Local potter will exhibit her wares at craftfest this weekend

Friday, May 2, 2003

Julie Bricknell is an occupational therapist who treats people with hand problems. When she began making pottery, her hands discovered a form of therapy that helps Bricknell.

"Because I'm a service-oriented professional, this is how I renew myself," she says.

Only a few years after she began learning to throw pots, it's also starting to pay monetary dividends.

Bricknell will be one of the artists and crafts people exhibiting their wares this weekend at the 13th annual Spring Craftfest at the Black Forest Villages.

Other traditional working crafts to be demonstrated include basket weaving, leather art, pioneer furniture making, wood carving, broom making, corn husk doll making and quilting. Candles, soaps, woodworking, birdhouses, crochet items, ceramics, florals, dolls and stained glass are among the other items that will be for sale.

The festival always offers a variety of foods, including Polish sausage, barbecue, chicken sandwiches and kettle corn. The Coyote Creek Band will entertain once again. Activities for children are planned.

Darla Macke, who co-owns the Black Forest Villages with her husband, Greg, is a basket weaver. She says the band is one of the highlights of the annual Spring Craftfest. "They've gotten very good," she says.

Greg started the festival in 1990 after leasing the villages from the East Perry Lumber Co. The buildings were constructed in the 1960s by contractor Burton Gerhardt, who wanted to re-create an 1870s village of German immigrants.

Macke started with just five crafters and this year has 35. One of the big draws every year is the sweet and salty kettle corn made by a family from Kahoka, Mo.

Bricknell is a certified hand therapist for Orthopaedic Associates in Cape Girardeau. But there is no certification that says a potter's work is ready to sell. She just ran out of recipients.

"My family and friends got as much pottery as they could stand," she said.

She began learning about pottery from ceramics artist Amy Kephart at Southeast Missouri State University. She liked getting her hands dirty, liked the tranquility of throwing pots and liked the forgiveness of making pottery.

"If you mess up you just crumble it up and start over," she said. "... You have to make a lot that aren't good before you get the hang of it."

She is still taking classes at the university. But recently she started selling her work at River Ridge Winery near Commerce and last fall at another Black Forest Villages festival.

Everything about the enterprise is still new to her. Bricknell makes pie plates, pitchers, vases, goblets, mugs and other items. Recently she began making things from Mississippi River mud. They are purely decorative and aren't meant to hold liquids or to be heated. She also has made a candle holder from mud dauber nests she fired in her kiln.

Deciding on pricing is difficult for someone who is just beginning to sell her work. The system Bricknell decided on is a price per pound of clay used. Items with handles cost more. She also factors in her time and glazing costs.

Bricknell grew up in Louisiana. She and her husband, Steve, moved from Arizona to Missouri 21 years ago. He is a respiratory therapist at St. Francis Medical Center.

They live on a 13-acre spread near Pocahontas. They have four children, two dogs, three cats and eight free-range chickens. They also grow wine grapes.

Her husband built her studio in a separate building behind the main house. It contains her potter's wheel, two kilns and racks filled with pottery. But to her it is a refuge.

"This is my time to myself to let my mind rest and create," she says.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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