Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

Nokomis Art Fair was the place to meet the local entrepreneurs

Posted on 27 May 2018 by calvin

By STEPHANIE FOX
Nehemiah (Frank) Williams stands by his sales table at this spring’s Nokomis Art Fair, greeting patrons as they arrive at the Lake Nokomis Community Center. It’s not his official job—he is selling what he and his wife, Terry, call ‘organic comfort drink, snacks, and treats.’ But it seems he can’t help himself. Engaging with the public comes naturally. He directs them from the door into the main room where an additional 42 other local vendors show off their craft, from t-shirts to greeting cards to books and more.

The Nokomis Art Fair is a semi-annual event, held spring and fall, with a small, select number of crafters chosen to sell at tables spread around what is usually the Center’s gym.

Nokomis’s activity specialist, Maggie Mercel, said that the panel choosing participants look for artists with a variety of specialties and artistic styles. “It’s competitive,” she said. “The show is building a reputation for quality work. And, the vendors like it because the price for having a table is lower than at most art fairs.” The money raised, she said, goes to support park programs.

Photo right: Nehemiah Williams greets everyone who passes his table, offering samples of Winter Goddess Foods. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

Suzanne Anderson is typical of the vendors at the Nokomis Fair. She started her jewelry and t-shirt business, called Suz & Roo (the Roo is named after her Siamese cat) 10 years ago. She has a day job, too, like most of the artists here, but says she puts in about 36 hours of work a month, attending 15 to 18 art shows a year, she said. She initially started with silver-smithing, then expanded to create reclaimed and re-fashioned antique jewelry and then to denim-colored t-shirts and baseball caps with tea-stained patches of old-fashion images sewed on. “The t-shirt prints are made using a jet printer, and I do only black and white images,” she said.

Emily Niswanger also creates unique t-shirts, mostly Minnesota themed, with clothing designed for babies and toddlers, both off the rack or custom orders. She also makes eco-friendly lunch bags.

Artist Angela Davis shows off her paintings and the postcards she makes from them, with themes as diverse as iconic Twin City sites (the Stone Arch Bridge, Minnehaha Falls, and Mickey’s Diner) and versions of old Minnesota icons (vintage Minnegasco and the Green Giant ‘Sprout’ logos) as well as African-American themed art.

Artist Amy Zimmerman, creates hand-painted flour sack tea towels, coasters and tote bags with humorous sayings, suitable for decoration or kitchen use. She started her business, ‘Lyrical Designs,’ being inspired by her grandmother who was an accomplished sewer. She began making the amusing towels for friends, expanding it to a small business a few years ago. “I’d like to do this full time, but in reality, life is expensive,” she admitted. “I’ve got student loans—I’ve got three degrees in music. So, for now, I work in a bank.”

“But,” Zimmerman said, “I do this as a way to relieve stress and to connect with my family roots.”

Photo left: Artist Angela Davis sells her paintings and postcards with Minnesota themes. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

In addition to the visual artists, two authors attended, with books to sell. Lesli Chinnock Anderson’s book, “The Lakes in My Head: Paddling an Unexplored Wilderness,” tells of her struggles with hydrocephalus, a condition characterized by an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain’s ventricles. She was diagnosed at age 45 and tells the story of years of related medical problems, surgery, and treatments, using the idea of exploring the water wilderness of Minnesota as a metaphor for dealing with her condition.

Author Pat Dennis was there as well, selling her series of witty mystery novels, Minnesota anthologies including “Silence of the Loons” and “Stand-Up and Die,” about Dennis’s career as a stand-up comedian in Minnesota and Las Vegas. She was also selling her humorous collection of culinary mystery short stores, “Hotdish to Die For” (recipes included) about murderers who used Minnesota’s culinary tradition of hotdishes to carry out their nefarious plans.

Back at the front entrance, the Nehemiah and Terry Williams of ‘Winter Goddess Foods’ continue to sell their ‘Aww Nuts!’ brand of flavored mixed nuts, ‘Oh My Goddess! Caramel Moments’, ‘Tranquility Chai,’ and varieties of granola. Nehemiah hands out samples to everyone who passes by his table, giving them one last chance to buy locally. “Here, have a sample,” he tells everyone. The couple has been in business for nearly ten years, with products now featured at co-ops, natural foods stores, at farmers and indoor winter markets in the Twin Cities. The Nokomis Art Fair is one of the few art events where he sells his wares, but he likes the event. “There are a lot of great artists here,” he said. “This is a great place to meet folks.”

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