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Arts & Entertainment

Arts Festival vendors peddle unique outdoor items

| Friday, June 14, 2002

The Three Rivers Arts Festival has plenty to offer those who want to avoid garden-variety gardens, lawns and patios.

From brightly colored tents for children to elaborate cedar and copper sculptures awash with running water, there's no excuse for a boring back yard.

If your tastes crave objets d'art sculpted from sturdy, durable indoor/outdoor clay, then head to booth 83, temporary home of Bruce Green Design Ceramic. The husband-and-wife team of Bruce and Christine Green pool their talents — his clay work, her painting — to create unusual but functional objects for the home and garden.

The Greens' stall features flat flower vases. Each has a metal spike in the center to hold a single blossom. The vases ($24) are painted with irises in rich, beautiful hues of lavender, peacock blue and seafoam green. Another of the Greens' biggest sellers are clay birdbaths set atop an antiqued copper-wire base. The baths ($36) are painted in speckled and marbled soft hues and feature a tiny sparrow resting inside the bowl.

Christine Green says all of the items can be used indoors or outdoors. "We make our tiles pretty thick," she says. "They have some substance — they're not wimpy tiles."

From the start of her career, Green has been inspired by the Japanese style of painting that uses a long-hair bamboo brush. She gathers ideas from nature and flower books and investigates contemporary decorating to decide what items might be big sellers.

She says participating in arts festivals is an excellent way to assess how the public reacts to her work. "In Florida, we live in the country, so we love going into cities and feeling the pulse of the people. It helps me to gauge where I want to go with my work. It provides you with feedback on your work."

Among other items by the Greens are mirrors in celestial and floral designs, tile garden stakes in flamingo and butterfly designs and multi-tile floral murals.

Another vendor, Ken Daddario at booth 80, is a kid at heart, it seems. He started making tents as a youngster, and for the past 18 years, he has transformed tent making from a hobby to his livelihood. Based in Reno, Nev., Daddario travels nationwide to about 45 shows a year.

Daddario started out using the legs from a card table as poles for his tents. His design has evolved into tents regarded as the fastest ones in the country to assemble and disassemble.

The tent poles are made from PVC piping and rubber; the body is a machine-washable blend of cotton and polyester. Intended for children ages 1 1/2 to 9 years, the tents can be used indoors or outdoors.

Daddario's tents come in bold, two-tone hues and feature silk-screened designs and sewn-on appliques, including airplanes and dinosaurs. They range in price from $65 for a plain tent to $80 for a tent featuring the appliques.

Shannon Macklin's elaborate one-of-a-kind water garden sculptures at booths 64 and 65, crafted from cedar driftwood and copper, not only are stunning but eco-friendly. "I use the root systems of cedar trees because they hold up well against the elements," he says. "Cedar is also great to use because bugs don't gnaw on it because it has an acidic taste. The other parts are made out of copper, which doesn't rust like steel."

Macklin studied to be a diesel mechanic in college but decided he would rather weld. When he couldn't find a job in welding during a strike, he started making the sculptures and never has looked back.

The artworks take him anywhere from half a day to craft for the small models (beginning at $165) to up to five days for the massive 6- and 7-foot-high sculptures.

The items feature sandblasted cedar — sandblasting brings out the wood's attractive irregularities, he says — set amid copper water basins housing lily pads, flowers, cattails, and in some instances, a water wheel powered solely by water. Depending on size and intricacy, the prices for the larger pieces begin at $525 and top $1,850 for a 7-footer.

Macklin's works are designed so the water level can be manipulated simply by adjusting the angle of a copper flower and by tilting a copper cup. "Precision is key in my creations," he says. "The water wheel speed is regulated by the speed of the water.

"The cups can be tilted to regulate the flow of the water. If one cup is too heavy or off-kilter, the water flow will not be smooth."

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