Artist Elizabeth Foley's downtown Lexington house is filled with circles.
It's her motif as a printmaker — exploring the various ways a circle can communicate life's passages. In some ways, Foley said, the circle is like the enso, a symbol of inner strength, harmony and community.
"It becomes about balance, about wholeness, about finding your breath," Foley said while in a whirlwind of preparation for the Woodland Art Fair, which she remembers when it was so small the artists could be housed in a single aisle. "This circle gets me back to focus."
Foley's advance work paid off: The artist was doing a booming business at the fair Saturday morning as thousands of people swarmed Woodland Park, where the annual art fair is held.
Marion Eagan of New Orleans came away with a sack full of Foley's work.
"I'm just drawn to her colors and her abstract style, the way she presents," Eagan said. "She's got some real talent. She's fresh and has brightness and boldness."
The Woodland Art Fair started 40 years ago with about 30 artists. It was rained out both days.
Since then it has become a signature event for the park and the artists involved. But it's also a neighborhood celebration: A church offered parking and free water bottles to passersby. Neighbors held garage sales and set out big bowls of water in their front yards for dogs making the trek to the fair with their owners.
Although the formal categories include everything from mixed media to ceramics to sculpture to metalwork, mere categories don't really convey the variety of work by the 200 artists at this year's fair, which continues for a second day beginning at 10 a.m. Sunday.
One calligraphic work done by Susan Loy in painstakingly tiny letters explained the Higgs boson, a particle that gives mass to other particles.
Photographer John Snell has been at the Woodland fair for 18 years in a row: "This is my best show every year," he said.
Snell's work includes photos of the Red River Gorge and horses.
Jerry Brem of South Carolina has an intriguing niche for his paintings: His tent included variously sized paintings of stacks of books.
"I've done guitars, tulips, chairs," Brem said. "The book idea came to me as I was watching my daughter learn to read."
The fair offers awards including the Award of Excellence, Best of Kentucky, Cutting Edge, and merit awards in various categories.
Foley won the 2014 Best of Kentucky award, sponsored by Artique.
The new press and studio she got this year "ups my game," Foley said. "I need to work larger."
Foley, 47, is also aware of her need to diversify to make her work more widely available to fair patrons. Some of her work is framed, making it more expensive. But she also offers smaller pieces and is trying out a line of tea towels, which are so vibrant and tactile it would be almost a shame to subject them to a dirty pot.
"I'm looking at this year as, I know what I'm doing," Foley said before the fair. "I want people to see my work framed and see it in their homes or offices. ... I'm running on adrenaline right now ... but the minute people walk into the (fair) tent, I'm fine."
Foley is also an art teacher at Sayre School and holds degrees from Washington University and Ohio University. Her parents moved here in 1981; she has been here for 14 years and is married to Christopher Manzo, a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Design. Foley helped form the Lexington Printmakers Collective.
Although she studied graphic design, when she first studied printmaking she became fascinated by how the results took on a life of their own: "I loved the transfer. There's this element of surprise."
Foley said it's vital for her students to see her pushing boundaries as a working artist. Speaking of herself and other Sayre art teachers, she said, "It's important to us that our students see us taking a risk."