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East County Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018 1 week ago

Artists prepare for Fall Art Show & Sale in Lakewood Ranch

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Side of Ranch: Jay Heater
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

Mill Creek's Wilma Kroese was talking about where I could find some of her artwork, such as the handmade ceramics she will display Saturday, Nov. 17 at the 17th annual Fall Art Show & Sale at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.

Kroese has a number of her pieces on shelves around her home and on display at various art galleries. Then there is her work at Art Center Manatee.

Where else?

Kroese laughed. "Some end up in the landfill," she said.

Ceramics suits her style.

For Kroese, who moved to Lakewood Ranch with her husband, Fred, from Nieuwkoop, Netherlands 13 years ago, the pursuit of perfection doesn't come into the equation. Sure, all those bowls, vases and plates look nice, but she isn't hoping to land one in the Louvre.

Jay Heater

She wants to experiment, she wants to relax and she wants to make friends.

Ceramics checks all those boxes for her, even when things go wrong.

She looked over at a bowl she made. It was filled with dirt and had a plant coming out of it. That bowl was a ceramics session gone bad.

I went to visit Fred and Wilma — yes, Fred and Wilma, I don't make this stuff up — to preview the Fall Art Show & Sale, which features local artists and is presented by the Creative Arts Association of Lakewood Ranch.

I caught myself thinking, this is a perfect representation of East County, and why we try so hard to make it nice for vacationers.

Fred and Wilma came on a visit to the area, and they loved it. Then they bought a vacation home here. And then they came on vacation, and never went home. It's a story you hear all the time.

When Wilma, who now is 57, landed in East County, she had never done any ceramics. She was a seamstress, and while that took a certain amount of artistic talent, she wanted more.

She tried painting.

"I always have been busy with my hands," she said. "But painting wasn't my thing. I can't draw, so I just was not that good at it."

After that didn't work out so well, she decided to check out Art Center Manatee and she found a class on ceramics. She sat behind a pottery wheel and churned out a bowl that turned out well.

"It was beginner's luck," she said. "But I got my own wheel, and a kiln, and I took classes at the center. It was nice being dirty, to create something out of a hunk of clay."

Those who visit the Lakewood Ranch Town Hall for the art show will find she has done some beautiful pieces using what she calls "horsehair pottery." After a first firing, horsehair and other items, such as feathers, can be added to create some fascinating results.

Those results are all over her home. Fred comes out of his office and he notes one exception.

"Nothing in there," he said with a laugh, pointing into his office.

She does sell some of her art, although she admits her nicest pieces are hard to let go.

"I think to myself, 'I really wanted that one,'" she said.

Now a decade into her hobby, her techniques have improved. 

"You learn how to center your clay on the wheel exactly," she said. "If you don't, one side will be thicker than the other. (Artists) can tell.

"I also can make bigger (and thinner) pieces now."

Although most of the pieces displayed around the house are fairly small, she has created several garden ornaments and birdbaths.

She won't get rich. Her most expensive sale ever brought her $140.

"The incentive is to pay for my classes," she said. "And it's so hard to price them. It can be time consuming."

With that she began a tour of her work around her house. With all the beautiful vases and bowls she pointed at a plate.

"I hate making those," she said. "They never come out the way I want."

Hello, landfill.

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