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Article updated: 9/13/2013 11:10 AM

Naperville's Riverwalk Fine Art Fair in its own league

Rosie and Dave Claus of Naperville will bring their unique gourd creations to the Naperville Art League’s annual Riverwalk Fine Art Fair. Dave prepares the surfaces of the gourds and does pyro-engraving to burn in designs, while Rosie does the weaving and coiling.

Rosie and Dave Claus of Naperville will bring their unique gourd creations to the Naperville Art League's annual Riverwalk Fine Art Fair. Dave prepares the surfaces of the gourds and does pyro-engraving to burn in designs, while Rosie does the weaving and coiling.

 

Daily Herald file photo

The Naperville Riverwalk setting helps create an ambience for the Riverwalk Fine Art Fair that draws both artists and visitors.

The Naperville Riverwalk setting helps create an ambience for the Riverwalk Fine Art Fair that draws both artists and visitors.

 

Daily Herald file photo

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Dave Claus knows the words "gourd art" often conjure up images of smiley faces and bird houses. Those aren't the kind of gourd creations he and his wife, Rosie, will show and sell at the Riverwalk Fine Art Fair this weekend.

"It's kind of a unique art form," said Claus, a retired high school architectural drawing teacher from Naperville. "We do weaving on top of the gourd."

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If you go

What: Riverwalk Fine Art Fair
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 14-15
Where: Jackson Avenue between Main and Eagle streets in downtown Naperville
Admission: Free
Info: napervilleartleague.com or (630) 355-2530

The Clauses use weaving, coiling, pyro-engraving, Africa beads and a variety of natural materials to turn gourds into canvases that often have a Midwest theme and sell for anywhere from $25 to $1,000.

"It's not uncommon for us to put in 80 to 90 hours in just one piece," said Claus, who purchases gourds especially grown for the Naperville couple by farmers in Arkansas, Alabama, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The gourds take a full year to dry, he said.

"Once it dries out, it's forever," he said.

Dave and Rosie Claus will be among 135 artists showing their work at the Naperville Art League's 28th annual Riverwalk Fine Art Fair from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 14 and 15, along Jackson Avenue between Eagle and Main streets in downtown Naperville.

Claus said he and his wife have been exhibitors in the fair since they started making gourd art 10 years ago.

"It's really a good crowd that appreciates good artwork," he said. "The setting is very nice."

This year's juried show includes artists from all over the United States and one from Israel, said Debbie Venezia, executive director of the Riverwalk Art Fair.

"We have about 60 percent returning artists," she said. "The exhibiting artists are really such hard workers."

They work in media including painting and drawing, sculpture and ceramics, jewelry and fiber art, and 2-D and 3-D mixed media. Only original work is permitted in the show.

Venezia said the outdoor show draws an estimated 70,000 people, but weather is a big factor.

"The real buyers come out in the rain," she said.

The fair is the art league's main fundraiser and an opportunity for it to make its presence known. Despite years in the community, the league's Naperville Fine Art Center and Gallery at 500 N. Center St. is unknown even to some locals, Venezia said.

"We want to let people know we're here. We have classes for adults and kids," she said.

A children's activities tent at the fair invites youngsters to exercise their creativity. Members of the DuPage Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Sinfonietta will perform at various times throughout the weekend.

League members provide amenities to exhibiting artists that include booth sitting so exhibitors can take a break and an artists' reception on Saturday night. The Riverwalk Fine Art Fair is well-known in the art world, Venezia said.

"We are considered one of the top-rated shows in the country," Venezia said. "We like to think of ourselves as an artists show."

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