One of Jeane Vogel’s pet peeves is when people complain that a work of art is too expensive. | Usually, she says, this stems from a lack of understanding of the process and products that go into creating a painting, sculpture or cabinetwork.
“We don’t have a lot of arts education anymore about how art is created,” says Vogel, executive director of Webster Arts, the nonprofit organization that organizes the annual Webster Arts Fair.
But the outdoor art exhibit, which runs Friday through Sunday on Bompart and Lockwood Avenues in Webster Groves, can serve as a crash course.
In addition to 105 local, national and international artists who will display and sell their wares, there will be seven demonstration areas where organizations such as Craft Alliance and Midwest Metalsmiths will give an up-close view of their work.
“When you see what it takes to create a handwoven bowl or fabric, you see what you get is different from what you get at the store,” Vogel explains.
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The artists, selected by a blind jury, are also keen to explain their work to visitors.
People often see Maggie Robertson’s blue-tinted cyanotypes and assume they are indigo dyes, so she uses this openness to strike up a conversation.
“That’s when I start to fully explain the process,” Robertson says.
Cyanotypes, one of the earliest photographic techniques, involve a bit of chemistry, a bit of abstract thought, and a lot of sunlight.
After mixing ferric ammonium citrate with potassium ferricyanide, “I brush the chemicals onto my paper. It goes on a Mountain Dew yellow color,” she says.
When the paper dries, Robertson creates a design to lay on it, using cutouts or pressed plants. She puts the room outside to expose it to the sun. Then the layers are removed and the paper – or sometimes the fabric – is immersed in water. Anything exposed to light turns Prussian blue.
“These are sun prints,” Robertson says. “I never really know how they will develop. There are a lot of variables.”
Jane Olson Glidden returns to the Webster Arts Fair year after year as a representative of the Weavers Guild of St. Louis. She loves when she can introduce someone to a loom for the first time.
“We have demonstrations that show historic crafts and a table of crafts that kids – I should say kids of all ages – can play with,” she says.
Guild members don’t just work with looms. “Many are weavers, but some might be fiber enthusiasts,” says Glidden, who has been weaving for 50 years since an art teacher introduced her to the craft when she was a freshman in high school. “There is such a variety of wonderful possibilities in fiber arts.”
The florins crochet, tattoo, spin, weave bobbin lace and produce tapestries. Knitting, in particular, will be celebrated on Saturday, which happens to be World Public Knitting Day.
“We’re going to ‘bomb’ our booth and encourage people to sit down and knit with us,” says Glidden. “I love it when you realize there are other people like me who love doing this.”
After adding to the wire graffiti, visitors can stop at an “instrument petting zoo” to try out Folk Music tubas, tam-tams and glockenspiels or test their playing strategies with the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.
Yucandu Art Studio and the Falun Dafa Association of Missouri will also have hands-on projects available for the approximately 20,000 estimated visitors.
Musical performances will take place on three stages and local vendors such as Serendipity Ice Cream and Mission Taco Joint will keep everyone well fed.
But the art, of course, is the highlight. “There’s something for every price,” says Vogel, the show’s manager. “From a $30 mug to a $10,000 sculpture and everything in between. There’s something wonderful about putting something on your wall that speaks to you.
What Webster Arts Fair • When 6-10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday • Or Lockwood and Bompart Avenues, Webster Groves • How much Free • More information www.websterartsfair.com