The 16th-annual Orchard Lake Fine Arts Fair brings 165 artists to town, including first-timer Gail Markiewicz.
Among the many hundreds of artists visiting Michigan to show their creativity at summer fairs — and perhaps getting a chance to enjoy the waters of the Great Lakes — is one making a debut appearance with a unique credential relating to both activities.
A project by Gail Markiewicz has been chosen for display at a new museum dedicated to bathing suits.
Markiewicz, immersed in clay designs that can seem like the real thing, will be represented at the emerging Bikini Art Museum in Regensburg, Germany, where planners want patrons to delve into the history of this fashion favorite. Scheduled for a museum opening in 2019, contents will include a clay torso draped in a clay skimpy suit as imagined by this artist.
“It’s another decorative form,” says Markiewicz, who designs vases, handbags, hats and other objects that look as if they could be put to use. In reality, this three-dimensional specialist turns clay into a variety of strictly decorative pieces with the goal of enhancing environments.
Working in a studio next to her Connecticut home or in a garage-turned-studio adjoining her Florida residence, Markiewicz spends her days going through many processes to achieve one-of-a-kind ceramics resplendent with colorfully detailed surfaces.
This summer will offer the first time Markiewicz has shown her work anywhere in Michigan. She has been juried into the Orchard Lake Fine Art Fair, in its 16th year, running July 28-29 and returning to the area west of Orchard Lake Road and south of Maple Road in West Bloomfield. Road construction had required a change in locale in previous years.
“I think of my style as very distinctive with carvings, textures and embellishments,” says Markiewicz, 67, who has been extending her approach since 1983. “I roll out clay, rip it into little pieces, carve or press in texture and build from a flat base. I color each work, fire it in a kiln, paint and stain after that firing.”
Applying her techniques, she also adds other materials, from antique lace to woodblocks, collected in her travels around the world and mixed in with the clay. The patchwork furthers her ambition that no two pieces are alike.
Markiewicz, who will be bringing 30 projects to this area, has tried to make mezuzahs in her style but ultimately considered them too heavy for appropriate placement. She comes to the state after strong customer responses in other fairs sponsored by Hot Works, which stages the annual Orchard Lake Fine Art Fair.
This year’s event will have some 165 juried artists in a variety of media that include paintings, glass, fiber, wood, photography and jewelry. Submissions will be eligible for awards totaling $2,500. A separate Youth Artist Competition for students will have chances in awards totaling $250 and be part of a dedicated display.
Making the fair experience more complete, food will be offered by Iridescence, Noodles, Jackson Five Catering and Sweet Water Tavern, and music will be performed by the One Love Reggae Band, Sheila Landis Trio and Hot Metal Groove.
Over the course of 10 years in a row, this event has been voted among the Top 100 Art Fairs in America by Sunshine Artist magazine.
“Milton Bellin, my uncle, was the first Jewish graduate of the Yale University School of Art in the 1920s,” Markiewicz recalls. “He was a WPA [Works Progress Administration developed by President Franklin Roosevelt to enlarge employment] artist and painted what he saw — cowboys, mines, wine country. After he died, I gave his work to museums.
“He was a great influence on me and, in fourth grade, I knew that I wanted to be an artist. When I turned 12, I started painting clowns and things for kids’ rooms.”
Markiewicz, who earned her master’s degree in art from Southern Connecticut State University and also studied at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and Massachusetts College of Art and Design, planned to become a jewelry artist. When gold and silver became too costly, she switched to ceramics.
“As soon as I started with ceramics, my work sold immediately,” she says. “I reached 50 to 60 galleries around the world and even was represented at High Point, N.C.
“After a recession, galleries started closing in the late 1980s, but I sold my work when a lot of artists weren’t even working. I went to more retail shows and enjoyed meeting the people.”
Markiewicz says her artistry and business keep her going seven days a week. She takes pride in being able to lift 50 pounds of clay and taking her work to about 20 fairs a year. Transported in a van, her projects remain intact with the help of bubble wrap.
“Art consumes my life,” she says. “It’s what I’m most comfortable doing. My studios are comfort zones.”
The Orchard Lake Fine Art Fair runs July 28-29 just west of Orchard Lake Road, between Powers and Daly, just south of Maple Road in West Bloomfield. $5 (age 14 and older) admission supports a nonprofit initiative to promote arts programming for kids. Hotworks.org.