Festival Marketplace Participants
Vendors invited to participate in the Great Lakes Folk Festival's "Folk Arts Marketplace" sell authentic traditional arts or related items rarely available in any stores or other festivals. Vendors include past participants in state and regional folklife festivals, apprenticeship and award programs, and other activities of the Smithsonian, Michigan State University Museum, and upper Midwest regional state-funded folk arts programs.
The Folk Arts Marketplace is open Saturday, 12 noon-8 p.m., and Sunday, 12 noon-6 p.m. Some artists will also demonstrate making their hand-made goods in their booths.
Artists and Craftspeople Participating in 2008 (updated 6/16/08)
"When I was eight years old, I started to learn to carve in wood by helping my father who did woodcarving for pleasure," says Benin native Pierre Adjibogoun. He has been carving ever since and his sculptural creations reflect the history and culture of West Africa, but particularly that of his home country of Benin. His work displays the styles that have become traditional for sale to the tourist market and are sought after for use in Afro-centric interior decoration here in the United States.
"I carve with many woods, but prefer to carve ebony wood because it is considered black gold in Africa. I carve big and small statues of animals and people, doors, wooden trunks, and, from one piece of wood, chairs." He also sometimes uses animal bone and horns for his carving materials. For many years he operated a gallery in Cotonou, Benin where he showed and sold his artwork as well as taught others. In Lansing, he had a show at the now defunct, Dancing Crane Gallery.
Pierre is fluent in his native languages of Benin and French, the language of the colonial government of Benin, as well as several other African languages he learned while traveling in Africa. In 2001, he came to Lansing, Michigan and is now learning yet another language-English.
Eaton Rapids, Michigan
Braided rugs are an old American folk art. Made of readily available and often recycled materials, they are both practical and decorative. Because wool is durable and stain resistant and the color variations in the braids hide spills, braided rugs of wool are especially practical and desirable.
Hand-braided rugs are a family tradition for Julie Sullivan, who learned to braid from her grandmother. In 2000 and 2001 Julie was awarded a Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship award to teach her daughters. Using pure wool, needles, and a tool for sewing called a bodkin, they braid strips, lace the braids together, and connect the braid ends to each other, creating a seamless effect. They use the rugs in their own households and as gifts for others.
Ecuador textiles and jewelry
Ecuador flute making
Lilyana Cabascango hails from Olavalo, Ecuador, a small town located hours north of Quito, the Latin American nation's capitol. As Lilyana says, "There I have learned everything I know from my parents and my parents from theirs." One of the things she learned and became a specialist in was making textile items from the wool of the sheep her family kept. "When the sheep are big enough, we sheave them, take the wool to the river and wash it. After two days of washing it, we let it dry. Then we boil the wool with plants to color it. Then they knit and weave the wool into colorful sweaters, ponchos, scarves, hats, and bags. This is all family work that takes us about 3-4 days work just to make one sweater."
Now Lilyana lives in Chicago but she continues her traditional textile work with wool that her family sends to her from their sheep in Ecuador. When they do not send her enough wool she supplements it with wool she gets from Amish farmers in Shipshewana, Indiana.
In Ecuador, making musical instruments out of bamboo is an art done primarily by men. Chicago resident Rolando Cabascango is a native of Ecuador who hails from a family of instrument makers, dancers, and musicians. Even though he now lives far from his birthplace, he continues to make flutes as well as jewelry out of bamboo that his family sends north to him.
Ia Her (Lansing, Michigan)
Ia Teng Yang (Warren, Michigan)
Like their relatives in their homeland of Laos and in communities scattered throughout the world, Hmong-Americans begin to learn how to make paj ntaub (flower cloth) at a very young age. A variety of patterns, motifs, and needlework techniques, including appliqué, reverse appliqué, and embroidery, are used in creating the colorful textiles. Mastery of the techniques and expansion of the repertoire of designs and motifs usually takes years, and expert craftsmanship is valued within the community.
While certain types of paj ntaub are still made for traditional uses such as baby carriers, baby hats, funeral collars, and wedding apparel, most paj ntaub made in the United States today are sold to non-Hmong. Bedspreads, purses, eyeglass cases, pillow covers, wall hangings, and articles of decorated clothing are among the items now produced.
Elderly Instruments (Lansing, Michigan)
Elderly Instruments first opened for business in 1972 in a basement location on Grand River Avenue in East Lansing and moved in 1983 to their current location at 1100 N. Washington in Lansing. Elderly features vintage and new instruments, such as button accordions, fiddles, dulcimers, harmonicas, and bodhrans, and specializes in fretted instruments, such as guitars and banjos. With their extensive inventory of instructional books and hard-to-find CD's and cassettes, sold both at their Lansing store and through widely distributed mail-order catalogs, Elderly Instruments has established itself as an important local business with a national reputation.
Krystyna Rosas (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Krystyna Rosas' parents were born and raised in Poland, but Krystyna was born in England and immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 5. Her father was a potter, woodcarver, painter, and sculptor. Their home was decorated with many beautiful Polish objects: pottery, amber, weavings, carvings, and, of course, wycinanki (paper cuttings). Krystyna's father taught her how to duplicate and design wycinanki when she was a child; at an early age she recognized that these pieces were a special part of the way she thought of herself and her heritage.
Wycinanki originally decorated walls, ceilings, beams, and furniture in rural homes. The brilliant colors, traditional themes, and beautiful designs of the paper cuttings symbolize Polish folk art, and today, different regions of Poland produce distinct styles of wycinanki.
