Now in its 32nd year, Kentucky Crafted: The Market is a showcase for some of the state's best regional art and crafts, many of which will have great appeal for gardeners in want of some spring therapy after our long winter.
Several of the artists at this annual juried event, which is open to the public on March 8 and 9 in Lexington, create art that is both functional and inspired by nature, including earthy pottery, fine-art landscape paintings, nature photography, and comfortable sitting furniture for work-weary bones.
A quick look through the list of more than 200 exhibitors reveals a broad range of materials and focus: ceramics, paper, leather, wood, metal, edibles, soaps and lotions, fiber, jewelry, furniture, painting, drawing, photography.
Being able to meet the artisans themselves adds another dimension to understanding the inspiration for their works, which, like gardens, involve seminal ideas that are nurtured into reality. Many take requests for custom work, perhaps offering an opportunity to fill a special corner of the lawn that requires a uniquely personal piece of yard art.
The Kentucky Crafted program is organized by the Kentucky Arts Council, a state arts agency that fosters opportunities for Kentuckians to value, participate in and benefit from the arts. Funding is provided by the state General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts.
There will be many other activities going on, including a variety of performing artists providing live music each day, including jazz, Celtic, bluegrass, folk, African drumming and the lute-like Chinese pipa. Hands-on activities, sponsored by organizations including the Explorium of Lexington and Josephine Sculpture Park in Frankfort, will allow visitors to make their own collage, sculpture, pop-up paper and mixed-media works of art.
Here are some of just a few Kentucky Crafted members who will be at the market:
Melissa Oesch, whose business is called Reimagined by Luna, has made hand-bound journals from repurposed materials since 2005. This is her second year selling at the market.
Her rustic book "back to nature" book, bound in green and brown leather with a wood closure, makes a great garden journal. With handmade cotton paper, it's suitable for note-taking and sketching in dry watercolor or pastels.
Other innovative ideas include mini-journal necklaces that can be wedding favors and an oversize special-order book bound in recycled burlap coffee bean sack fabric that, Oesch says, "Coffee Times customers now draw sketches, leave little messages or write poetry in."
One of a select group of artisans organized by the Kentucky Arts Council, which offers support in expanding market exposure, Oesch gained national experience in January at the Buyers Market of American Craft: The American Made Show in Philadelphia.
There are pottery styles to suit all tastes. Amy Elswick of Clay House Pots has been a Kentucky Crafted member for about 15 years.
A gardener herself, she makes some spherical "flower ball" flower frogs, with small holes at the top that accommodate individual cut stems. They are perfect for arranging spring tulips.
Little "candletree" vases that resemble tree trunks and double as candlesticks add a touch of whimsy to a table. Elswich suggests collecting an entire forest of them.
"I love to make things people take pleasure in," she said.
Also: From Stone Fence Pottery, check out the organic surface texture of "bark jug" vases thrown and sculpted by internationally renowned potters Fritz Wolff and Carsten Barchmann, new this year to the market. (Stonefencepottery.com)
Mary S. Rezny
Waiting for spring to arrive can be a bit easier thanks to Mary S. Rezny's mixed-media art work Daffodils, a painted photogram of yellow blossoms against a leafy green background.
"Green is a color that is tranquil and refreshing to look at and offers psychological sense of renewal and harmony," Rezny writes in her description of the work.
Rezny also has created a series of paper books that can be folded and unfolded. Each carries a series of studies on individual plants: the Onion Book, the Beet Book and the lovely Entwined Nasturtiums.
If you're looking for some comfortable rest and relaxation, stop by woodworker Chris Krauskopf's booth to get the feel of his Bonn Zero-G custom rocking chair, which just won a 2014 Niche Award at the Philadelphia Buyer's Market. He uses Kentucky cherry, black walnut and maple in the chairs, which are built to fit the measurements of each customer. He uses only hand tools.
Susan Smith-Durisek is a master gardener and writer from Lexington. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Blog: gardening.bloginky.com.