Artists in a variety of styles from visual to vocal highlight the 25th annual Laumeier Art Fair today through Sunday at in Sunset Hills.
The fair, which also offers a packed lineup of musical entertainers including vocalist Erin Bode and the group Farshid Etniko, has become a tradition to many area people.
“It’s fantastic,” said Marie Oberkirsch, special events manager at Laumeier. “I was just reviewing one of our old binders from 1989, and it was just so much fun to see how the event has really grown. Just from my own experience, I know that there are a lot of families now who come out to celebrate Mother’s Day with us. And it’s not just mothers and daughters, but now we’ve got granddaughters coming out as well.”
The art fair, with 150 participants from around the United States and Canada, welcomes an eclectic mix of artists.
“We like both fine art and fine craft,” Oberkirsch said. “As an outdoor show, we do get a lot of craftsmen out here. Sculptural, three-dimensional pieces lend themselves well to the environment, since we’re a sculpture park. I would also say that, with all of these categories, we’re seeing a lot of shifting back to crafts, and that’s kind of fun to see. We still have a lot of fine arts—a lot of two-dimensional drawings and paintings—but a lot of fine craft, such as woodworking, basketry, ceramics and glass.”
Couples tend to come on Friday night, which offers a wine tasting. So do serious art buyers.
“They’ll get here when the majority of the work is visible,” Oberkirsch said. “As artists start selling through the weekend, you may not get the pick piece you were coming out to look for. So Friday night is a really great night for the collector, as well as for those folks who like to have a glass of wine with their experience.”
Available for sale are works in ceramics, fiber/textiles, glass, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography/digital, printmaking/drawing, sculpture and wood. The art fair is a highly competitive juried show and receives over 700 applications, of which 150 are selected to participate. Judges award a total of $11,000 in prizes, sponsored in part by the , to artists achieving excellence.
The artists enjoy coming to the fair.
“Because of the landscape, it’s a really wonderful environment,” Oberkirsch said. “A lot of shows (elsewhere) are on asphalt, and it’s just not quite as friendly. We’re on grass, which can be a challenge if it’s damp. But we’re looking for a nice, sunny weekend, and nature is in full bloom right now. We’re so happy that spring hit early—that’s made a big difference. The leaves are in full foliage, and I really see a difference, just in terms of how green the park is.
"So it’s a wonderful backdrop for the artists, and it’s also a pleasant experience," she said. "It’s a lot cooler being out among the trees and the grass. There’s also a lot of wildlife, which is kind of fun. The birds are singing, you’re not dealing with traffic and smog—it’s a really nice natural environment.”
Helen Springer of Milford, MI, just northwest of Detroit, is a basket weaver who has displayed her crafts at several Laumeier art fairs.
“Laumeier is still one of my favorite shows—just a lovely setting,” she said.
She also likes the interaction with visitors.
“That’s why artists do shows, because they like to talk to customers,” she said. “I have things in galleries, and it’s not my favorite thing to do. I really like meeting the people. And it gives you a feel for what they’re interested in, and colors. You have to stay on top of current decorating colors.”
Springer took her first basket weaving class in 1974, and by 1976 was adept enough to start attending shows as an artist. Although she has a degree in mathematics, Springer found her calling making baskets.
“What I like is I can be creative,” she said. “I have to keep changing, and if I didn’t keep changing, I would get bored.”
She creates traditional cane baskets and also makes “lathe” baskets, combining cane with wood fashioned by her husband Jim. Just recently she has started making gourd baskets that use various gourds as a base. The baskets range from small enough to hold in your hand to 2 ½-feet-tall, with a wide variety of appearances.
Some are shaped like acorns or urns, and Springer can use dyes to make the baskets virtually any color she chooses. Prices range from $15 for a traditional basket to $400 for a wood rim lathe basket. Springer thinks she will have about 70 baskets on display at Laumeier.
“I don’t count them anymore—I don’t have time,” she said. “We just take as many as the van will hold, and our suitcases.”
Her favorites are the larger baskets.
“I love to make big baskets. People can’t afford them,” she said, laughing, “But that’s the (type) I enjoy doing the most.”
Springer is genuinely touched when her creations capture someone’s fancy.
“Sometimes people send me pictures after they have taken (a basket) home and put it somewhere,” she said. “It’s either a gift, which at certain times of year is the case, or they have a specific spot in mind, or they just love baskets. The best thing I can hear is when somebody says to me, ‘I’m collecting your work.’ That’s a wonderful treat.”
“They can make hand-made gifts for mom; it’s a lot of fun,” Oberkirsch said.