Embellishment > The Nature of Art

Although steeped in lazy pleasure and natural beauty, summer is too short in New Hampshire. So now is the time to soak up every last juicy bit of it. And what better way to do that than by blurring the lines between outdoors and in?Whether it’s popping a fresh spray of wildflowers into a vase or adding a nature inspired decorative piece on a sun-drenched patio, summer can spill over into your living spaces and flourish just a while longer. These pieces (most of which were hand-plucked from the 2008 League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair at the Mount Sunapee Resort in Newbury) are inspired by nature and define the essence of “wildly” beautiful art.At this year’s League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair, you’ll find plenty of evidence that art is indeed the perfection of nature. See what’s new during the first week of August—see below for more information.Janice Miller has been plying her hand-me-down hobby for about seven years. Her late husband wanted to give wood carving a try but didn’t really enjoy it. Miller, however, took to it from the start. The birds are sculpted out of tupelo wood, known for its even grain and workability. Miller then uses acrylic paints that have been thinned down to the consistency of tea, and applies between eighteen and twenty coats to get the final effect. (Thick paint would fill in the details.) “People say I’m patient,” says Miller, of The Miller Birds in Ashby, Massachusetts. They should: Each wooden bird carving takes about forty hours to create.“I’m very inspired by nature, whether it’s directly out of the garden or what’s happening under a microscope,” says Teresa Taylor of Salty Dog Pottery in Barnstead. She adds that while some of her pieces are sculptural and freestanding, much is made for food or flowers. Taylor formed the shape of this piece by wrapping a slab of clay around a block of cut wood. She free-drew the lip of the vase, and used various tools to carve in the details of the leaves and the marks on the bottom surface. After firing a piece once, she then paints—and even sprays, using an air compressor—colored clay slips. Taylor also uses a salt kiln, where salt is added to react with the silica in the clay during firing. “The magical chemistry that happens creates this air of mystery to the finished piece,” she says. “You never completely know what you’re going to get. It depends on season and atmosphere.”Julie Schroeppel’s dichroic glass plates shimmer in metallic jewel colors and lend themselves especially well to dragonfly designs. Dichroic glass, Schroeppel explains, is a special type of stained glass coated with multiple layers of thin metallic oxides. This coating makes the colors on the glass shift when viewed from different angles—much like a dragonfly’s iridescent wings. She cuts the pieces of glass from large sheets, then fires the final work in a kiln to fuse the glass pieces together. Although she considers her plates “functional art,” she also adds, “you probably don’t want to cover them up” because they are so pretty. Schroeppel, based in Francestown, also does a line of dichroic glass jewelry with dragonfly designs.Nathan Macomber grew up in the country in Vermont, playing in ponds and rivers. “Critters and bugs and wildlife” in his glasswork, therefore, are the result of this upbringing. But his profession as a glassblower has taken him from one side of the country to the other—and back again. As an apprentice at a glassblower’s studio in Arizona, Macomber remembers that “the studio brought in a guy who did a lot of sculpting on a torch, and I used the frog as the basis of my learning curve. I’d begin every day doing a couple of frogs.” Each of these vases was blown at a furnace, the frogs were sculpted by a torch, and then the frog and vase were combined into one piece. Today, Macomber works out of the addition to the barn on his property in Conway (it used to be his grandfather’s farm), and he has moved on to other forms of wildlife, such as lizards, spiders and fish.Mention how realistic Glen MacInnis’s turtle sculptures are (this one is about two feet across), and he’ll point out that they don’t look anything like real turtles. “They’ve gotten more realistic in recent years,” says MacInnis, who is based in Auburn, “but they are more anthropomorphic looking. In fact, the most realistic ones are the ones that don’t sell.” His designs are a blend of different types of sea turtles, and he borrows “a little bit of this and a little bit of that” for the creations. His turtles also do something real turtles cannot: The shell lifts to reveal a compartment to put things in.The “symmetry” in Robert Rossel’s Symmetry Tile Works refers to the symmetrical patterns found in nature—not in the end result of his work, which is not cast or done by machine. In fact, each of the company’s tiles is unique. “When you get it right, you get something magical,” says Rossel, based in Epping. “If you allow yourself to rely on hydraulic machines, you could get ‘perfect,’ but you cannot create a one-of-a-kind work.” This particular large-format piece, part of his “sea life” collection, is a twelve-inch square tile surrounded by 20 three-inch square tiles. Rossel uses a combination of glazes, then coats the top surface with crushed recycled glass, creating an “oceanic crystal reflection from the faceting of all the glass.”Jeff Forman’s bulls are just some of the many abstract animal shapes made by this granite craftsman and New Hampshire Art Association member. Among other favorites is his collection of sea creatures, which include a manta ray, octopus, seahorse, dolphin and jellyfish. “Granite is such a hard stone, which makes it fun to carve in to thin, flowing shapes,” says Forman, who also makes granite countertops through his company Bluefish Granite in North Hampton.It all started with a pretend beetle that Sam Wild of Wild Pottery in Wilmot found in his garage while cleaning one day. He made a mold of it and started attaching it to his pottery in various ways. The beetle fared so well with his customers that he now looks for interesting toys or knickknacks to use as molds for his finished pieces. The frog on this chopstick bowl, for instance, came from a piece of jewelry he found in Spain.Sally Cornwell, a potter for thirty-one years and owner of SkySong Pottery in Wolfeboro, hasn’t been able to part with this vase: “It’s one of my favorites,” she says. Using a hand-building technique called pinch and coil (something she says early Native Americans used), Cornwell produced her creation with speckled stoneware clay. She then took an everyday comb to scrape up and down, all the way around the pot. Often, she will glaze only the inside of the piece so the textures and colors of the clay body are enhanced. Sponged-on mason stain accentuates the pattern. Each clay leaf is culled from her “books and books of pressed leaves,” which she collects year-round. “They [the leaf samples] get destroyed in the process, so it’s a one-time only deal,” she adds.Seventy-sixth Annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s FairThe annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair, the oldest of its kind in the country, features more than two hundred booths of traditional and contemporary crafts by juried members of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. In addition to Living with Craft and the Sculpture Garden, the fair features daily demonstrations, music, as well as hands-on craft workshops for children, teens and adults.The CraftWear exhibition showcases handcrafted clothing, jewelry and accessories, and the Shop at the Fair highlights work of some of the league’s newest members.August 1-9, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., daily (rain or shine). Admission is $10 for adults, $8 seniors and students, and children age thirteen and younger are admitted free of charge.Tickets purchased online by July 31 are $8 for adults, and $6 seniors and students. Mount Sunapee Resort • Route 103 in Newbury • 224-3375 • www.nhcrafts.org