Courtney Sargent, Deseret News
Lydia Preston, 7, left, Grace Preston, 9, and Pauline Preston watch as Barbara Jones braids a rug at the Folk Art Exhibit at the State Fair Saturday. Potters and other artisans demonstrated their crafts.

Saturday at the fair found folk artists, from blacksmiths to potters, demonstrating how they ply their crafts.

According to Carol Edison, director of the folk arts program for the Utah Arts Council, folk art "embodies our past and shares it with our future." It provides a way to ensure future generations are grounded in their community.

Edison said the fair is a place for artists to showcase their work and for viewers to see art from other cultures.

Two Sudanese men now living in Utah, Dominic Raimondo and Alex Okongo, demonstrated how they make clay figurines of cattle. Cattle in Sudan are a status symbol — the more cattle a person has, the higher the social status.

To help teach children how to take care of cattle, they must start molding figurines, Raimondo said. "If you don't have that foundation, who will pass it on?"

Raimondo and Okongo make the clay cattle in the traditional way. They mold the figures by hand with surprising detail. When the figures have dried, the men put them in a pile of sawdust in a bucket, start it afire and cover the bucket to trap heat. It takes many tries to bake the figurine to the desired hardness.

"It's a long process," Okongo said, one that could take two to three weeks to perfect a bull or cow. The cattle figurines they showcased had various colors of glaze, but Okongo said that in his village of Equatoria Estates, they usually leave it the color of the clay, a vermillion the color of sandstone.

Another artist working with clay was Katherine Poleviyaoma, an Acoma Pueblo Indian. She makes and decorates pots using traditional methods.

"We want to continue what has been given to us by our ancestors," said Poleviyaoma, who hopes to keep the art alive for her descendants.

Using traditional colors of black white and vermillion, she paints using yucca leaves, preparing the leaves in a way passed from generation to generation.

"I chew my own yucca fiber to make a paintbrush," Poleviyaoma said.

She uses nature symbols in her designs.

"Fine lines mean rain," she said. A dot symbolizes a raindrop, and a checkerboard signifies clouds.

Frances Martinez Dee said she also draws inspiration from nature when she makes paper flowers. She said her aunt brought the craft with her from Mexico, and Martinez Dee learned from her. Originally, the flowers were made from corn husks, but lack of available medium dictated they make the flowers from crepe and tissue paper in colors including red, yellow, purple and blue.

Martinez Dee said the tradition of making flowers started in a dry Mexican desert that had few flowers for funerals, so people began making the flowers to lay on graves. Now artists mostly make the flowers for weddings and fiestas.

She enjoys making the flowers, as well as teaching other people how to make them. She said boys and girls alike enjoy creating the vibrant blooms. And each flower has its own personality that reflects the creator.

"I have a theory that you can't make a bad flower," she said.

Another folk artist at the fair was Dennis Manning, a blacksmith by trade. He said he got into blacksmithing through a seemingly small event.

"I inherited my grandfather's anvil," he said, and that started over 30 years of work in the business.

He held a piece of steel in a blacksmith's furnace until the end was red-hot. He then put the steel on the anvil. His son drove a steel wedge into the glowing mass. The wedge, after furious pounding and many tries, went through the steel.

Manning said he was making a hammer, and the hole the wedge made was where the wood handle would go. He said his hammers are stronger because they are forged, and he has customers who will only use his tools.

He said he has a following. He traveled to Japan, Australia, Great Britain, Canada and all over the United States to showcase how to be a blacksmith.

If you go

What: Utah State Fair

Where: Utah State Fairpark, 155 N. 1000 West

When: Daily through Sept. 14, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

How much: $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and children 6-12, children under 5 free

Info: utahstatefairpark.com or call 538-FAIR


E-mail: lwilde@desnews.com