Make Off: Artists compete in Fishers Library’s one-day maker event


Fishers Library’s Ignite Studio hosted its first artist make-off in early May, with 10 area artists competing in an event inspired by reality shows, such as the “Great British Baking Show.”

The idea was conceived by Hamilton East Public Library Arts Engagement Coordinator Kris Hurst, who said Ignite Studios was looking for a bigger event to engage the Fishers community and showcase the studio’s possibilities.

“These are actual artists in the field that are doing things, and to see the art process I think is really cool,” Hurst said.

The theme was sustainability. About 35 artists applied, and how their piece would bring awareness to environmental issues and reduce waste through use of recycled or reclaimed materials was part of the selection criteria. In addition, they were tasked with incorporating the use of studio equipment and supplies.

Over the course of six hours, each artist gave new life to items often considered trash.

First-place winner and Noblesville resident Craig Helming owns a woodworking business and has been a high school art teacher for 16 years. His found object and mixed-media piece told a narrative about protecting Mother Earth.

“I’m kind of flipping the narrative of the idea of Mother Earth and the mother being the nurturer, the protector, the provider and how we are not taking care of Mother Earth,” he said.

Second-place winner and former Ignite Studio artist-in-residence Kassie Woodworth created a sculpture out of packaging foam.

She said she painted it to look like concrete and used an origami kit to add “smaller paper sculptures in areas to make it look similar to when dandelions come out of the cracks of concrete. The concept is basically just using discarded materials in a society that uses a lot of shipping material.”

The flowers contain seeds, along with a message about sustainability.

Recently relocated from Evansville, wearable and sustainable clothing artist Emily Gartner was the third-place winner. Her mosaic skirt reused old hotel key cards.

“I love to challenge myself,” she said. “And I use materials that I’ve never used before. I’ve been saving these hotel keys (from) my art shows that I did on the road for 25 years.”

As a final touch, she added a HEPL library card as the belt buckle.

Angelita Hampton and Mary Mindiola made collage pieces. Her portrait incorporated pressed flowers, toilet paper rolls, paint chips and gel-printed newspaper and magazine clippings.

“I am really conscious of pollinators, so all the flowers were cut flowers that were from an event that were going to get thrown away,” Hampton said.

Wanting to bring awareness to milkweed and how it’s needed for butterflies, artist and gardener Mindiola created a collage that incorporated gel printing, quilling, origami and calligraphy.

“The problem (is) with the chemicals that are killing the milkweed and making it hard for the monarchs (to reproduce),” Mindiola said.

Paul Williams designed his piece to connect memory and renewal.

“This was a log from a tree from a home I grew up in, in Noblesville,” he said. “So, this serves as both a tribute to my late mother who passed away in October, but also as a testament of the enduring spirit of nature.”

Williams used Ignite Studio’s 3D printer and laser engraving machines to help create the piece.

Artist Andria Elliott took a more traditional approach, with a painting on canvas using watercolors and mineral-based paints.

Bringing attention to the plastic and waste in the oceans, artist Plum Virtu created an octopus sculpture from found objects.

The common thread among the artists was that everything has potential to be art.

“It makes it hard to throw things away, because as soon as I do, I’ll start a project and I’m like, ‘If I only had that,’” Virtu said.

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Artist Kathy Wessel created a peacock sculpture from found objects for the Fishers Library’s Make-Off competition. (Photo by Kris Hurst)

Artist Kathy Wessel, who created a peacock sculpture from found objects, said sometimes her best work comes from problem solving.

“When I have a problem or I have a bump in the road, I just say, “OK, this is going to make my art better,’” she said.

Upcycling broken objects into functional works of art, artist and art therapist Gina Baird created a light sconce to represent healing.

“My first thought about sustainability was the Phoenix, because I have just recently completed a very aggressive cancer treatment,” she said. “I grew up on a farm and because of those environmental toxins, it proceeded to give me health challenges until I realized I had cancer. I have been in the ashes close to death so many times, but I always rise above and while I’m not immortal, I do feel like I am sustainable and that we as a people are sustainable.”

The artists’ work will be on display at Ignite Studio through June 15.

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Craig Helming of Noblesville took the first-place prize for his found-object and mixed-media piece about protecting Mother Earth. (Photo by Jennifer A. Haire)

Ignite Studio

Ignite Studio opened in June 2018, fulfilling the community’s request for a place for art and artists to be together.

In six months, Director of Experiential Learning Katelyn Coyne transformed the former coworking space into an art-focused makerspace, complete with high-end artist equipment, tools and supplies.

The idea was to “build the space so that it offered something that kind of had a different approach than what a normal library space might look like,” said Coyne, who has a master’s degree in museum studies with a focus on education and exhibit design.

Ignite Studio offers free fully stocked adult and kid level maker kits available for sign out and to be used at the studio. Patrons can work with a variety of mediums and take home what they make. In addition, the studio has equipment such as a 3D printer, laser engraver, vinyl cutter, embroidery and sublimation machines available. Patrons with a HEPL library card can access the fully equipped A/V studio and digital lab.