Artists drawn to 'Boat

Shows bring artists as unique as their work

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Seven-year-old Delaney Pratt plays with a display of sand art creations at a booth run by Sarah Wolf (not pictured) in Gondola Square during the Art on the Mountain Festival in Steamboat Springs on Wednesday afternoon.

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Sue Clark, with Angel Wing Crafts, works in a booth near some of her purses in Gondola Square during the Art on the Mountain Festival in Steamboat Springs on Wednesday afternoon.

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Jay Cooley gets a quick nap between customers at his booth in Gondola Square during the Art on the Mountain Festival in Steamboat Springs on Wednesday afternoon.

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Lindsey Guidroz, from Baton Rouge, La., checks out jewelry at a vendor's booth in Gondola Square during the Art on the Mountain Festival in Steamboat Springs on Wednesday afternoon.

— Just as varied as the art one sees at shows like last week's Art on the Mountain and this weekend's Art in the Park are the artists in the shows themselves. Some come to the shows seeking inspiration, others just a vacation. Some claim to be "starving artists," while others are looking toward an early retirement.

At Art on the Mountain last week, Bob Ball sat in a chair whittling a walking stick while his dog slept on the ground in front of him.

"It's a good show and a good town," said Ball, of Windsor. "We kind of treat it as a vacation and make money, too."

Ball's relaxed demeanor contrasted with that of Lisa Allen of Bayfield, who feverishly wove pine needles through one of her "vaskettes," a unique combination of pottery and the type of pine needle weaving most often seen in making baskets.

"I sold most of my big pieces today," said Allen, who also is one of the artists featured in this weekend's Art in the Park. "It's been a great show."

Allen's work is displayed in galleries in four states and the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., purchased three of her pieces to sell. She is a part-time swim instructor, but other than that, art is her livelihood.

Ball on the other hand, got away from a large-scale operation like Allen's when it became too much to handle. The full-time police officer was at one time wholesaling his chainsaw-made bear and dog carvings in several states, staying up late into the night to meet orders.

"It got a little crazy, and I wasn't getting rich," Ball said.

Ball scaled back and now looks at his work as simply supplemental income that might allow him to retire early from the police force.

Both Ball and Allen said shows such as Art on the Mountain were good opportunities to visit Steamboat, a place they both enjoy. Sarah and Steve Wolf, who sold "motion sand art" at Art on the Mountain, agreed.

"We can't live here, but we don't mind visiting," Sarah Wolf said.

The Wolfs operate an art shop out of their two-car garage, sell their work to two other shops and visit about five art shows a year. Money is not their motivation for visiting the shows; Steve Wolf said they aim to break even selling their $50 pieces after paying for lodging, food and transportation from their home in Pueblo.

"We are really true crafters," Steve Wolf said. "Nobody works for us. We make our own parts. You don't find too many people treating it the way it's supposed to be treated. We wish they did."

The impetus to travel to and participate in art shows varied among the artists. Ball, whose work is on display in an art gallery in Breckenridge, visits about a dozen shows a year.

"It's just a different group of people to put them in from of," he said.

Ball also enjoys being around a different sort of people than he tends to meet on the job as a police officer.

"It's a different environment," he said. "It gives me a different view on the world."

Allen found the show motivational, but hard work. She said the show made her appreciate the work people do in galleries - and justified their fees.

"The really nice thing about doing a show like this is you get to meet the people buying your work," Allen said. "You get a lot of positive feedback and that's inspiring."

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