What: Placerville Art and Wine Festival
Who: Placerville Downtown Association
Where: Business on Main Street in Placerville
When: Saturday, Oct. 20 from 6 to 9 p.m.
Cost: Wine tasting $30 per person
Information: placervilledowntown.com or 530-672-3436.
Heralded by a parade of brightly colored art banners, the 15th annual Art and Wine Festival takes over Main Street in Placerville from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20.
The gala will feature local wineries, artists, merchants and music by the nine-piece band, Aftershock, for visitors and residents to enjoy.
Wine lovers can pay $30 per person to sample the vintages of 32 foothill wineries, as they explore the grottos and galleries of historical downtown.
Platters of tasty hors d’oeuvres will be offered up and down Main Street’s merchant row, where the artistic gamut runs from pastoral pastels to scaled-down stagecoaches.
The Placerville Downtown Association, the steering committee of Main Street businesses, produces the celebration.
“Placerville has become a destination town,” Lisa Crummett, marketing director for the association said, “not just a Lake Tahoe stop-off. Our restaurants, galleries, wineries, antique stores and specialty merchants are compelling attractions to people everywhere.”
One of those attractions is Iron Willow Gallery and Studio, an art gallery celebrating its first anniversary at 440 Main St.
Gallery veteran Barbara Tankersley runs the show. Her husband Tom is a metal sculptor/welder whose work, including the stagecoaches, is increasingly recognized.
“Serious galleries reflect serious artists,” she stated. “We try to cull unique artistic voices for Iron Willow, and refresh the displays continuously.”
This is the third gallery Barbara has operated on Main Street, and fifth such venture overall.
Ironically her first gallery venture coincided with the first Art and Wine Festival in 1998.
Over the years the couple rode out the brutal economic cycles, partially from Tom’s increasing reputation as an innovative sculptor.
In 2006 they fulfilled a dream by launching a gallery, studio and home in Jemez, New Mexico on the approach to Santa Fe.
“We were all in — running on hope and experience. It took an extraordinary effort, but we were settled, focused and on the track to success.”
But tragedy arose too quickly. Son Jimmy was brutally murdered, cutting short the family’s new momentum. Compounding the situation, the collapse of real estate values virtually wiped them out.
Returning home to Placerville in 2008, the stricken duo re-established themselves, and a few year later opened Iron Willow.
Tom’s studio and fabrication facility are now on Pleasant Valley Road, where he produces an impressive array of functional (gates and fountains) and display art.
From 3-D wall hangings (welded steel of course) to majestic estates gates, from mythological figures to dueling swordsmen, his work is collected by businesses and individuals across the country.
Currently, the talented tradesman is working on his 20th stagecoach, a table-top piece incorporating a time-warping reality.
“I may add horses to this one,” he muses, referring to a sturdy, non-fired clay he developed to flesh out steel armatures. “I produce the clay for my own work,” he explained, “and also make it available to other sculptors through the gallery.”
“Tom’s DNA is clearly a cross between steel and art,” chimed in Barbara, eyeing a studio laden with iron designs. “He was attracted to metal sculpting from childhood.”
Although this innovative sculptor lacks a formal art education, his early years working as a steelworker launched a lifetime of welding discoveries.
“Being self-taught may be a good thing sometimes,” the quiet Greek-descended artist reflected.
His developing style is clearly influenced by exposure to vineyards. Greek mythology and wine-themed art are among his most popular art pieces.
Tom moved to El Dorado County in 1978 as a young steel fabricator. In 1993 he succumbed to his creative instinct and began steel sculpting, hoping to uncover a market.
Barbara recalled, “It’s been wobbly at times, but it looks like everything is coming together for us, including the success of Tom’s special clay, and of course, Iron Willow.
“Someone said ‘happiness is derived from earned success’. Well, I suppose so … we both work hard and we’re very happy.”
Faith is a big part of their lives.
“It has carried us through inexpressible transitions. And forged stronger character,” Barbara said.
Today, Tom can be found in his Pleasant Valley studio, following his “art in public places” muse. His work is absorbing, requiring unbroken concentration, and in many ways a constant experiment.
“I’m really grateful to be able to do what I want to do,” he said with obvious conviction.
Meanwhile Barbara continues to guide the well-designed Iron Willow gallery.
How does the partnership work?
“He’s the iron, I’m the willow,” she laughed. “You know, I really love what I do, making it profitable for artists to continue on. And I love this venue. Gallery success hinges on reputation which we strive to improve every moment.”
She paused. “I pray a lot.” She scans the impressive gallery layout with a trained eye. “And I’m picky,” she said.
To match the artistic perfection Aftershock, a nine-piece jazz-rock and R&B band from the area is playing at the Belltower. This lively group takes popular tunes from the ’40s through the ’80s, arranges them for the four-horn section and adds powerful vocal harmonies.
In addition, the “2012 Banners on Parade” community art project will be displayed and the hand-painted banners will be auctioned for sale during the evening with the help of the Soroptimists International of Placerville club members.
Proceeds benefit future Art on Parade exhibits. These collectables have been displayed on Main Street light poles from June through early October.
“Banners” is a collaborative effort between artists, businesses, organizations, individuals and city government to promote art in Placerville. Co-sponsoring the project again this year was Gold Country Artists Gallery, a major supporter of Placerville Art on Parade.
Wine-tasting tickets are available at Main Street merchants or by visiting placervilledowntown.com. For more information contact placervilledowntown.com or 530-672-3436.
Iron Willow Gallery can be reached at 530-621-4799 or 530-344-7859, email@example.com or ironwillow.com.