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Art imitates style

Hundreds of artists participate in Palo Alto Festival of the Arts

A group of large, stainless steel, kinetic animal sculptures from first-time exhibitor Fredrick Prescott will populate Sculpture Plaza at the 33rd annual Palo Alto Festival of the Arts this weekend.

Sponsored by the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, the festival will showcase original works from 300 artists across the country, ranging from the abstract to hyper-realistic. Displays include paintings, elegant sculptures, decorative ceramic pieces, mixed-media wall hangings and a stunning array of hand-crafted jewelry.

Returning for a 12th year, the Italian Street Painting Expo will feature upwards of 60 artists creating chalk masterpieces on asphalt canvases. Attendees may also treat themselves to live music, a variety of gourmet food and fine wines and microbrews.

The following offers a snapshot of some of this year's festival participants.

Derek Voien

Derek Voien held a bachelor's degree in science and an acceptance letter to medical school before he realized he had more chemistry with art.

He deferred medical school for a year because he was in the midst of research. He used that time to take a ceramics class at a local community college. One class turned into two, which turned into three.

"While an undergrad, my electives tended toward art more than science," he said. "In retrospect, I could see that was an interest I always held."

With the support of his wife, Voien decided to devote himself to art. He planted a kiln in his backyard and turned his garage into a studio, adding a potter's wheel and related equipment.

After a couple of years of settling into his personal ceramics style, he began to enter art shows. Thirty years later, he still loves what he does for a living. Native American and East Asian influences feature prominently in his platters, vases, teapots, bowls, cups and saucers.

"One half of the booth has a southwestern feel with warm, bright colors," he said. "The other half is more organic and nature-based. People often ask if there are two artists."

Voien averages 12 shows a year. He prices his pieces from $25 to $2,000 to make his work available to as many people as possible.

Christine Charter Moorhead

Christine Charter Moorhead grew up on a family farm in Arbuckle, California, where boys were expected to become farmers.

"Because I was a girl, different opportunities were presented to me," she said. "I wasn't one of those people that dreamt I wanted to be an artist my whole life. Doors just kept opening."

She had a knack for arts and crafts, which she parlayed into an art minor in community college. But it wasn't until later she found her calling.

"I took a glass class on a whim because I had no previous experience," she said. "I've done every kind of art form that's out there, but glass is the magic bullet."

Moorhead has worked with glass for nearly 40 years, drawing inspiration from nature. She looks at trees, rocks and sunsets and sees future projects, whether they be doors, windows, screens, mirrors, lamps or bed headboards. She works 60 to 80 hours a week between her home and studio, completing hundreds of pieces each year.

"People want original art," she said. "My pieces may be similar, but they're not identical."

Moorhead averages 18 art shows a year. Her pieces normally go for $500 to $5,000, depending on size and quality of materials.

Hayley Nolte and Scot Ray

When Hayley Nolte and husband Scot Ray moved to Philipsburg, Montana, they noticed large amounts of scrap metal had settled in the area as well. They didn't toss it -- they looked for more.

"I grew up in South Africa where artisans transform metal scraps into amazing artwork," Nolte said. Inspired, she explored many kinds of visual art, especially papier-mâché.

"But I wanted to do something more durable and enduring," she said.

Nolte picked up metalworking through instruction from her sister and, after an enormous donation of cookie tins from a lifelong collector, began a new chapter in her artistic journey.

Nolte and Ray work mainly with recycled cookie tins and soda cans, creating an array of functional pieces including mirrors, racks and jewelry stands. Nolte is the primary metalworker, while Ray handles the woodworking, creating the frame for each piece.

"It's not a high-tech process but a labor-intensive process," Nolte said. "Like applique or quilting, but with metal."

Avid gardeners and immersed in nature in their everyday lives, the couple focuses on animal and plant motifs.

"We're just very attracted to the color and texture (of) the natural world," she said.

Anonymous donations of scrap metal consistently stock her supply.

"There are a lot of metal containers out there," she said. "It's nice to give them another life."

Erickson Woodworking

Erickson Woodworking pairs raw California hardwoods with meticulous design to create refined, handcrafted chairs now included in the Smithsonian Institution. The business is best known for its "floating back" ergonomic rocking chair, designed by founder Robert Erickson, which has evolved over decades.

Originally a student of dentistry, Erickson crossed paths with a furniture maker one summer in college and quickly developed interest in the trade.

"It struck me as one step closer to the bone," Erickson said.

More than 40 years later, his furniture appears in homes and museums nationwide. His iconic fitted chairs are crafted based on a client's measurements -- or two clients' measurements.

"A couple can take measurements and have a 'compromise' chair," he said.

Erickson Woodworking will launch a new brand in September to accompany the addition of Tor Erickson, Erickson's son, as a new partner earlier this year.

"His skill set is complementary to what I do," Erickson said.

Specialization in custom tables has been the product of Tor's involvement, Erickson added.

Erickson Woodworking will offer chair fittings at its booth, as well as a selection of chairs to try. The wood and leather office chair remains a favorite: sophisticated European design that provides comfort competitive with the famed Aeron Chair.

What: Palo Alto Festival of the Arts

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 23 and 24

Where: University Avenue, Palo Alto, between High and Webster streets; Sculpture Plaza is at corner of University Avenue and Cowper Street

Parking: Free parking is within several blocks of University Avenue, but attendees are encouraged to use public transportation. The city will run its free Crosstown Shuttle from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. both days.

Info: Call 650-324-3121; Palo Alto Chamber

Editorial Interns Benjamin Custer and Christina Dong can be emailed at bcuster@paweekly and

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Like this comment
Posted by Kim Leigh
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 23, 2014 at 10:44 pm

At this year's festival, Mr. Fredrick Prescott has already won the award for most unprofessional display, and I'm not talking about his sculptures. I witnessed him raise his voice at a child, and participate in a shouting contest with a parent. Instead of diffusing the situation, he escalated it by calling them a bad parent, a "half-brain", and uneducated. In addition, the security stood by and allowed this act to go on in front of many other children. I have never seen an artist demonstrate such a poor attitude toward his connoisseurs.

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Short story writers wanted!

The 33rd Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 29. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

Contest Details