Art lovers take Valentine's Day walk

Craig was different last Saturday night.

The shops downtown stayed open past 5 p.m. All the parking spots on Yampa Avenue were taken. People strolled the streets after dark. Artists, ranging from quilters to painters to glassblowers to weavers, chatted up the locals inside the shops and restaurants.

Yes, the town took on a different atmosphere for Historic Downtown Craig's Ninth Annual Art Walk.

It wasn't the cultured feeling of a bustling metropolis, but it wasn't the provincial air of a small town, either. It was somewhere in the middle, comfortable, as all the local artists that labored at their art for the past year came out to display their skill.

"I think people get so tired of the winter. They need some culture this time of year," said Mary Kay Shearer, director of public information and community education at the Colorado Northwestern Community College.

There were artists skilled in every medium at the walk. In the Museum of Northwest Colorado, Brad Smith wore dark sunglasses as he stared into the flame of a 1,400-degree torch and melted Pyrex glass to make pendants. Delicate glass reindeer were displayed before him. Smith has been blowing glass for the last 20 years, since he learned from a friend and "caught it like a bug."

Next to him, Mary Carerra wove scarves on a small tabby loom. For Carerra, the weaving process starts with an animal. She raises llamas for their wool, which she spins into yarn. She realizes she could go to the store and buy yarn for a couple dollars, but would rather make it herself.

"You created something," she said. "All cultures started the same way. They had to build cloth this way. It was only later they got separated by technology."

In Neoloithics, painter Nancy Ratzlaff sat in the back of the store among her many paintings as people came in to say hello. One gentleman who dropped by to visit insisted she was the best artist in town, an allegation Ratzlaff humbly denied.

Ratzlaff's oil paintings of Moffat County rock formations, ranches and broken-down vehicles hung on the walls, and many of her watercolors were displayed on a table beside her. But she paints everything she sees in and utilizes every medium.

"I'd paint in raspberry if I had to," she said. "I've been painting for 100 years, and I know how to paint because I know how to draw. All painting is is drawing with paint."

Ratzlaff enjoys painting the shapes, colors and play of light of old trucks, cars and tractors, "the rustier the better and '40s and older is best." Lately she's been painting a lot of chickens, but she doesn't know why.

"The best pictures are in your backyard," she said.

In KS Kreations, Brenda Kirby displayed two quilts she had designed and sewn with her sisters. She had invested about 400 to 500 hours in each quilt.

On the top and bottom of one quilt, Kirby had sewn the slogan, "The earth has music for those who know how to listen." The design, featuring, birds drinking from a fountain, ladybugs flying, trees, and many other nature scenes, was inspired by her father, who was an "earth friendly logger who believed in putting back," Kirby said.

For Kirby, quilting is a family affair. She sketches the design with one sister, and another sister who is good at math calculates a grid pattern in which to arrange the squares.

But even when the quilt is done, the work isn't. Kirby has written books for both her quilts and published them with her company, named for her mother, Lucy Norman Originals.

Just after Thanksgiving, Deb Varner and two other students from CNCC started making bowls, mugs and platters to sell at the Art Walk. For $8, you got a mug filled with hot chocolate or a bowl filled with your choice of chili or potato or vegetable soup.

"After a long day of work, I'm so tired. It's nice to go in and work quietly with the clay," Varner said. After three years of pottery classes, the art has become her favored form of relaxation.

But the Art Walk produces exactly the opposite effect on Varner. "I find the show kind of stressful," she said. CNCC has been hosting an art show for the past four years. They ran out of mugs and bowls the first few years, and Varner didn't want to see that happen again this year. She didn't need to worry.

Dozens of pieces of $8 pottery, mugs and bowls of all colors and sizes, were spread across a few tables on one side of the room.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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