When the artist takes a swing at creativity, the simple aim is to connect to joy and laughter.

More often than not, Kent Epler’s creations constitute a home run of whimsy — partly because many of his crazy characters are constructed from discarded ash pieces for Louisville Slugger souvenir baseball bats.

Let’s just say his finished products are a hit.

“I think it’s an art form that’s pretty unique. And guys especially love that (baseball link),” said Epler, speaking by phone from his New Albany home, where he operates his artistic venture fittingly known as The Laughing Boy Studio, since he does indeed chuckle his way through a conversation.

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Others tend to agree with his “unique” label when they meet his fiber-created cast with names such as Faye, the quirky and busty Beauty Shop Queen. He will be the featured artist at the free 13th Annual Déjà Vu Fine Art and Craft Show Nov. 11 at The Commons, 300 Washington St. in downtown Columbus.

Last year, between 1,000 and 1,500 people attended the event highlighting repurposed art, according to founder and organizer Marilyn Brackney. This year, among 70 vendors, transformative works include:

  • Jewelry partly from vintage buttons and crystals
  • Indiana-themed wooden puzzles carved from scrap furniture
  • Scrap glass reshaped into beautiful scenes on old trays and then grouted
  • Wearable art from found and discarded items such as pillow shams, skirts and bedspreads

In other words, nearly anything you toss, these artists could rebirth like a boss. Because they know your trash could become their smash.

Granted, Brackney, long known for her own artistic works made from others’ discarded materials, knows that the show offers beautiful items and gifts for visitors and shoppers. But it also remains an eye-opening education of recycling and reusing in a largely throwaway world.

“People still are amazed at the overall quality (of artists’ work),” Brackney said. “And when they find out artists are using some form of repurposed materials, then they are really amazed.”

In an online video, artist Epler’s hands bear the cuts and bruises and band-aids of a man who suffers through his craft of building. But, in one segment, as he tries to dress one of his models of the Beauty Shop Queen, he becomes The Laughing Boy when he cannot get the character’s pants over her bulging rump that he has fashioned.

“C’mon, girl,” he says, coaxing the outfit over the sewn body.

Though much of his efforts — including large Tin Man characters made from old oil cans — tickle people’s funny bone, a woman at a Florida show broke down in tears three years ago as she struggled to thank Epler for the humor and delight in his art.

“I was having a very bad day today,” the woman told him. “But you helped me escape all my problems.”

“That was so beautiful,” Epler said.

Anne Henderson of Columbus will feature her trademark clutches, coin purses, headbands and gloves made from gently used kilts and tartans to highlight her native Scotland and plaid world. Though she has sold her creations in the past at the Columbus Scottish Festival and other Scottish festivals in Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois, this marks her first appearance at Déjà Vu.

Her line, now called Seasons 21, began simply as a way of making gifts for friends and family.

“I’m not sure how it will be received (at the show) because it’s such a specific niche of people,” she said.

But she did acknowledge that the colorful plaids, among her other colors of items, should attract attention.

“Oh, yes,” Henderson said. “They’re very bright.”

If you go

What: The free 13th Annual Deja Vu Fine Art and Craft Show featuring 70 artists displaying and selling their repurposed works from items that otherwise would be discarded.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 11.

Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St. in downtown Columbus.

Admission: Free.

A new angle: The show this year features a timely twist. Artists have been challenged to create a work inspired by the Exhibit Columbus architectural exhibition running through Nov. 26. The work must include art elements such as line, color, shape, form, space, etc. The best work, chosen by Richard McCoy of Exhibit Columbus, will win $100. The juried show also includes $1,000 in other prize money.

Information: Facebook page at Deja Vu Fine Art and Craft Show.

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.