Tallman Arts Fest an ideas marketplace

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Dennis Hines | August 5, 2016

JANESVILLE — Trae Leeder credits his family for instilling an interest in woodworking, but he credits the Tallman Arts Festival for building a solid base for his business.

Leeder operates Icon Woodworks, 438 E. JF Townline Road near Janesville, offering custom-made wooden furniture and cabinets. Leeder started the business in 1999 and began participating in the arts festival in 2001.

“The first year, I had a lot of small things,” Leeder said. “Then you learn what people are interested in seeing.

“Through the years, my customer traffic grew.”

Leeder is actually so busy that he won't be selling items at this year's festival, slated for Sunday, Aug. 7, at the Lincoln Tallman House grounds in Janesville.

“Usually I take July off to build furniture art for the arts festival,” Leeder said. “This year I've been so busy with custom orders that I was not able to do that.

“I decided back in the spring that I wouldn't be able to do the show.”

Although he won't be selling his work among the 50-some artisans this summer, Leeder is donating a cabinet for the festival's silent auction.

“You could use it to store CDs, movies or wine,” Leeder said.

 Leeder took first place in the 3-D design category of last year's festival. Throughout the years he's also won best of show and first place in other categories.

“It's always good when you win something,” he said. “It shows you're going in the right direction with designing and building quality.”

Woodworking runs in Leeder's family, and he said he's been interested in the craft since childhood.

“I have two pieces of furniture my grandfather made, a piece of furniture my great-grandfather made and a chair that my great-great grandfather made,” Leeder said. “I've always been interested. I knew when the time was right to start my business, so I just jumped in with both feet.”

Leeder said he hopes to participate in the Tallman Arts Festival again.

“I have to see how busy I am,” he said. “The housing market is making a comeback and I've been swamped.

“I haven't been this busy since the recession started in 2009.”

Tom Wilcox of Waterford, a fellow former Tallman Arts Festival exhibitor, also used the Janesville event to boost his business in making 3-D prints and 3-D jewelry.

“I was absolutely well-received at the show. I had good sales,” Wilcox said. “It's a beautiful setting. It was a positive experience.”

At 71, Wilcox is stepping away from the art show circuit this year and concentrating on selling his work online.

“I'm expanding my reach and doing more online sales,” he said. “Right now I'm putting together an online store and selling steampunk fashion glasses.

“My work has been shipped all over the world.”

Plenty to see and do

Amanda Strobel Wise, volunteer and internship program manager at the Rock County Historical Society, has been gearing up for the 59th annual Tallman festival since winter, lining up painters, glass artists, photographers, jewelry makers, weavers, textile artists and others to showcase their talents.

“Sometimes people will call just before the event because their schedule will open up,” Wise said. “Someone called last week and said they wanted to add another festival to their summer. We take registration as long as we have space on the grounds.

“We want to make sure there's a good balance of stuff on sale, so we don't have 50 photographers or 30 jewelers. (W)e're looking for quality as well.”

The festival also will include live music, a food court, a beer garden, a silent auction, children's activities and curator tours of the Lincoln-Tallman House.

“You get to go through the house with curator Laurel Fant. She's actually going to let people touch stuff,” Wise said. “You get to wear white gloves and touch things.”

This year's event will include a pie throw in which people can pay $5 to throw a pie at a local celebrity, including Rock County Historical Society Executive Director Michael Reuter,  Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Christine Rebout or City Manager Mark Freitag.

“It was (Reuter's) idea, so I don't feel too bad for him,” Wise said.

Several nonprofit organizations will be hosting a booth as well.

“The people from the Logan Museum are going to have a mini pop-up museum, then the Children's Museum of Rock County is having a booth,” she said. “(The children's museum) also will be in the Frances Willard School, so it will be a chance for people to visit the school, because it just got here in June.”

The historic schoolhouse was moved to the historical society campus from the Rock County Fairgrounds.

About 2,000 visitors are expected for the arts festival.

“It's a great time to get out and see your neighbors,” Wise said. “We have a lot of Wisconsin artists and people from Janesville, so it's super great.”

The cost to attend the Tallman Arts Festival is $5 for adults. Children 13 years and younger are free.

For more information, call 608-756-4509 or go online to rchs.us.


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