If you were in the market for handmade goods last week, the “Fabulous Arts Boutique” at Art Center Sarasota was the place to be.
The downtown arts center played host to members of Surface Design of Sarasota, Manatee Weavers’ Guild, Florida West Coast Bead Society and the Venetian Society of Basket Weavers.
Among the Sarasota arts and crafters were artists Marge Schemanski, Lois Mills, Karen Johnson, Betsy Meyer and Kathie Hayes — a chatty five-some with enough creative juices to power their own four-day arts festival.
If you don’t believe me, just ask Mills, a soft-spoken weaver, whose business card reads: Lois Mills, weaver and maker of buttons.
Said Mills: “I had an art critic tell me once that I mix yarns like a painter mixes paint. That’s exactly what I strive for.”
What materials are you drawn to?
Johnson: “Pearls and natural stones. I like anything that represents the sea.”
Hayes: “Fiber and beads. There’s something about working your hands over them. They’re soothing just to hold.”
Mills: “Yarn. I’ve been weaving for 35 years. From the first shuttle I threw, I was hooked. It spoke to me. I knew I could do with it whatever I wanted.”
Meyer: “Knitted and crocheted fibers.”
How has your art evolved over the years?
Schemanski: “When I started basket weaving in 1985, primitive country-style was very popular. It’s gone out of style since. Country baskets have become much more sophisticated, which is why I’ve embraced a contemporary version of the Nantucket basket.”
Hayes: “Three years ago I started creating something called a free-lace scarf. Basically, you sandwich together paper, yarn and transparent film. You sew over it with a sewing machine, drop it in water, and the paper dissolves. I’m wearing one now.”
Johnson: “I worked for a long time as a manager at a battered women’s shelter. I used all my creativity for them, so I wasn’t artistic for a long time. When I moved to Florida, I promised myself that I’d get back into art. It was my first love.”
Do you ever buy what you can make from a department store?
Hayes: “Very rarely. I will make a pair of earrings if I need something to go with an outfit for an event.”
Johnson: “If I buy jewelry from a store, it’s because I’m foraging beads. I tend to take things apart and rework them.”
Schemanski: “You should absolutely buy from the artist. Some people are very content to buy a basket at Michael’s, but the people that are here tonight appreciate handmade goods.”
What item is the hottest-selling tonight?
Meyer: “I made these paper roses out of cut magazine pages. They seem to be making the biggest splash.”
Johnson: “Typically, the first night we sell a lot of woolen goods, because we get a lot of weavers looking for fabric materials.”
Schemanski: “My purses. Wearable art is very popular.”
What inspires you?
Mills: “Monet. He’s my favorite. I like his watery images. They calm the soul.”
Meyer: “Spontaneity. I can’t follow directions. This goes for everything — cooking, getting up in the morning, you name it. I plan too much in advance.”
Johnson: “That feeling you get when you open a jewelry box with the little ballerina spinning on top. No matter how old we get, we still love shiny, sparkly things.”
Do you have a favorite piece?
Meyer: “I did a whole series of free-form knitted animals and dolls: a puffer fish, an emu, an octopus, a fallen angle and a dancer.”
These sound like good gifts for grandchildren. Do you have any?
Meyer: “I have four grandsons. But these are art dolls. They’re much too expensive for children!”
Contact Heidi Kurpiela at [email protected]