The Edina Art Fair isn’t just the start of art shows in Minnesota, it’s an unofficial start to summer in Edina. The 48th annual Edina Art Fair takes place June 6 through June 8 at 50th and France. But before we stroll the blocks taking in the impressive creative talent and atmosphere, we sat down with three artists who are no strangers to this fair: Marti Johnson, a jewelry designer, Louise Harris, who makes art out of recycled furnace filters and Barbara Kochevar, who designs comfortable fashion for women and children.
Johnson worked in special event management before turning to jewelry design full time. Nearly 20 years ago, she went back to school to learn silversmithing and also studied the history of glassmaking. During this time, Johnson also became a master gardener through Hennepin County. Marrying her two passions into one fulfilling line of work, Johnson began designing jewelry and embellishments that look like flowers.
She brings these intricate designs with her each year to the Edina Art Fair. “People are ready to come out and have something fun to wear for the summer,” she says.
Attending buying shows and events across the country throughout the year, Johnson has been able to expand beyond floral jewelry. She now works with antique materials, like Roman glass that’s been underground for hundreds of years. On her most recent buying trip, Johnson stumbled upon a fossilized shell that was found in the Sahara Desert. She smiles and says, “I just flipped out when I saw this.” Johnson drilled a hole through the top and strung a chain through to make it a breathtaking statement necklace.
What looks to be an ordinary furnace filter has inspired artwork for consultant and adjunct professor Louise Harris. Saying that the art found her, Harris stumbled upon the metal circles in her own furnace filter when she was changing it 10 years ago.
Her masterpieces begin in the form of a square metal sheet typically used to make bottle caps. The scrap metal is sent to Chicago where it’s used to make furnace filters. Then it’s recycled a third time and transformed into abstract pieces of art Harris calls Relief Circles.
“People interpret Relief Circles in many different ways,” Harris says. Rightfully so, since sales of the artwork provide relief to others. One hundred percent of the profits from Harris’s art are donated to approximately 15 charitable causes each year. “So far, we’ve helped train six service dogs, assisted 500 teens as they’ve gone through a self-esteem program and we’ve worked with the Minnesota Justice Association to help battered women,” Harris says. “Oh, and we’ve built three houses in Africa, along with wells and a latrine.”
Harris lives in two worlds, corporate and artistic. And the dichotomy of these realms fit her perfectly. “The art helps me process whatever it is I’m thinking about,” she says. “If I’m stuck trying to solve a problem I’ll go work in the studio. And then, ironically, I’ll find the solution to my problem.”
Kochevar’s interest in sewing began when she was a child; it was reignited when she was asked to make a baby blanket for a friend’s grandchild. She liked the finished product and went to work creating more items like hats for babies and blankets for adults. From there, Kochevar’s hobby became a business.
“Every year I add new products to the Edina Art Fair,” she says. “People will come back to see me year after year, taking a look at what’s new.”
Kochevar now works primarily with three different fabrics: fleece, swimsuit material and cotton lycra knit. Seeking out interesting and colorful patterns, Kochevar’s products, which consist of flowing dresses, yoga pants and skirts, as well as clothing items for babies and toddlers, are one of a kind. She works with wholesalers and attends buying shows throughout the year to find the perfect fabrics for her brand, Fleece Me Inc.
“I’ll know immediately if I want a fabric,” she says. “I may not know exactly what I’ll do with it, but I’ll know if I have to have it.”
Kochevar balances a career in finance with her artwork, saying the two different worlds bring her a certain balance. One of her favorite memories from the Edina Art Fair was when she looked up and saw a woman walking down the street wearing one of her designs. “I grabbed her hand and said, ‘That’s my skirt! I designed that!’ And the woman told me it was one of her favorite pieces.”