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Greater Tulsa Reporter

Indie Craft Shows Put Local Artists in Spotlight

Managing Editor

TEXTILE ARTIST: Val Esparza works on a project in his art studio located on the edge of the East Village. Esparza creates tshirts and other fashions and sells his works in local shops, including Must Stash, 3724 S. Peoria Ave., and Mocha Butterfly, 216 N. Main St.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

All too often people assume that I am creative, because I write.

But hand me a sketchbook, and I become a two-year-old with a crayon. Scratch that, more like a newborn.

For that reason and so many more, my hat is constantly tipped to visual artists everywhere whether they are crafting a mosaic table out of broken glass or painting a silhouette.

Happily, a number of these very artists pass us on the streets each day. Because, if you didn’t yet realize it, our city is teeming with artists of all kinds.

For those unaware of this truth, this is an especially perfect time of year to take notice.

Kicking off the start of the holiday shopping season is the Alliday Show, created four years ago by local artist Briana Hefley-Shepard. The indie craft show comes to the Ford Truck Exhibit Hall at the fairgrounds on Nov. 30 with 80 craft vendors.

This includes first-time Alliday vendor Jammie Kern and her company Short Mountain Sundries.

Kern always knew she would end up doing something creative. She writes short stories and novels and has previously shown paintings at the Blue Dome Arts Festival and created greeting cards. Though, she never planned to crochet rugs out of cut-up tshirts. But she found the idea online, tried it herself and soon gained a following.

Kern’s craft definitely falls into the list of vendors that Hefley-Shepard is anticipating at Alliday. And her list is growing quite extensive.

Since beginning the show in 2010, Hefley-Shepard has seen the number and quality of vendors applying to her show increase. “I am blown away by the talent we have right here,” she says.

Another such vendor is Aaron Comino with Aaron Paul Designs.

Comino, a recent Tulsa transplant, is fairly new to his trade. He creates skeleton keys and rings out of antique spoons. However, he is beginning to branch out into necklaces and earrings.

Like Kern and most artists, he always knew he would do something creative in life. He grew up playing music, but when he ended up rooming with a glade smith after moving to Tulsa, he became inspired to experiment with metal work.

Besides the skill needed to heat the metal to just the right degree to make it malleable without damaging the spoon, Comino also enjoys the hunt of finding unique spoons and imagining their stories.

“I like thinking about the people and the history behind the spoons,” he says. Each piece of jewelry, in effect, also brings with it a bit of history.

Jill Simons, on the other hand, tapped into her artistic side early in life.

She began selling beaded jewelry at a local farmers’ market when she was 13 years old. She continued jewelry making through high school and college.

Her short stint as a full-time college recruiter only cemented in her mind her love and appreciation for crafting.

Soon after, she opened her own storefront in the Philcade Building in downtown Tulsa—the bookerie—and attends craft shows. After Alliday, she will set up a booth at Indie Emporium, to be held Dec. 13-14 at the Arts and Humanities Hardesty Arts Center.

Kern and Comino will join Simons at the event as will local textile artist Val Esparza, who sells his fashions at local shops, including Must Stash, 3724 S. Peoria Ave., and Mocha Butterfly, 216 N. Main St.

After moving to Tulsa two years ago, Simons found that she was able to infiltrate the local art and craft scenes largely due to Make Tulsa, a local organization created to support craft artists.

“I think there is a strong presence for both the fine art and crafting communities in Tulsa and a mutual respect between the groups,” she says. Simons attributes that largely to Raw Tulsa, an arts organization that brings together and supports artists of various mediums. The organization holds regular events. Next up is the Raw Awards Semi-Finals, Dec. 6 at the Vanguard, 222 N. Main St.

Esparza, who says he has always dabbled in various creative ventures, began making tshirts a few years ago after being inspired by a friend’s drawing of Tulsa’s golden driller. Soon after, he was searching for shops to place his creations. “Finding vendors to sell with has never been a problem,” he says, pointing to the large community support of artists, which he attributes partly to the recent growth of the Brady Arts District.

However, in the future, Esparza hopes to see an increase in grassroots efforts from independent artists in the East Village, Pearl and Kendall Whittier neighborhoods. “I’m ready to see artists take art into their own hands,” he says.

With Tulsa’s growing community of supportive and collaborative artists, that can’t be far away.

Updated 10-28-2013

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