(Pictured: Robin Mueller, Sande Noble, Nancy Mieling)
The Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Artisan Guild (LF-LBAG) was initially formed in 2005 as an outlet for local people working in a variety of arts and crafts mediums to connect with each other and talk about their work. The five founding members included jewelers, a glass worker, a fiber artist, and a knitter. By the third meeting it was clear that the members of the guild were also interested in creating opportunities to share their handmade creations with the many patrons of the arts within our community. They mounted their first show at the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society with 12 members that then included painters and photographers.
“We just wanted to make enough money to cover the $150 cleaning bill for cleaning up after the show,” says Nancy Mieling, a founding member of the LF-LBAG and their vice president of shows. “We ended up being able to give them a check for $1,500. It was lovely.”
With that first show they realized two things. There was definitely a market for the work their members were creating, and they had the ability to affect change with it. Not only the emotional connection that occurs when someone connects with a piece of work they want to take home, but the change the guild could affect raising money for causes near to their hearts with the work of their hands.
Now celebrating their 10th anniversary, the LF-LBAG has raised more than $76,000 for organizations in our area. Over the years, they’ve contributed to many causes like local schools in district 67, Ragdale, the Lake Forest Symphony, the Gorton Community Center’s Children’s Drop-In Center, the Ronald McDonald Foundation, and the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce. But their two annual shows now each have dedicated causes to which they contribute.
The annual fall show, this year on September 6 and 7, gathers as many as 50 artists and artisans in a variety of mediums to display their work in Lake Forest in space provided by Lake Forest Bank & Trust. Happening concurrently with the Deer Path Art League’s Art Fair on the Square, people can walk from booth-to-booth experiencing a variety of visions and speak directly with the creators. The guild also fills the space with live music and artistic activities for kids.
Last year, inspired by a ceramicist who brought his wheel to throw pots before a mesmerized audience, they started hosting demonstrations. Painters set up their easels to start a painting from scratch, one of their members displayed how to cut glass for fusing next to one of their finished pieces, and Mieling brought a torch, her didymium glasses, and glass rods to demonstrate the process of lampworking, or melting and blowing glass into delicate decorative objects.
Each year the guild presents up to five “Best in Show awards” to their top vendors, and to celebrate their 10th year of hosting shows, this year’s awards will also include cash prizes. A portion of the annual Fall show proceeds go to support the extracurricular programming and activities of CROYA (Committee Representing Our Young Adults), a safe and constructive space designed for the teenage population in our community.
Their other annual show, the French Market Holiday Boutique, this year on November 11 and 12, is held in the CROYA space of the Lake Forest Recreational Center. Up to 30 local artists display unique handmade creations perfect for gifting just as the holiday season looms large. In keeping with the French market theme, they have live jazz and an authentic French bistro set up with croissant, French sandwiches, and cappuccino. Proceeds go to support both CROYA and Mothers Trust Foundation, an organization providing emergency help to children in need throughout Lake County since 1998.
“Part of our credo is artists giving back to the community,” says Sande Noble, a founding member of the LF-LBAG, secretary of the guild, and a maker of handmade jewelry. “Sometimes other organizations will ask for material for their auctions and raffles and it’s wonderful when you send out the call to your membership, which ranges between 30 and 40 artists, and almost everybody sends something. We’ve given a lot to other groups to help them raise money for their causes, as well. That’s really important to us.”
Also important is bringing together the many different artists behind the multitude of cultural offerings in our community. Only a couple months ago, many of the arts groups in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff formed an alliance called LFLBartsLink. Local artists from the LF-LBAG, the Deer Path Art League, Artisans on the Bluff, ReInvent Gallery, and Ragdale came together with other arts and entertainment groups like our community centers, historical societies, libraries, musicians from the Lake Forest Symphony, Lake Forest Civic Orchestra, Midwest Young Artists, and Music Institute of Chicago, and our CenterStage and Citadel theatres, to become the ultimate resource in our community’s cultural happenings throughout the year.
“We all have similar audiences that might like what each other has to offer,” says Mieling. “We’ll have a combined calendar, so that if you come to one of our shows, you’ll know about all the other shows in town. There’s strength in that.”
“There’s a lot going on in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff,” says Noble. “You don’t have to go down to the city to find good quality arts and entertainment.”
For more information on the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Artisan Guild, visit lflbartisanguild.com.
– By Jake Jarvi // Photography by Mary Carol Fitzgerald