Artist brings whimsical pieces to Glen Ellyn Festival of the Arts

  • Artist Layl McDill of Minneapolis aims to bring a sense of wonder to viewers at art shows such as the Glen Ellyn Festival of the Arts, where she's set to display and sell her clay-based pieces Aug. 25-26.

    Artist Layl McDill of Minneapolis aims to bring a sense of wonder to viewers at art shows such as the Glen Ellyn Festival of the Arts, where she's set to display and sell her clay-based pieces Aug. 25-26. Courtesy of Layl McDill

 
 
Updated 8/22/2018 6:26 AM

When people see her art, Layl McDill wants them to wonder, wants them to be transported back to that magical phase when they were kids and their queries about the world abounded.

"Where did this thing come from?" "How did she do this?"

 

Questions like these add up to a feeling of wonderment, whimsy -- a feeling the Minneapolis-based artist says she is excited to bring to art enthusiasts in the Western suburbs during the Glen Ellyn Festival of the Arts on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 25 and 26.

The fair is one of roughly 25 across the country where McDill will display and sell her clay-based, colorful artwork, from tiny ornaments and standard-sized teapots to intricate and life-size, six-foot-tall sculptures.

The polymer clay piece "Air Celebration on This Tiny Bubble We Inhabit" is an example of the work of Minneapolis-based artist Layl McDill, who is set to attend the Glen Ellyn Festival of the Arts on Aug. 25-26 at Lake Ellyn.
The polymer clay piece "Air Celebration on This Tiny Bubble We Inhabit" is an example of the work of Minneapolis-based artist Layl McDill, who is set to attend the Glen Ellyn Festival of the Arts on Aug. 25-26 at Lake Ellyn. - Courtesy of Layl McDill

Setting up her tent, displaying her pieces, chatting with customers, building a following -- the art show life suits this artisan, who got into the world of traveling art fairs when she was in college about 25 years ago.

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"I love every part of it," she said.

At a show like the one hosted by the Glen Ellyn Lions Club along the shores of Lake Ellyn, McDill said she typically works on a piece to sell later, not only for productivity's sake, but also for demonstration value.

"I'm layering colors together," she said. "I'm always doing it at the shows. It's like totally impossible to describe, so I like to do it in person."

McDill, a Wyoming native who attended Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio, completes her art using polymer clay and a technique called millefiori, which is often used to create delicate patterns on glassware.

A piece called "Her Slow Yet Spectacular Emersion" is among the works artist Layl McDill created in polymer clay using a technique called millefiori.
A piece called "Her Slow Yet Spectacular Emersion" is among the works artist Layl McDill created in polymer clay using a technique called millefiori. - Courtesy of Layl McDill
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Within her chosen medium, the millefiori process allows her to create "tiny pictures" inside each chunk of colorful clay.

As she's working in her Minneapolis studio or at each art festival she attends, McDill answers questions with responses that keep people thinking.

To the standard "how long does it take you to make each piece," McDill might say -- happily and without annoyance -- "it's incalculable," or "forever."

When asked what her art is made of, she lets her viewers give their answers first, before spilling the beans that it's polymer clay. Someone once said "blowup swimming pools." That was wacky enough to remember.

And when people wonder where she gets her ideas, her answer proves they come from her life, which she shares with her husband and two daughters; her mind, which she strives to keep curious; and the world around her.

Teapots such as this "Singing Rooster Teapot" are among the ornaments, sculptures and other works of art Layl McDill of Minneapolis forges out of polymer clay using a technique called millefiori.
Teapots such as this "Singing Rooster Teapot" are among the ornaments, sculptures and other works of art Layl McDill of Minneapolis forges out of polymer clay using a technique called millefiori. - Courtesy of Layl McDill

"It's always like, 'How do you not get ideas?'" she said.

Maybe as people grow up, they lose their sense of wonder because they start thinking they know all of the answers, McDill said. Her art, with all of its atypical subjects, colorful pieces, found objects and bold designs, could just bring back some of that wonderful feeling -- if viewers can suspend their logical mind.

"Sometimes we think we want to be grown up," she said. "We all should just try to not be grown up for a while. That's my goal -- stay about 12 in my mind."

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