by Ann M. Colford

For nearly two decades, area crafts artists have marked the coming of fall and winter with a weekend of sharing their work with the public. This year, the 19th annual Inland Craft Warnings sale and exhibition takes place over three days this weekend at the Spokane Convention Center. The yearly event has grown over the years and moved through multiple venues before finally finding a long-term home at the Spokane Convention Center, next door to the Opera House downtown. But for the board of artist-exhibitors who organize the event, the motivation is the same now as it was in the early days.

"We wanted to provide a forum for fine arts craftspeople to have their work seen," says Louise Kodis, a Spokane fiber artist who has been part of ICW since the beginning. Each of the more than 60 artist-exhibitors is basically a full-time working artist, she says. "We are all professionals in our fields. Some may have other jobs, at least part-time, but this is what we do."

Inland Craft Warnings describes itself as a juried sale and exhibition of limited edition or one-of-a-kind contemporary fine crafts sold direct to the public by the maker-artist. Rather than making a distinction between art and craft, Kodis and the other organizers settled on some basic definitions and then judged based on quality.

"We made an arbitrary, though considered, decision to include what are generally consider to be craft media," Kodis explains. "We have artists working in fiber, metal, glass, wood and clay, and then variations within those categories. We're primarily three-dimensional, but with the inclusion of photography."

Since its inception, Inland Craft Warnings has been a juried show, meaning that would-be exhibitors must have their work approved by the board for quality, creativity and presentation. Competition to get into the show is tough; this year, the board received four applications for every one slot open to new exhibitors. And getting in once is no guarantee of being invited back. Returning artists are judged at each year's show for inclusion the next year.

Although many artists return to the show year after year, there are always new faces and new crafts on display. This year, Kodis says more than 25 first-time exhibitors are planning to come to the show, in addition to nearly 40 returning friends. While she's reluctant to name favorites, a few of this year's newcomers have particularly caught her eye.

"Judy Meddaugh does pressed flower collages," she says. "She has a self-portrait that's on display now out at the airport, and it absolutely captures her essence. She uses dried, translucent petals and leaves, sometimes colorless, sometimes faintly colored. It's a very different way of working with pressed flowers.

"Another real surprise this year is Sam Sloan," Kodis continues. "Sam is a retired architect from Spokane who, after retirement, began to do pottery -- sleek, stern, geometric vessels in clay."

Yet another first-timer is Bob Wilfong, a sculptor who works in cast bronze and whose flowing, curvilinear figures appeared this year at ArtFest. "He writes poetry, and each sculpture relates to one of his poems, so the shapes become a three-dimensional expression of his literary work."

For the third year, two of the exhibitors will demonstrate their craft throughout the show. Kodis says ICW approaches artist demonstrations differently than other festivals. "We attempt to show all of the steps involved in creating a work of art, from finding materials to putting it on sale," she says. "The artists talk about how to decide when it's done, and how to decide when it's good." This year, two potters -- Barb Campbell of Corvallis, Ore., and Peter Olsen of Index, Wash. -- will be the featured demonstrators.

Another innovative touch is the Invitational Artist Gallery, where a dozen emerging artists will have the opportunity to put their early work on display for the public. "The new artists are invited after we've informed ourselves about their work," Kodis says. "We provide the space and lights, and they have four hours to show their work. It gives them a chance to have some feedback from the public and get some sales." The idea behind the program is to give new artists the experience of being in a show so they can decide if it's a career path they want to follow. Kodis counsels art students and young artists that "There's a lot more to being a professional artist than working in a studio."

After all the years that Kodis and the other artist members of the board (Gina Freuen, Mike Neiman and Gay Waldman) have put into Inland Craft Warnings, they show no signs of tiring. "We are absolutely dedicated to it as a happening," she says. "We really like working together, and we see that what we're doing is beneficial to other artists and beneficial to the community."

Inland Craft Warnings takes place at the Spokane Convention Center Nov. 2-4. Hours are Friday from noon-8 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 10 am-6 pm. Admission: $4, for the full weekend (free on Sunday from 4-6 pm) Call: 353-6500.

Spokane County Interstate Fair: Fair Food Drive-Thru @ Spokane County Fair & Expo Center

Fri., Sept. 18, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat., Sept. 19, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sun., Sept. 20, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
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