By Joe Earle
Painter Kimberly Landers plans to show and sell her latest crop of “semi-psychedelic abstract landscapes” during the Brookhaven Arts Festival. Jewelry maker Chris Howell will be there, too, showing and selling her hand-crafted necklaces and earrings.
After all, they’re both artists who happen to live in Brookhaven. The Brookhaven Arts Festival, which celebrates its seventh anniversary this year, has become their hometown festival.
“If I’m going to do one show a year, it might as well be the one in my neighborhood,” said Landers, who lives in the Ashford Park neighborhood.
The 2010 Brookhaven Arts Festival takes place Saturday, Oct. 16, and Sunday, Oct. 17. It’s open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. Exhibitors will set up booths along Apple Valley Road between Dresden Drive and North Druid Hills Road, which is behind the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA station. More than 125 artists have signed up to participate in the show. Admission is free.
Landers has taken part in the Brookhaven festival twice before. She says she enjoys it, in part because she sometimes spots familiar faces in the crowd trooping past her booth. She recognizes neighbors or former students from her days as an art teacher at Chamblee High School.
“I see former students from Chamblee and their parents. I see friends, people who have businesses in the area,” the 38-year-old painter said. “It just feels like hanging out with everybody.”
Howell, too, has taken part in the festival before and says she spots familiar faces in the crowd. “I know a ton of people who go to this festival,” she said. “Brookhaven has supported [my company] CV Designs. I like to give back.”
That neighborhood support was important to Howell’s development as a jewelry maker. She started crafting jewelry about 10 years ago, she said, after she left a corporate job. She was looking for something to do to keep busy, she said, and started stringing beads together to make jewelry. She began hanging around craft stores to learn techniques, and her hobby turned into a business.
“I started designing jewelry for fun, and people started buying it,” she said “I never really thought of myself as being very creative. I liked putting things together. I like to make things.”
She never even took a class to learn how to work with beads or design jewelry, she said. “I was never the kind of person who wanted to take a class,” she said, sitting in the dining area of her Brookhaven home. “I never read the directions. I just want to do it now.”
But her work caught on. She went from selling her jewelry in home shows put on by her friends to selling it in shops. She left the craft-store beads behind – the 45-year-old now makes necklaces from gold, mother of pearl, pyrite, coral, crystals, gems – and sells her work through some 40 shops scattered across the Southeastern states and as far away as California, she said.
“A lot of my stuff is kind of sparkly,” she said. “I like very girly jewelry.… I just think it’s more flattering. I think it’s more interesting. It’s my style. I’m pretty girly.”
Landers came to her art in an entirely different way. She started painting when she was a little girl growing up in Florida and majored in art in college. She ended up with a master’s degree in art education, she said.
When she started teaching high school, she said, she decided she needed to be an active professional artist and started showing her vivid, brightly colored abstract landscapes at community art festivals.
“People are like, ‘I love your lollipop trees,’” she said. “As an art teacher, there is no way people are allowed to draw ‘lollipop trees.’ They’re just trees.”
Most of the people who pass through her booth either love her abstract landscapes or couldn’t care less about them, she said. “But the people who love them just love them,” she said. “You can see it when they walk into the booth. Their eyes just light up.
“I’m getting the response I want. I’ve been through periods when I was painting my angst. Nobody wants to buy your angst.”
Now she knows to watch the crowd for people in their 30s or 40s, especially those pushing strollers. “At first it was, ‘Oh well, look at all the strollers out here,” she said, rolling her eyes. But now, she said, rubbing her hands together, “it’s like, ‘Where are my strollers? Where’s my stroller crowd?’”
That’s another reason she likes showing her work at the Brookhaven festival, she said. “It’s a smaller festival, but it is one people come to to buy art instead of just to look around.”
Besides, she said, there’re lots of folks pushing strollers.