November 28, 2019
When Lisa Vetter and Paul Siefert met almost 30 years ago, sharing a farm in Spencerville and making art for a living wasn’t exactly the plan.
But this year’s Art Farm Holiday Pop-Up Gallery marks more than a decade in their permanent location and continues to draw art lovers and holiday shoppers from around the region.
The History of the art farm
There were a lot of twists and turns that brought them to this particular annual tradition. The couple, now married for more than 20 years, each evolved professionally and artistically to get to this point.
“We met through mutual friends,” Vetter said. “Paul was working as a land surveyor, and I was waiting tables. I had made jewelry in high school and studied interior design, worked in the corporate world for awhile. I was always doing something creative. Then in the early ’90s I started getting back into making jewelry, and Paul started making bracelets with leather.”
Vetter’s jewelry began as more traditional but intricate little sculptures made from wire and beads. These days both have moved into using repurposed materials, taking recycling to a new and beautiful level.
“For years I was making my jewelry with silver and beads basically,” Vetter said. “But in the last 10 years we’ve been working with found materials, using tin to fabricate pieces for our work.”
Vetter and Siefert began collecting the tin they use for everything from Vetter’s jewelry to some pretty funky and fantastic lamps, wall hangings, light pulls, magnets, and many other fun and functional items.
“I love the challenge and love that no two pairs of earrings are alike,” Vetter said. “They may be the same design, the same shape, but it’s all done by hand so they’re all a bit different. We find the tins all over the place. Thrift stores, estate sales, garage sales, junk shops. Now our friends will tell us that they have some tin, but we have so many now that we really don’t need any more unless it’s something really old or unusual.”
Meeting a need
The idea for the Holiday Pop-Up Gallery began when the couple were still living in Fort Wayne and was a response to a need for artists to sell their work.
They joined efforts with Dawn DeSanto of Hand Jive for a time with a pop-up shop at Covington Plaza, and they even hosted the shop in their home a few years. But in 2003 they closed on the home now known as the Art Farm.
“The house was small but it had good bones,” Vetter said. “It had a building behind it that would be good for our studio, and it also has a big barn in the back and five acres of land. But the house had no heat and no running water so it was going to be a project. When we first moved there, I contacted ARCH to find out how old it was, and they sent us all this great information including that the house was built in 1860. So our farm was built when Abraham Lincoln was running for president.”
Bringing the house out of the Civil War era and into the 21st century took time. During the home renovations, Vetter and Siefert lived and worked in the studio. But by 2009 they were ready to open the studio doors to the first Holiday Pop-Up Gallery. The following year they remained open for the full month of December for the first time. This year the gallery will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Dec. 7-29 (Wednesdays-Sundays) with the opening night reception on Friday, Dec. 6.
People have become remarkably devoted, and some come from well outside the area.
“Every year more and more people come out here,” Vetter said. “It just amazes me. We have had at least one person come to buy something everyday we’ve been open. One year we got a lot of snow, and it was quiet so I thought ‘Is this the day that no one comes?’ But we got a call from a woman who lived in North Carolina, but she was visiting her family in Ohio and wanted to come. I told her I wasn’t sure about the roads, and she said she wasn’t worried because she was driving a truck.”
INviting from out-of-town
The main difference between the early versions of the Holiday Pop-Up Gallery and now is the artists who participate.
With so many other art fairs and pop-up shops available — not to mention platforms like Etsy to sell their wares — the Art Farm now features artists from outside the area, works that might not otherwise be available for purchase to those in Indiana and the surrounding area.
Vetter and Siefert travel the country in the summer, participating in 15-20 art fairs per year. In their travels they meet other artists whom they invite to participate.
This year there will be 14, including Vetter and Siefert, and the work includes their found object art as well as glass, fiber, 3D mixed media, and photography.
A full list of the artists and their work is available on the Art Farm Facebook page where Vetter also provides photos throughout the month of some of the items available for holiday purchase. That would also be the place to learn if the Art Farm stays open for another bonus weekend after the holidays.
“With Thanksgiving so late this year, we’re having our first weekend almost a week into December,” Vetter said. “So we may just end up deciding to open up one more weekend at the beginning of January. We’ll see.”
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