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posted: 9/21/2015 6:00 AM

Folk art at its finest

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  • Scott Obernberger quit his job as an attorney to spend more time at the potter's wheel.

    Scott Obernberger quit his job as an attorney to spend more time at the potter's wheel.
    Photos Courtesy of Art of the Heartland

  • Darrin McDonal built his first muzzleloader before he left grade school.

    Darrin McDonal built his first muzzleloader before he left grade school.

  • Artist Beth Clark-McDonal will sell her Celtic-inspired paintings at the Country Folk Art Festival.

    Artist Beth Clark-McDonal will sell her Celtic-inspired paintings at the Country Folk Art Festival.

  • Tony Costanza, a prolific wood sculptor, created this Halloween piece.

    Tony Costanza, a prolific wood sculptor, created this Halloween piece.

  • An example of Scott Obernberger's work.

    An example of Scott Obernberger's work.

  • John Bachman builds reproductions of early American furniture.

    John Bachman builds reproductions of early American furniture.

  • Heather Hug creates sculptural collages in a technique she calls "assemblage."

    Heather Hug creates sculptural collages in a technique she calls "assemblage."

  • Lisa Martin added this painting on the top of an old table to create a unique piece of furniture.

    Lisa Martin added this painting on the top of an old table to create a unique piece of furniture.

  • Author and painter Will Moses will sign copies of his new book, "Fairy Tales for Little Folks," at the weekend shows.

    Author and painter Will Moses will sign copies of his new book, "Fairy Tales for Little Folks," at the weekend shows.

  • This longrifle was crafted by gunmaker Darrin McDonal.

    This longrifle was crafted by gunmaker Darrin McDonal.

  • Peggy White recently created this pumpkin bulletin board.

    Peggy White recently created this pumpkin bulletin board.

  • Stacia Dortsch repurposes antiques, pillows and textiles that she will sell in her booth.

    Stacia Dortsch repurposes antiques, pillows and textiles that she will sell in her booth.

 
By Patricia Gerlach
Special to the Daily Herald

Each example of folk art is as diverse as the person who produces it.

See for yourself at the Country Folk Art Festival Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 25-27, at Kane County Fairgrounds Robinson Hall, 525 S. Randall Road, where the work of more than 50 highly respected artisans is showcased.

Inspired by the work of 18th century folk artist Edward Hicks, 52-year-old Lisa Martin decorates "found'' vintage furniture with charming stylized images. She attended her last art class in eighth grade.

Using parts he made from scratch, Darrin McDonal built his first muzzleloader when he was 12. Now the disabled firefighter/paramedic's experience in crafting superior longrifles often sends him professionally to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

Then there's Heather Hug who creates sculptural collages using unrelated objects she collects and arranges. She describes her technique as "assemblage."

The three will appear at the Country Folk Art Festival for the first time this year, joining a group of acknowledged experts in their fields who are veterans of this annual juried showcase of American talent. Everything offered at the show is made in America by the artisans who present it.

During the last three decades, the Country Folk Art Festival has earned a reputation as one of the country's finest shows of its type. It is produced by Robin Reed, CEO of Art of the Heartland, the family-owned company that also presents several other prestigious Fox Valley shows.

''Folk art represents a variety of work by self-taught or even unschooled craftsmen or artisans,'' said Reed, adding it may be specific to a culture or occasionally mimic fine art.

Reed's never-ending quest to discover new talent occasionally presents surprises.

Such as Scott Obernberger, who seven years ago traded his busy career as an attorney to launch Twice Baked Pottery. The move was an incredible change in how this man perceived the world. He believes "Art opens up possibilities we don't always see or take for granted."

Other newcomers are Stacia Dortsch, who repurposes antiques, pillows and textiles; needlework guru Lisa Jaros; and Dawn Sundstrum, who totes her stacked ceramics to the show.

They join endearing show veterans including the legendary artist and author Will Moses (remember his famous great-grandmother?) who will sign copies of his new book, "Fairy Tales for Little Folks" (Penguin Random House; $17.99). Stories include Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin and more with five full spreads of Moses' illustrations. Moses paintings, prints serigraphs, puzzles and more are available at the show.

Like Moses, basically self-taught Tony Costanza, often called America's most prolific wood sculptor, never studied art. After teaching Spanish and Italian in a Chicago high school for almost two decades, he retired to carve out a living producing spooky wooden witches and goblins sought after by high-profile collectors.

Whimsical Canfolk -- spice cans transformed into sprightly doll-like figures -- are the brainchildren of Kristen Bernabe Sunby, a former high school English teacher turned mom. See new versions of John Bachman's painstakingly rendered reproductions of early American furniture. Observe touches of magic and fantasy in Beth Clark-McDonal's Celtic-inspired paintings.

Whether shopping to find that just-perfect gift for a loved one or freshen up seasonal home décor, the Country Folk Art Festival offers something for everyone -- at every price point.

Check out Christine Mulkeen's knitwear, Peggy White's handmade boards and pushpins, Nancy Rodemann's hand-carved music boxes, Natasha Lehrer Lewis's fabric art, Thomas Siciliano's handmade paper artwork.

Keep an eye out for whimsical yard art, painted gourds, Halloween and Christmas décor with a historic flair, floorcloths, Shaker items, handmade toys and much more.

The Friday evening preview and Sunday show feature live hammered dulcimer music -- delicate waltzes and traditional Irish music -- by the Old Town School Dulcimer Ensemble.

When all that shopping works up an appetite, check out the food. Home-cooked lunches are available Saturday and Sunday. And a Country Market offers handmade toffee, cupcakes and local honey along with handcrafted soap and completely natural skin care items to take home.

Come early. Stay late. It's a once-a-year event.

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