September 5, 2009

A walk in the woods: Nature enhanced by artwork

Ray Foster's animals, like this $70 blowfish, were charmers

It's always hard, at Hawthorn Hollow's annual Walk in the Woods Art Fair, to choose a focal point. Is it the canopy of trees, the lovely walk in the woods, the beauty of the nature sanctuary and arboretum?

Or is it the eclectic and original art work by more than three-score artisans -- many of whom bring a sly sense of humor to their craftsmanship?

Well, of course it's both ... but today let's focus on some of the more interesting art... like, for example, this hand-carved anatomically correct cane that Diana Roulo of Kenosha walked off with. Yes, it was a pricey $250, but she could barely get it off the grounds, so many people stopped her to ask for a closer look. Look closely at that handle: there's a detailed, grinning skull inside it!

The cane was carved by Denny Bell of Pleasant Prairie, right, a former pipefitter, who's been carving for about 12 years. Bell is notable for something else: the Memorial Presentation Cane he and other members of the Wildlife Carving Club of Racine/Kenosha carve for any Wisconsin veteran who has suffered a leg injury in Iraq or Afghanistan since 9/11. The offer is extended to include the family of any Wisconsin veteran who lost their life in the same period.

The canes are presented free of cost -- and that includes shipping. Like the cane Denny is holding, they have a Bald Eagle "topper" carved by a member of the club; the shafts are made of a variety of materials and designs, personalized as the owner would like with name, date, branch of service, a flag..."Let us know what you would like and we will try to put it on the cane for you," the club says. So far, more than 70 of these canes -- decorative gestures of honor not intended as an orthopedic device -- have been presented.

The Wildlife Carving Club meets at River Bend Nature Center on the third Thursday of every month; carving begins at 6 p.m. and the meeting -- often with a demonstration -- begins at 7 p.m. All are welcome. (But keep in mind: if you cut yourself while carving, you have to wear the club's carved cut thumb pendant until someone else "earns" the honor.)

Below, some of the other interesting things we spotted during our walk in the woods.

Julie Schilf made this sly sun hanging, just $35.

Debbie Radke brought Halloween garden creatures, about $60 each

Sue Huss of Elmhurst, IL, photographed these apple blossoms

Tammy Easton's large glass mosaic garden stakes were $135

Nicholas Rostagno's crystalline blue bowls were stunning,
and just $47. The Third Ward artist has master's degrees
in both glaze chemistry and studio ceramics, and created
the process he uses through long experimentation

Marilyn Jacobsen spun yarn, passing the skill to her granddaughter

Janet Erickson and her martini-glass bird feeders, $35

Mark Paffrath entertained with traditional and original compositions


  1. Nice article Pete! Thanks for your support for the Veterans Memorial Cane Project.


  2. This is a unique Art Fair in a setting that lends itself to the creativity of the artists. We try to go every year. I recommend it to everyone!!!