From the artists' point of view, the weekend offers a chance to meet clients and collectors and show off new designs. We talked to a young Minnesota potter making his debut at Uptown today, and to a veteran of that fair -- a Wisconsin artist whose ancestors have blown glass in Europe for centuries.THE NEWBIE
Andy Juelich fell in love with clay in the first ceramics class he took 10 years ago at Wayzata High School.
"There's something about the movement of the clay between your fingers, and the slow repetition, that is just a joy to create," he said, recalling that moment when he suddenly knew he wanted to be a potter.
Even in high school he jiggered his schedule so he could help out as a teaching assistant and spend an extra hour in the pottery room every day. At St. John's University in Collegeville he majored in ceramics and interned with master potter Richard Bresnahan, whose Japanese training and use of local clays and glaze materials deeply impressed Juelich.
After graduating in 2006, he stayed on for another year as Bresnahan's apprentice, honing his skills on the Karatsu pottery wheel, a traditional Japanese design that dates to the 7th century. Then he studied for nine months with a Pennsylvania craftsman who taught him to work with rattan and to make the intricate knots once used on whaling ships. He adapted those techniques to pottery, binding his stoneware teapots with beautifully woven and knotted cords and devising intricate rattan handles for pots and platters.
Finally this year, Juelich, now 25, was ready for his first art fair. He applied to several local shows and got into two: the Stone Arch Festival in June and Uptown. Preparation was demanding. Besides turning out about 2,000 pots ranging from tiny teacups to 30-inch-tall vases, he had to invest in an exhibition tent and display stands, set up a website (andyjuelich.com), print business and marketing cards, get a state tax ID number, open a business bank account, borrow a truck and buy a lot of plastic totes and bubble wrap.
"There's a whole business side that was a new process for me," he said, adding that he is "kind of a shy person, so it's kind of nervous to be out there" selling things. Sales of about 75 items at the Stone Arch Festival boosted his confidence, though, and now he's "very excited" about Uptown.THE VETERAN
Douglas Sigwarth of River Falls, Wis., and his wife, Renee, will show their colorful glass vases and bowls at 30 events this year including Uptown, which they've participated in for the past six years.
Both had trained as glass blowers before they met and married. They discovered a startling link to their passion while en route to Venice, Italy, for a dream honeymoon in a city legendary for its glass. An airline ticket agent in Chicago glanced at Douglas' passport and launched into a discussion of the Sigwarth family's long history as European glass blowers. Relatives of the agent worked, in fact, in a Sigwarth glass factory in Switzerland not far from where Douglas' ancestors had emigrated.
Douglas was astonished. None of his Iowa farm relatives had ever mentioned such an exotic heritage. "I really credit my wife for bringing glass back to the family line," he said. "Her name, Renee, means 'reborn' in French, and we think of this as the rebirth of glass blowing in the Sigwarth line in the United States."
They will show selections from a half-dozen different design lines, including vases incorporating silver foil to suggest mountainous horizons, as well as colorful watercolor and confetti patterns. They collaborate on the design and production of all their work, and have even enlisted their children -- Eva, 11, and Oliver, 8 -- as occasional sales assistants. They also have a website, sigwarthglass.com.
Any advice for the newcomer?
"Just keep doing it," Douglas said. "There are so many obstacles and reasons to stop, but the joy and the fun far outweigh them."
Mary Abbe • 612-673-4431