Artisan crafts are the hot new trend, and here in St. Louis Park we are brimming with creative talent in countless mediums. We caught up with a few of the artists behind the work to give you a peek at the talent our city holds, and ways to get your hands on some of those pieces.
Beth Novak Enamels
Beth Novak knew she wanted to make art since elementary school, when the teacher brought her work to the front of the class to show the other kids. “Sometimes all it takes is a teacher to highlight what you’ve done,” she says. She made the final decision to pursue her dream at age 16.
Her older sister went to the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and Novak followed in her footsteps to the Menomonie school. She got her degree in studio art with a concentration in art metals and life drawing, and when she graduated got a job sandblasting glass. Then, after having kids, “I started doing beadwork and polymer clay—things that I could do with small children [around],” she says. That’s when she noticed, “everything I was working on looked like metals.” She knew then that that was her calling, so she started working in metals again, creating jewelry, and seven years ago moved her studio to a shared-space studio in St. Louis Park with other artists. There, they are able to share tools, like metal cutting and polishing equipment, and bounce ideas off each other.
“That’s when it really became my job,” she says. “I could leave home and go to my ‘office’ and be working. And that’s when things started to take off.” She began adding enamel to her jewelry, and shortly after took part in the American Craft Council in St. Paul, Baltimore and San Francisco.
The enamel is what sets her jewelry apart, she says. Her pieces also have an unrefined, unpolished look. “People describe it as being organic and industrial,” she says.
For Novak, creating art is a need. “For me, there has to be something going on,” she says. “I think I will always do metals just because of how it reacts … I can see doing this until I can’t do it anymore.”
Novak’s work can be found at Gallery 360 in Minneapolis, the Grand Hand Gallery in St. Paul, and at galleries in Wisconsin and California. Her work also appears in the Artful Home catalog at the Artful Home website and on her own website here.
Unlike many artists, George Hagemann didn’t discover his interest in art until he was an adult, and even then it was sort of by chance.
It was 2004, and Hagemann was talking to a neighbor about possibly learning how to weld. The neighbor had been taking pottery classes at the Minnetonka Center for the Arts and told Hagemann there was a welding program there he should check out. “I was like, ‘Well I was thinking something more structural,’ but … I signed up for it,” he says. He knew the instructor wouldn’t let him make something functional, and he always had a fascination with pop art, he says, “so it was my chance to make something unusual.”
The first thing he made was a jack—like the kids’ game with jacks and a ball, only his jack was 3 feet wide. “And the more I did that, the more I had fun with it,” he says. So after the welding class he took a bronze casting class, and then a stone carving class.
“I just kind of got on a roll of taking these art classes and making things mostly for myself, and then I started doing a few commissions, and then I started doing a few shows,” and it built from there.
Hagemann began volunteering at the Arts Center and ran the sculpture studio for about six years; after retiring from his job in the industrial supply business, he returned to volunteering at the center.
His career in industrial supply gave him a head start on the arts, he says. “I have a lot of experience in the mechanical aspect of things—drilling, cutting, sawing.”
His art includes bronze casting, aluminum casting, metal fabrication, welding, stone carving and fused glass.
Mostly, he says, he does it for his own entertainment, but he does do some commission work, and you can find his work at shows throughout the Twin Cities.
“A lot of people tend to go more figurative or abstract,” he says. “Most of my art is not meant to express a certain opinion or a thought or an idea, it’s to be entertaining—to be fun, to be light.” He once made a 75-pound, 2-foot-high clothespin that actually works, “just because I thought it’d be cool.”
“You know, I can’t write poetry, I can’t write stories, I can’t create a lot of things that other people can, but I can create this.”
To commission Hagemann’s work, contact him at gphagemann@ hotmail.com.
Lucy Rose Designs
When Lucy Rose Fischer was younger, she considered going to art school but decided she couldn’t make a living that way. So she got her Ph.D. in sociology, with a focus on aging, and had a 25-year career that included publishing three books and nearly 100 articles. But art was always there.
“I sketched in meetings,” she recalls, and her coworkers would pass around the sketches, admiring them. Then, when she was nearly 60, her husband had a heart attack. He survived a triple-bypass surgery, “but it makes you think about—what do you have for the rest of your life?” she says. So she quit her job and started painting full time.
It was at that time that she discovered painting on glass. “I started out with glass that I got at Goodwill,” she says. Then a gallery owner she was working with introduced her to a glass blower. “So I’ve worked with three different glass blowers—I design what I want [and they create it].”
The paint-on-glass effect gives movement to the art, which is why many of the characters she paints are dancing.
Fischer also creates glass jewelry, which was inspired by finding beach glass with her husband in California.
Fischer is also the author and illustrator of the book I’m New at Being Old, which won a Midwest Book Award and an Independent Publishers Gold Award. After spending her first career studying the sociology of aging, the work in the book came naturally.
“It kind of combined all of my research on aging and my own personal experience looking in the mirror,” she says. The art in the book, and in all of her work, “is very whimsical and colorful.”
As to what drove her to quit her job and start this second, successful, career, she says “I’ve done some pieces of art titled ‘Inside Me Is a Burning to Create.’ I really feel like it is a burning to create. I feel it’s part of human nature, and we do it in different ways. … I think we are wired to be creative, and for me it’s art.”
Find her work on her website here and in various galleries locally.
Growing up, Joseph DeCamillis was the last one at the art project table, but he never thought of himself as an artist.
“I wanted to be a writer,” he says, but a bad teacher spoiled the experience for him and many peers, so he left the writing program at UCLA and decided to pull a Jack Kerouac. “I thought I’d just do it on my own,” he says. “I’d read On the Road by Kerouac. … if [he] can do it, I can do it.”
But he hit a wall with writing. He was married at the time to an artist from his home state, Colorado. He was trying to write, while house painting on the side to make money. “So here I am, day after day, training my hand to paint,” he says. “In retrospect it was really cool.”
After going cold-turkey with writing, he grew restless. “I asked my ex-wife if she could show me some tricks and teach me how to oil paint and draw,” he says, and he picked it up quickly—and ran with it.
That’s when he had a 10-year success with “Room” paintings, 5-by-7-feet paintings of rooms that he had seen on his travels across the country doing art festivals. “Every piece was a narrative of the strangers I’d stay with when I traveled,” he says.
But he wanted to challenge himself, so he started doing smaller pieces—postage-stamp-sized. The trouble with these was framing. Then he found an old book. It had a vinyl cover that had been vandalized by a kid years ago and had a perfect rectangle cut into the cover. “It was just the perfect size to hold that little painting.
“That’s when I started the book series,” he says. He paints with oil on copper rectangles, then carves into book covers to create frames, and adds things like nails and screws to the book. “I want to emphasize that this is the story now—it’s not in the book, it’s all on the outside now.”
He’s a painter with a writer’s heart: “That was my goal when I started painting—was for my narrative to be pushed into it.” You can find his work on his facebook page.