Artists ready to take on Firefly Art Fair in Wauwatosa
Event features work of both returning, new artists
Andrea Del Balso Fell buzzes around her home, brimming with nervous energy. Stan Piepenburg sits leisurely in his home, relaxed after a day of work.
They're both artists showing at the Firefly Art Fair, which starts at 10 a.m. August 3 and runs through Aug. 4. The similarities between the two end there.
This is Del Balso Fell's first year selling as an artist. She graduated from Mount Mary College with a degree in art, but worked in finance after college for 13 years. This year, however, she's picking up her camera and dropping her calculator. She's going back to school to get her master's in graphic design and wants to be an artist full-time.
Piepenburg is a bit of a veteran, having sold his art for the past 25 years. The Firefly Art Fair is one of many fairs he sells his work at each year. This year he plans on selling in Door County, Madison and Chicago and at Mount Mary in Milwaukee.
The Firefly Art Fair will be held at the Kneeland-Walker House in Wauwatosa and will feature 90 juried artists. The fair, a fundraiser for the Wauwatosa Historical Society, will include live music and homemade food. Admission is $4.
Gone and back again to art
Del Balso Fell has always felt the pull to create. While working in finance she always had a side project: Whether landscaping and gardening, home decor, photography or even cooking, she always needed a creative outlet.
Those side projects, however, weren't enough, and sometimes she felt as though her work was stressing her to the point where she couldn't focus on her creative projects. She went to art fair after art fair, but it wasn't until a few visits at the Secret Gardens of Wauwatosa tour that she decided to give it all up, leave her job and become an artist.
She's nervous, but she has the support of her husband and isn't looking back.
"I think it's just the idea that I have gotten this far; the idea of putting enough pieces in a booth is overwhelming," she said.
Choosing which pieces to show was hard for her. She had taken thousands of pictures, most of which while out walking or riding her tandem bicycle with her husband. Most of the photos are extreme closeups of plants, blooming flowers or rusting grates and broken barns.
Her husband, Shane Fell, has been along with her every step of the way. He's helped her pick and frame the photos, built the booth for her and even helped her research how to best sell her art.
Her first foray into the art fair market was rough. It was pouring rain, the event was at Cedarburg and she wasn't ready for the rush of moving all her pieces to her booth and setting it up in time. She's OK with that, however. She said she was glad the event was low key and it helped prepare her for Firefly.
For her, Wauwatosa is the perfect inspiration for her art. She said the city's friendliness to pedestrians and its walkability allow her to take her camera out and find her muse.
"I see the beauty in ordinary things," she said. "Things that you're seeing on your walk and I'm a very detail-oriented person. Seeing all the different lines and stuff like that, I think it calms me and it makes me feel more alive."
Around the block
By day, Stan Piepenburg writes instruction manuals for industrial MRI machines. By night, when he's not doing chores, he paints with pen and ink. He creates between 50 and 70 pieces each year and is always pushing himself to do more and be better.
He started his art 25 years ago, when, while using pen and ink to write his instruction manuals, he noticed he was good at wielding the pens. He went home and started making rough sketches. Over time, the sketches grew and he got into the art world.
Over the years, he's added more form and color to his work. While he enjoys his art, he said there are some days he has to push himself to push the pen across the canvas. He sees his art as a vocation, almost as a second job. To him, getting better and growing are important.
"Art shows are really about seeing what you can do and with what any little talent you might have," he said. "This is the little bit of talent that I have."
Since he began, registration and participation in art fairs has gotten easier, with artists having the ability to register online. To succeed, however, he said it's all about putting yourself out there and asking artists about their work.
He added that the artistic community is willing and able to help out new artists like Del Balso Fell.
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