you know the gist of my feelings about Lauren, we can get to the heart of the matter…why she should be YOUR creative inspiration, too.

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One of my absolute favorite projects of Lauren’s. The Haunted Dollhouse.

To me, there is nothing more inspiring than seeing a fabulous creative woman living her dreams, except for kindness, graciousness and willingness to encourage other artists in pursuing their dreams.

I asked Lauren if she would agree to an interview with me, with her knowing nothing about me and she eagerly accepted. So without further ado, I give you the much coveted interview.

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Spooky things happened when I received goodies from Lauren, including this cool haunted mansion.

Melanie: First of all thank you for agreeing to this interview:

Lauren: I was so honored by your email! And holy moly is your blog b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l. I’d love to help in any way that I can with a feature.

Melanie: Thank you. I’m so flattered. Well, I asked a million questions, so let’s jump right in. Are there other artists in your family?

Lauren: My dad is a doctor and though my mom received her MBA, she devoted her life to  raising three crazy children.  Both my parents are very creative.  My mom is a jack-of-all-trades crafter; she knits, quilts, cross stitches, etc.  My dad is really into history and has dabbled in state politics. He occasionally publishes articles and has created a couple of historical documentaries. Though I am the only “professional” artist in my family, traveling to Honduras on a medical relief trip with my dad this year gave me an entirely new appreciation of the artistry involved in cutting up and healing a body.  And my mom has really devoted her life to creating beautiful things for her family and loved ones to enjoy.

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Her style…iconic.

Melanie: You’ve traveled all over the world. Did that have an impact on your creativity?

Lauren: I spent my junior year of college abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France.  I knew that I would never improve my French unless I was submersed in the actual culture.  Several years out of practice, I’m pretty rusty at the skills I picked up there, although I can still mostly understand when it is spoken to me.  When I was in 8th grade, my dad taught anesthesia for one month at a hospital university in Moshi, Tanzania.  My entire family accompanied him and I attended an international school with my siblings (International School of Moshi).  My ISM classmates were from all over the world. 

Melanie So you grew up surrounded by culture, art and history?

Lauren: We grew up really spoiled in the sense that art and creativity were always encouraged in our house.  In fact, our house has always been a bit of a circus, bustling with whatever people’s current projects are!  My brother would often film movies with his friends there, and once even built a “submarine” film set in the garage.  My parents tend to adopt our friends, so there are always people coming and going when we are home.  

My parents are outgoing, creative people, unafraid to try new things.  They don’t operate under the idea that you must have a degree in whatever you decide to pursue.  Their fearlessness has been a major shaping influence in my life.  

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One of Lauren’s exquisite dresses, that she generously shows you how to make in All Dolled up.

Melanie: Have you always known that you wanted to be a designer/artist/author?

I definitely didn’t grow up knowing this was what I wanted to do.  I’ve always enjoyed arts and crafts, but it didn’t even occur to me until I was graduating from college that I could make a career out of a creative field.  My interests and projects continue to evolve and I am curious to see what is in store!

Melanie: Who or what inspires you?

I’m really inspired by creative people and New Orleans happens to be filled with them!  The history of New Orleans also inspires me, because it feels like traveling back through time with all the history and interesting characters who populate the city today.  I also love just discovering other artists through the rabbit holes of Instagram and Pinterest.

Melanie: The best part of social media to me! I read that you met Costume Designer Colleen Atwood on the set of Public Enemies and she influenced your decision to go to NYU. 

Lauren: My encounter with her was hugely significant, because it got me thinking about that possibility. Meeting her was just such an awesomely weird and surreal experience.  It got my brain working on how costume design was this beautiful tangle of all the subjects I loved: history, fashion, and psychology.  

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Melanie: Your artistic resume is so long and varied. You seem to have an ever-flowing river of ideas. Do you ever get stuck? Have you ever felt afraid to try something new?

Lauren: Yes, I definitely get stuck and I think that every human does at some point, regardless of their career choice. For me, the hardest part is sitting down to begin a project. 

Before I dive into something really consuming (like All Dolled Up or The Haunted Dollhouse), my soul gets a little weary thinking about how HUGE it seems. It always helps to break these monsters down into more manageable daily tasks. You need to be disciplined without being too hard on yourself.  Just set yourself up to be moving the project forward every day with small steps. 

For example, if you wake up and say, “I’m going to create a book about paper dolls today,” it’s never going to happen. Instead say, “Today I am going to rough draft a table of contents.  Tomorrow I will outline the introduction. The day after tomorrow, I will create a rough storyboard for the pages.”  The key is that none of these things has to be perfect. Just get your idea on paper and then keep refining it as you bring in new elements.

I am afraid on a daily basis. Fear is a completely normal reaction when you are confronting the unknown.  For a creative, this means not being able to envision the end product at the beginning, but trusting the process will bring you through to the end. 

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One of Lauren’s miniature libraries available in her Etsy Shop.

Melanie: How do you approach a new project? Is your approach methodical, researched, experimental? Is there a Lauren Delaney process?

Lauren:  When starting a new project, I spend a lot of time exploring images and reading.  I am gauging my own reaction to things like tone, color, and setting. I make a lot of notes, collecting quotes from other writers, as I begin placing the images next to each other.  Finding the thread through this collection I’ve assembled is how I discover my own opinion about the world that I am creating. 

Melanie: Oh my! I still haven’t even tackled all my questions about your many projects that I REALLY want to talk about. Your miniatures, The Haunted Dollhouse and your new book, All Dolled Up. I think this is going to have to be a two-part interview.

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This is Zelda, one of the guests at Lauren’s book launch party at Century Girl.

Lauren: Thank you so much again for caring about my work and sharing it with the world.

Lauren has very graciously offered to host a random drawing for a signed copy of her book, All Dolled Up. No purchase is necessary to enter. Simply follow my blog (not mandatory, but I hope you’ll come back for Part 2 of Lauren’s interview) and leave your email in the comments section, so I can notify you if you win. I will not use your email for marketing purposes or solicitation. The drawing will be held on May 15th.

Finally,  I want to end with what I think is one of the coolest things about Lauren. In 2013, during the height of Gatsby mania, when the remake of the classic movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan was coming out, Lauren won first place in the costume contest at The Gatsby Garden Party in Oheka Castle New York.

“Lauren is so cool,” said her #1 fan.

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Photo Credit: Christopher Lane

To be continued…Part 2 coming soon.