The Illinois Artisans Program focuses national attention on the rich heritage of the fine crafting that exists in Illinois. Our juried artists participate in art sprees, craft festivals, exhibitions and other events held at our locations in order to promote their work.

 

Lighthearted

Artisan Interview: Lisa Slodki Chicago, IL

Recognizable by her elegant geometric designs, Chicago jeweler Lisa Slodki started her career over 20 years ago as a self-taught artist. From her first art fair in 8th grade to attending Illinois State University for Metals & Jewelry Design, to launching her career in Chicago, Lisa has always focused on the details. In her jewelry that can be seen in the smooth surfaces and decisive forms. In her career as an artist, the details drive her to evaluate trends with critical eye and strive for jewelry that isn’t overworked but is open to interpretation.

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While surgeon and architect were on the short list of careers Lisa contemplated, Lisa attended Illinois State University to expand her jewelry technique and design knowledge.  

In school, I always had one foot in the craft area and one foot in the conceptual. [I] did sculpture, installation, video and performance stuff. And I’d be down in the metals shop and that’s about craft.

While still making jewelry, after graduation Lisa worked in the art department of a book store. There she learned from the manager and vendors on how to run a business, from sales pitches, purchase orders, to standard mark-ups.

So when the decisive moment came to launch her jewelry, Lisa was ready to hit the pavement.

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Question and Answer session with Bonnie Lopez

Illinois Artisan Bonnie Lopez creates Calaveras Figures from paper mache and brown paper. These lively figures are a celebration of life and remembering past loved ones. During October, Illinois Artisans, Chicago featured Bonnie Lopez, and she joined us one afternoon for an artist talk on the tradition of Day of the Dead and her own art practice.

Find the full interview here. After the artist talk Bonnie Lopez stayed and answered questions about her calaveras.

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Q: When you are finishing a piece, how do you know when it is finished?

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Dia De Los Muertos

Artist Talk: Bonnie Lopez

In celebration of  Chicago Artists Month + Illinois Art & Humanities Month
Illinois Artisan Bonnie Lopez creates Calaveras Figures from paper mache and brown paper. These lively figures are a celebration of life and remembering past loved ones. During October, Illinois Artisans, Chicago featured Bonnie Lopez, and she joined us one afternoon for an artist talk on the tradition of Day of the Dead and her own art practice.

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Day of the Dead:

“Mexicans on the other hand, not only accept the inevitability of death, they embrace its power as being essential to the fabric of life. As Octavio Paz wrote in THE LABRYRINTH OF SOLITUDE, ‘The Mexican is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it: it is one of his favorite toys and his most steadfast love.’ For them, dying isn’t fatal: its part of the continuum of time and space.” (Day of the Death, by Gina Hyams)

Why Calaveras?

I’ve had a love affair with skeletons from the time I was probably four or five years old. For some reason my whole life I’ve been attracted to skeletons and skeleton art.

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Leaping steel and wood sculptures

Artisan Interview: Jeff Engbring, Cobden, IL

Jeff Engbring, a full time carpenter, has always created wood sculptures. Over the last 30 years Engbring’s work has transformed into dynamic forms combining steel and wood. Engbring’s knowledge of technique, materials and subject matter result in large graceful sculptures that leap from the wood and steel. 

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Imaginative Sculptures

Artisan Interview: Annelies Heijnen, Mount Vernon, IL



In art there is a balance between knowing the artist’s intentions and the freedom to interpret art freely and through the lens of our own experiences. Perhaps in figurative work the desire to narrate is stronger, which is why Annelies Heijnen’s work begs the question: “Can you tell me the story?”


But if asked, Annelies Heijnen hesitates to reveal the thoughts and stories going through her mind while making each sculpture.


“I like people to interpret their own story. I spend two weeks on the drawing, and in that time you build your own story. But it is good that you don’t know. Knowing you take away the fun of the piece. Then you don’t have discussion, because you already have the answers. And maybe they aren’t your answers.”

