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Artistic metal lawn creations were among the many original works of art presented at last year’s Art on the Lawn. This year’s event takes place on the Mills Lawn grounds this Saturday, Aug. 13, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (News archive photo by Diane Chiddister)

Artistic metal lawn creations were among the many original works of art presented at last year’s Art on the Lawn. This year’s event takes place on the Mills Lawn grounds this Saturday, Aug. 13, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (News archive photo by Diane Chiddister)

Art on Lawn this Saturday

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One of the things that makes the annual Art on the Lawn event stand out from other art and artisan shows is in its title — that would be the Lawn part. Most such events are presented as street festivals, set up on stretches of asphalt and cement.

“We like to point out that Art on the Lawn is held ‘under the shade of the trees’ at Mills Lawn School,” said Pam Geisel, a member of Village Artisans, the local artist cooperative that organizes and presents the show each August.

This year’s festival — the 33rd — will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13. Admission is free.

The location gives the event a central, downtown site, but also fosters a leisurely, tranquil atmosphere for visitors and vendors alike.

“A lot of our artists enjoy the casual nature of it,” said Geisel, who is a co-lead organizer with Sara Gray this year. Geisel also will be displaying her art quilts as one of the approximately 115 artists and artisans who are set to participate this weekend.

Geisel said the number of participating artists this year is a record number for the event. Most are from Ohio, with others coming from surrounding states, although one vendor is coming up from Florida, she said.

The show is juried, in that interested artists must be approved and accepted by the organizers. The process not only sets a quality bar for the work, but also assures a balance of media and styles. Geisel noted that hand-made jewelry is typically a large staple of such shows, and while Art on the Lawn features a significant number of jewelry-makers, each offers unique, distinctive work.

Other media on display and for sale this Saturday include paintings, drawings, ceramics, fiber arts, garden art, glass, paper crafts, photography, candles and leather. In addition, food vendors will be on hand, and minstrels and buskers will be roaming the grounds providing a musical backdrop to the festivities.

Costs can range from a few dollars for hand-made note cards to more than a thousand for a one-of-a-kind original artwork. A highlight for many visitors is the chance to talk to the artists and learn more about the story of their work. Some visitors even develop ongoing relationships with particular artists.

Each year, the event highlights the work of the artist who won “Best of Show” the previous year. This year’s featured artist is Michelle Litell, a bookbinder from Marion, Ohio. Litell is self-taught, first starting to make books around 2007 while homeschooling her sons.

“We needed blank books for a project, and I had difficulty finding them where we live,” Litell writes in her artist biography. “Having been a lifelong maker of things, I decided to create something. My first books were simple stitched pamphlets, but they worked well for what we needed and hooked my heart as well.”

She dove into the craft, learning everything she could: “I researched binding techniques from the library as well as online tutorials. I tried several different methods, used many types of board and paper until I found techniques that I adapted and loved using. … It took me several years of testing materials and honing my skills before I began to show and sell.”

In the act of perfecting her craft, she found that she was often drawn to “imperfect” materials. For example, she likes “to use leather that has holes, scars and other marks” to cover her books. “I find beauty in what others see as imperfections. … We all have scars and marks in our lives and instead of covering them up and hiding them, I believe we need to see them as part of who we are. It’s all a part of our story, of who we are, and we need to see the beauty of that.”

While creating her craft is a solitary pursuit, she sees the work as collaborative. “I look at what I do as only part of the art. I make places for other people to finish the project. They write their own story, pour their deepest thoughts onto the pages, leaving behind thoughts and heart that no one else can produce. I think it’s important that we not take our stories with us. Others need to know what we carry inside, to know who we are and what we think. Journaling, in whatever form it takes … gives us place to tell who we really are, to work out issues we are having, to leave pieces of ourselves. And I love that I get to participate in a small way in the stories of so many people.”

Litell isn’t the only returning artist to Art on the Lawn. Geisel said that many vendors come back each year, including local Village Artisan members, and many visitors look forward to catching up with particular artists. Geisel said that the resulting sense of reunion adds to the event’s overall feeling of goodwill — “under the shade of the trees” of Mills Lawn.

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