New festival attracts new artists

October 27, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Jewelry designers Chris Niles and Carol Allen have something in common with the Shepherdstown arts festival they plan to be a part of this weekend: they are both "emerging" in the art world.

The first Potomac Arts Festival will kick off Saturday, Oct. 29, riding the coattails of the annual American Conservation Film Festival.

The arts festival will take place concurrently with the film festival at the National Conservation Training Center near Shepherdstown. For more information about the film festival, call 1-540-955-3553 or go to


"The overall theme of the art show is nature-oriented," says festival coordinator JiJi Beckett. More than 40 art exhibitors from seven states were judged on the quality of their work and how closely their work followed the show's theme of celebrating nature and the arts, Beckett says.

The festival is an art show and sale, Beckett says. A festival preview party on Friday night will include live music, a silent auction and a glimpse at the art to be on display Saturday and Sunday.

Proceeds from the show will benefit the Potomac Valley Audubon Society's environmental education programs and Yankauer Nature Preserve in Berkeley County.

Niles and Allen are two artists who were awarded an "emerging artists" space grant to participate in the show. The couple started experimenting with glass and metal jewelry about two years ago and now they are hooked, Allen says.

She is taking classes to learn new techniques in metal working, including forging, casting, fabricating and hammering. "I think I'll be studying for the rest of my life. I am just fascinated by it," says the part-time artist, full-time biology professor.

Allen is experimenting with photo etching, a technique that imprints a photographic image into metal. She's designed several pieces using this technique, including bracelets etched with photographic images of leaves.

The Niles-Allen emerging artist booth also will include glass jewelry works by Niles. While the couple's offerings at the arts festival will be glass or metal jewelry, they also plan to showcase some larger pieces of their work.

"I love to do all of it," Niles says. "But I really like to do the large tiles and plates. I can put so much of my life into those pieces."

People are most attracted to the vibrant color tones found in his glass creations, Niles says. His secret? He's almost completely colorblind.

"Most (people) are shocked that somebody who is colorblind can make such vibrant color combinations that look good," Niles says.

He can see yellow, orange and some blues, but otherwise he cannot tell colors apart. Instead he selects color patterns based on tone.

Tamra Trafford of Shepherdstown also is looking forward to being an exhibitor at a first-time art show.

She specializes in crafting glass beads using a centuries-old process that heats solid glass and uses gravity and motion to shape the molten glass.

"It is a really unusual process," Trafford says. But it's a technique that almost every ancient culture adopted in some form. Artists like Trafford are learning the ancient forms of shaping glass beads and combining it with today's technologies to create contemporary works of art, Trafford says. People who visit the Potomac Arts Festival will see how Trafford makes jewelry.

If you go ...

WHAT: Potomac Arts Festival

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30.

WHERE: National Conservation Training Center on Shepherd Grade Road, four miles north of Shepherdstown, W.Va.

COST: Free admission, donations to Potomac Valley Audubon Society accepted.

DIRECTIONS: Take Md. 65 south toward Sharpsburg. Turn right onto Md. 34. Go over the river and take the second right onto Shepherd Grade Road. The National Conservation Training Center is 3.4 miles on the right.

MORE: For more information, go to Also, a preview party, including live entertainment, a silent auction and arts festival artists, will be from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, at the National Conservation Training Center. Admission is $45. Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-540-955-3553.

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