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Living with Clay

Artisan Interview: Kristi Sloniger, Oak Park, IL

There is a beautiful orchestration of steps in a pottery studio. The flow of work between throwing, trimming, bisque, glazing to final firing is the repetition of the same actions over and over. Potters spend hours in quiet concentration, working with raw clay, refining it at each step, working towards the final stages where form and glaze are revealed.

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In a very similar way a musician spends hours repeating the same actions and practicing for a performance. So for studio potter Kristi Sloniger  the connection between her training as a musician and her 30 years as a studio potter can be seen through the discipline of practice and her newest body of work exploring repetition.

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The Tree Transformed: From Trunk to Table

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Artisan Interview: Roger Grimes, Chicago, IL

Sitting down to interview Chicago artisan Roger Grimes in his home, Grimes starts in by pointing out the table we gathered around:

“This is the table of my dreams. It must have been a tremendous walnut”

Grimes constructed the table from a 300 or 400 year old walnut tree recovered from a river bead revealed as the water changed directions, that ended up in a warehouse in the 60’s. For Roger Grimes the story behind each piece of wood and the natural beauty found within is why he creates furniture and why conservation is at the heart of Grimes’ story.

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While some artists design furniture then find a piece of wood to create it, Roger Grimes approaches work from a complete opposite philosophy

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Drawings on Jewelry

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Interview with Artisan: Patty Schwegmann: Champaign, IL

Each piece in Patty Schwegmann’s line of contemporary jewelry is created with exactness and features a variety of clay glazing techniques. It is no surprise then to learn that Schwegmann worked in a microbiology lab and started her creative career as a potter. Combining creativity with discipline gives Schwegmann’s jewelry both playfulness, but also a level of precision.

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Welcome to the Spring 2013 Artisans!

Available now at your nearest Artisans Location!

Illinois Artisans Program is excited to announce the results of the Spring 2013 Jury.

Congratulations to our new artisans! 20 artisans joined The Illinois Artisans Program. Scroll through the May posts to see the new artisans and read a bit about their work.  

The Illinois Artisans Program is continually looking for talented new artists to join the Program. All areas of arts and crafts, including folk, traditional, contemporary, and ethnic, as well as fine art forms are eligible. Over 1,800 artists have been jury selected into the IAP. Juried artists participate in art sprees, craft festivals and other events in order to promote their work. (Want to apply? Read more here)

Illinois Artisan: Gina Lee Robbins (Oak Park, IL)

“I am drawn to simple organic forms that reveal rich texture and irregularity upon close examination: creeping lichen, labyrinthine coral, the patterned skin of a reptile. My work is informed by these facets of biology, incorporating gesture that is suggestive of human emotion and social interaction. The results are startling forms that are both otherworldly, and viscerally familiar. I enjoy hand-building with clay because my process begins with the fluid medium of muddy earth. “

Illinois Artisan: Gina Lee Robbins (Oak Park, IL)

“I am drawn to simple organic forms that reveal rich texture and irregularity upon close examination: creeping lichen, labyrinthine coral, the patterned skin of a reptile. My work is informed by these facets of biology, incorporating gesture that is suggestive of human emotion and social interaction. The results are startling forms that are both otherworldly, and viscerally familiar. I enjoy hand-building with clay because my process begins with the fluid medium of muddy earth. “

Illinois Artisan: Wendy Ritchey, (Berwyn, IL )

“These paintings were all done based on small watercolor sketches done en plain air on location during backpacking trips across the midwest and eastern part of the united states. I am a strong advocate for preserving our wilderness places and for protecting the flora and fauna that inhabit them.  I believe that taking time to slow down and experience nature helps us to put life into perspective. Landscape painting is a similarly slow process like walking, and asks the viewer to stop and be in the moment to observe.”

Illinois Artisan: Wendy Ritchey, (Berwyn, IL )

“These paintings were all done based on small watercolor sketches done en plain air on location during backpacking trips across the midwest and eastern part of the united states. I am a strong advocate for preserving our wilderness places and for protecting the flora and fauna that inhabit them.  I believe that taking time to slow down and experience nature helps us to put life into perspective. Landscape painting is a similarly slow process like walking, and asks the viewer to stop and be in the moment to observe.”

