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Annual A Fair in the Park showcases contemporary artists

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Katie Koenig of Brentwood won the Best of Show Award at last year’s A Fair in the Park for her artwork inspired by food, including peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
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A pitcher made by Karen McKee, a potter with a home-based studio in Plum and president of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Pittsburgh.
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One of Michelle Sabol of Washingtonճ handcrafted fine art-to-wear jewelry creations.
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A decorative piece by Nancy Smeltzer of Smicksburg, Indiana County, who creates ceramic art featuring images of birds and nature.

Katie Koenig’s paintings almost look good enough to eat.

The Brentwood artist won the Best of Show Award at last year’s A Fair in the Park for her colorful artwork that is inspired by food.

She will be back for her third year as one of more than 100 contemporary regional and national artists at the 49th annual festival of juried art and crafts presented by the Craftsmen’s Guild of Pittsburgh Sept. 7-9 in Mellon Park, Shadyside.

Koenig plans on bringing some new original paintings, including a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which is her most popular subject.

“I have painted probably close to three dozen now,” she says. “I usually ask my husband to make the PBJs that I end up painting because he makes beautifully messy ones and no two are ever the same.”

She’s also finishing up “a delicious jelly doughnut painting” and has some classically Pittsburgh images, such as Iron City beer and Heinz Ketchup bottles. She says her food art — also available as prints, coasters and note cards — tends to remind people of sentimental memories from their past.

“All of these food memories begin to build a story of who we are, where we come from, and who we love,” she says. “There is nothing better than sitting in my booth at a festival and hearing, ‘Do you remember that bakery Grandpa always visited to get jelly doughnuts? Boy did he love those!’ and knowing that my work played a part in facilitating that reminiscence.”

Red carpet jewelry

Also returning to the fair will be Michelle Sabol of Washington with her Memphis George line of handcrafted fine art-to-wear jewelry she started 20 years ago in Los Angeles, Calif. She says pieces of her couture collection have been worn in films and on the red carpet by performers such as Selena Gomez, Jane Lynch and Laura Poitras.

Her work ranges from traditional metalsmithing and bronze casting with gemstone settings to fluorescent hand-poured and painted mixed media resin earrings floating on sterling silver ear wires and molded silicone necklaces.

A Craftsmen’s Guild member for more than 10 years, Sabol says A Fair in The Park has always been her favorite local show for its high level of craftsmanship and camaraderie.

“Every artist in the show is a dedicated studio artist expressing their unique vision through their handmade, functional art,” she says.

Karen McKee, a potter with a home-based studio in Plum and Craftsmen’s Guild president, says A Fair in the Park has always been a collection of skilled artisans and craftsmen and this year is no exception.

“We have local and regional juried artists from all mediums. You can find a mix of traditional, contemporary and eclectic art pieces throughout the fair,” she says, representing a variety of mediums, including clay, fiber, wood, jewelry, glass, metal, mixed media and two-dimensional art.

Some 20,000 visitors typically visit the fair during its three-day run, according to fair director Carrie Nardini. The event includes live music and artisan demonstrations, kids’ activities and local food trucks.

Some other local exhibitors include:

• Mark Mooney of New Kensington, who makes furniture and framed tiles, mirrors and pictures in the Arts and Crafts style. He is co-founder of Ginkgo Studios with his wife Kathleen Allen, a potter. This is his eighth year at A Fair in the Park.

• Nancy Smeltzer of Little Mahoning Creek Pottery, Smicksburg, Indiana County. She creates ceramic art decorated with images of birds and nature. She also will have some of her sculptural yard birds and bird tumblers, cups, vases, brie bakers and olive oil bottles.

• Timothy Roth of Greensburg, who mixes two mediums, pottery and caning, to create unique decorative pieces, including trays, plates and jars, in decorative patterns, in his 15th year at the fair.

• Laurie Leonard of Jeannette, a jeweler that uses miniature reproductions of her artwork under a jewelry grade resin in settings cast in pewter, using original clay “sculptures” as models.

• Mitzi Hall of Irwin, who transforms ordinary objects into works of art by applying a variety of tesserae to the pieces, including stained glass, vintage china, beadwork, chain work and found objects.

• Janet Brum of Greensburg, a small studio jeweler and designer of rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces using Argentium silver, a purer form of silver that is hypoallergenic and responsibly produced using traceable recycled silver. Her designs feature fine gemstones, 22K gold bimetal accents, Akoya and freshwater pearls.

• John Kara of Perryopolis, who creates woodwork designs in original shapes and patterns to make collapsible baskets, trivets and decorative home items.

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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