Jennifer Lantrip (Okemos, Michigan)
Handmade traditional Soaps
Like most frontier supplies, Lye Soap was made at home for multiple uses. Before the mid 1850's when supplies became available at General Stores, it was common for households to use lard and lye to make soap. Lard was rendered from the annual hog kill, which involved melting and then straining the fat. Lye was made from dripping water through wood ashes strained using burlap and straw over a trough. If the lye was mixed in too strong a concentration, it would irritate the skin, and if too little was used, the soap would not harden. Later, lye crystals became available for purchase, making measuring easier and more consistent. Lye soap could take weeks to a month to harden, before it was ready to be cut into smaller usable bars. The soap was used for all cleaning, from your body to laundry.
The Sullivan family from Eaton Rapids, Michigan is a fourth generation soap maker. Originally "big, ugly brown bars", the Sullivan family continues to make lye soap using various oils and fats including lard, olive oil, and castor oil. They use manufactured lye, and add scent and coloring. Originally, the Sullivan family ancestors would make enough soap for an entire year from one batch. When used for washing hair, they would then rinse their hair with vinegar water. This process worked the best when they had rain-water available for hair washing. Grandma Sullivan says, "you see, I lived in an entirely different world back then".
Roman Seniuk (Detroit, Michigan)
Roman Seniuk's earliest memory of pysanka is seeing intricately decorated eggs in church on Easter Sunday; he considered them the most beautiful things he had ever seen. Under his mother's tutelage, he learned how to make pysanka using various kinds of eggs, bee's wax, a kistka stylus, a candle, and dyes.
The word pysanka stems from the word pysaty, "to write," because the designs are drawn upon the eggs in a prescribed and meaningful manner. Pysanky symbols include geometric motifs, the sun, the cross, the triangle, endless lines, the tree of life, the church, and fish (symbolizing Christianity). The colors of the dyes are also symbolic. The tradition of pysanky precedes Christianity and reflects ancient myths in which the egg symbolizes life, the sun, and the universe. The eggs have been used as talismans to protect against evil, and they serve a variety of social and religious occasions.
Anshu Varma (Okemos, Michigan)
Meh'ndi (Henna painting) artist
Anshu Varma was born in north India and grew up in Calcutta and New Delhi. As a child she was fascinated by the tradition of meh'ndi, a paste of henna used to decorate the hands and feet with ornate patterns, the result being like a temporary tattoo. Greatly inspired by her mother's artistic creations meh'ndi, Anshu learned the art of meh'ndi, sometimes simply called henna, at home.
Henna plays an important role in maintaining cultural and traditional identity in India. The tradition in India is associated especially with wedding ceremonies where putting henna on the bride's palms and feet represents "dressing" the bride. It is, however, appropriate to be decorated with henna at all festive events. It is the first thing a woman is adorned with in preparation for a special occasion. Being dressed in henna sets the celebratory mood of the community.
Today, Anshu is a master of the art. Now living in Michigan, she is sought by many to “dress” them and to teach them the art. She was a recipient of a Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship award in 2002 and 2003. She is a regular participant at the Great Lakes Folk Festival where, for a small fee, she “dresses” visitors with meh’ndi, then generously donates these fees to the Michigan State University Museum to support the Great Lakes Folk Festival.
Lula Williams (Detroit, Michigan)
As a young child, Lula Williams occasionally helped her mother quilt by putting colors together and piecing. However, she only returned to quilting in the late 1970s when her young teenaged son encouraged her to take a course in it at his high school; she remembered her mother's techniques almost immediately and has been quilting ever since.
Lula has made more than 120 quilts and won numerous awards. Her work reflects many traditions . She is a needle worker keenly interested in the latest techniques and patterns; she is an African-American committed to conveying information about her heritage; she is a woman of faith who communicates her beliefs through her quilts; she is an individual proud to be an American. One series of her quilts using African cloth pays homage to Martin Luther King, Jr. Another series is of red, white, and blue fabric with designs of stars and stripes. A special quilt, her original "I Am" design, depicts the times Jesus utters "I am" in the Bible as well as the declarations of "I am" by African-American preachers in their sermons. She is perhaps best known for her baby quilts, of which she has made scores as gifts for family and friends.
Lula's excellent craftsmanship has won her invitations to participate in shows within the African-American community and beyond. In addition she has taught quilting for a number of years at the Evans Recreation Center on Detroit's northeast side, at the Michigan State Fair Senior Center, and at Detroit's Westside Tindal Recreation Center and readily assists those who seek her help. She has been recognized with awards of Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grants to teach her skills to other aspiring quilters in her community. In 1997 she was honored with a Michigan Heritage Award.
Eugenia Worobkevich (Warren, Mich.)
Ukrainian Embroidery and Gerdans
Traditional embroidery plays an important part in public events, celebrations, and special occasions of Ukrainian-American communities. For festive events, women may wear embroidered blouses and men wear embroidered ties. Embroidery appears on pillows, table linens, cloths placed near household religious icons, and in Easter baskets.
Eugenia M. Worobkevich is a master artist of Ukrainian embroidery. She became a citizen of the United States in 1955 after emigrating from Lviv, Ukraine. In 1973 her favorite aunt sparked Eugenia's desire to learn traditional embroidery. In 1985, she met Oksana Tkachuck, a master designer in Ukrainian nyzynka technique, and became her apprentice. In 1988 Eugenia also learned to make gerdan collars, because they share similar elements of color, texture, and form with traditional embroider. In 1996, Eugenia was granted a Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship award to teach traditional embroidery to other Ukrainian women.