Illinois Artisan: Dwain Naragon  (Charleston, IL)
"Eclectic, best describes my work.  Responding intuitively to ideas, suggestions and images, moves my work in whatever direction the moment takes me. I feel most contented exploring and playing with wood. For 7 years, I have studied historical and contemporary furniture.  This, consequently, has lead to exploring anthropology and archaeology which provide universal clues to functionality/utility.  I am particularly drawn to the diverse repertoire of furniture images which, by association, have good craftsmanship as an inescapable part. "

Illinois Artisan: Dwain Naragon  (Charleston, IL)

"Eclectic, best describes my work.  Responding intuitively to ideas, suggestions and images, moves my work in whatever direction the moment takes me. I feel most contented exploring and playing with wood. For 7 years, I have studied historical and contemporary furniture.  This, consequently, has lead to exploring anthropology and archaeology which provide universal clues to functionality/utility.  I am particularly drawn to the diverse repertoire of furniture images which, by association, have good craftsmanship as an inescapable part. "

Illinois Artisan: Paul Orich (Lansing, IL)

“For me just the idea I am applying to be considered for Illinois Artisan is remarkable in the first place because prior to April of last year there was none coming out of me in any one direction.  In thirty years as a hs/jhs Art instructor, I have never been so focused on an exploration as this. It is  not thinking outside or inside the box but it is within the box that the creations are devised. Am looking forward to more of this and receiving an honor as Illinois Artisan would be something special.”

Illinois Artisan: Paul Orich (Lansing, IL)

“For me just the idea I am applying to be considered for Illinois Artisan is remarkable in the first place because prior to April of last year there was none coming out of me in any one direction.  In thirty years as a hs/jhs Art instructor, I have never been so focused on an exploration as this. It is  not thinking outside or inside the box but it is within the box that the creations are devised. Am looking forward to more of this and receiving an honor as Illinois Artisan would be something special.”

Illinois  Artisan: Mary Ann Trzyna (Frankfort, IL)

“Many of my landscape paintings are plein air work and the ones that aren’t done on-site are from sketches and photos from my walks. I’ve always loved being outdoors exploring the natural world and my paintings are about the sights, sounds and smells of that experience.  I have found myself returning often to a familiar site where I know the “bones” of what I intend to paint which frees me to explore the changing that happens at different times of day, seasons and weathers. I have painted noontime sunlight on trees on a summer day, returned a season later to paint low angled autumn light through the same trees.  “

Illinois  Artisan: Mary Ann Trzyna (Frankfort, IL)

“Many of my landscape paintings are plein air work and the ones that aren’t done on-site are from sketches and photos from my walks. I’ve always loved being outdoors exploring the natural world and my paintings are about the sights, sounds and smells of that experience.  I have found myself returning often to a familiar site where I know the “bones” of what I intend to paint which frees me to explore the changing that happens at different times of day, seasons and weathers. I have painted noontime sunlight on trees on a summer day, returned a season later to paint low angled autumn light through the same trees.  “

Illinois Artisan: Barry Stevens (Aurora, Il)

“Vulcan Glass Art Studio is a small glass studio located in Aurora, Illinois.  I began in 2008 after apprenticing in the Chicagoland area and I specialize in borosilicate lampworking.  I draw inspiration from nature and techniques include fuming, compression work, implosion and blown glass art.  I started out producing beads and have expanded into sculptures, paperweights, marbles, and ornaments.“

Illinois Artisan: Barry Stevens (Aurora, Il)

“Vulcan Glass Art Studio is a small glass studio located in Aurora, Illinois.  I began in 2008 after apprenticing in the Chicagoland area and I specialize in borosilicate lampworking.  I draw inspiration from nature and techniques include fuming, compression work, implosion and blown glass art.  I started out producing beads and have expanded into sculptures, paperweights, marbles, and ornaments.“