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Finding their art in nature

November 05, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA. - Nick Ryan said he was duck hunting when a little bird landed nearby and started "chewing me out" for being in its territory.

Ever the artist, Ryan turned the disgruntled bird into a small statue - one of many he had on display Saturday at the second annual Potomac Arts Festival.

Held near Shepherdstown and continuing today, the juried festival, presented by the Potomac Valley Audubon Society, features more than 40 artisans.

Items for sale include paintings, prints, photographs, jewelry, pottery, quilts, baskets, clothing and wood pieces.

Ryan, of Saratoga Springs, Utah, is a sculptor who uses a "lost wax" method of casting, with the finished product made of bronze.

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One of his pieces, a table that included two bronze otters, was priced at $9,000, but Ryan said he most enjoys creating work that he likes.

"I have the least amount of pleasure ultimately in doing something that I think will sell," he said.

Another artist at the show, Susan Wolf of Toms Brook, Va., creates hand-carved birdhouses, bird feeders, bowls and vases from gourds.

Her work was named as the festival's "Best example of art in harmony with nature."

Wolf said her interest in gourds started when she had a bumper crop of them in a garden she kept with her two sons. With a background in plant science and an interest in art, Wolf took a carving course.

Now, Wolf has been making decorative and functional items from gourds for six years. The different varieties, shapes and sizes of gourds keep her interested, she said.

Wil Hershberger had on display his nature photographs, as well as digital recordings of cricket and katydid songs, and nighttime noises, including insect songs.

Hershberger, of Hedgesville, W.Va., is a past president of the Potomac Valley Audubon Society who conducts birding identification classes.

Since high school, Hershberger has been interested in photography, an interest that was piqued even more when he began working on a book about the songs of crickets and katydids.

Hershberger was able to update his photography equipment because of an inheritance, and now often finds himself awake and photographing before dawn.

For birds, Hershberger said he tries to find them in breeding territories, and slowly makes his way as close to them as possible.

"Hopefully, they'll land on something attractive," he said.

To take a photograph of a flower named squirrel corn, Hershberger once had to lay in the middle of a road parallel to the C&O Canal. A park ranger came along and suggested that for safety's sake, he move away from the road.

Hershberger did.

"After I got the shot," he said.

Another time, Hershberger spent three days in subfreezing temperatures trying to photograph an elusive brown creeper.

He noticed that after eating, the bird would alight on a pine tree, prompting Hershberger to focus on the tree.

"I got one shot of him sitting there," Hershberger said, pointing to a crisp photo of the bird perfectly poised on the tree.




If you go...



What: Second annual Potomac Arts Festival

When: Today, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: National Conservation Training Center, Shepherd Grade Road, outside of Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Call 304-876-8321 or go to www.potomacartsfestival.org

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