A creative bunch: locals craft unique items for the Farmers Market

Carla Clark | For The Republic The Found Art Faces and Figures by Larry and Marilyn Brackney booth at the Columbus Farmers Market, Columbus, Ind., Saturday, May 11, 2024.

The downtown Farmers Market is, of course, a place to stock up on the area’s bounty of vegetables, herbs and flowers, but purveyors or many kinds of crafts put their prowess on display on spring and summer Saturday mornings as well.

The Prime Time demographic is well represented in this regard. And it turns out, they’re a pretty creative bunch.

Larry Brackney’s faces are unmistakable. He and his wife, Marilyn Brackney, specialize in what they call “found art creation.” While Marilyn focuses on figurines, such as rocking horses, Larry uses salvaged items to create highly expressive countenances.

The Park County natives both had careers in public-school education: Marilyn teaching art and Larry teaching science. They came to Columbus in 1968.

Marilyn got the junk-collecting bug first.

“If it wasn’t for her getting me to see the possibilities in stuff rather than just looking at an object for what it is, I probably wouldn’t have had my artistic side awakened.”

The basic faces in his pieces consist of such items as cake pans, lids and steam iron plates. Facial features are made from truck emergency reflectors, steam iron handles, shower curtain rings, drawer knobs and other such eclectically chosen artifacts.

He gives them names such as Carl, Karen, Kaiser, Theodorus and Lisa.

“A lot of people buy them just because of the name,” he says. “A lady from Texas went through my inventory and ordered a bunch for Christmas gifts. She picked them out for people with those names.”

The Brackneys’ foraging excursions take them to a lot of flea markets and salvage yards. Larry says Berea, Kentucky is a particularly good place to scout for materials.

“In Florida, I found seven dairy skimmers from the 1830s,” he notes. “They make really cute owls. It’s guaranteed sales.”

Now, people “actually bring things to us. One person leaves us bags of doorknobs. A guy from Illinois asked, ‘Do you mind if I bring you some things?’ Now he brings a box of stuff a couple of times a year.”

One of the busiest booths at the market is that of Out of the Blue Blessings Greeting Cards. The proprietor, May Beth Fisher, has an instantly recognizable style, but she says it is her only creative outlet.

She aver that she did a lot of sewing when she was in 4-H, and her mother had been a baker.

She grew up in Brown County, where she still lives. She worked for the Town of Nashville while raising her kids.

“I started scrapbooking when my kids were in high school sports,” she says. “People started asking me to make cards. My kids encouraged me. I’ve been here at the market for twelve years. I started as a fill-in vendor.”

Her process starts with 8 1/2” x 11” card stock. She draws patterns, which she finds online, and then runs the cards through a “big shot.” It’s a hand-cranked embossing machine that takes its cue for what to emboss from the ink in the drawings.

“I learn things from watching other card makers’ videos on YouTube.”

There’s usually a funny or thoughtful message on the back of each one, depending on the occasion the card commemorates. She comes up with those as she works.

The Out of the Blue Blessings name arose during a brainstorming session among her husband, kids and their spouses at the family supper table.

Fisher estimates that about ninety percent of her business is local. She gets a lot of repeat customers. She finds the acquaintances and friendships she’s formed as the most rewarding aspect of what she does.

“This is the only place I have a booth, but I do get off-season sales.”

Sometimes one has to be in a certain phase of life to have one’s creative vein tapped. Maybe it comes from observing the world for a few decades and realizing that its small and often overlooked details need someone’s lively imagination to give them a new life.

That, in turn, can lead to a new life for the one doing the imagining.