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Artists go the distance for festival

If you go
WHAT: Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival Thanksgiving Holiday Show
WHEN: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, and Saturday, Nov. 24; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 25
WHERE: Lujan Exhibit Complex, Expo New Mexico. Parking is east from the San Pedro entrances south of Lomas NE
HOW MUCH: Day pass, $6; festival pass good for all three days, $8; children younger than 12 free. Visit for more information

Two couples from Illinois who create fused glass were busy packing and cushioning their artwork recently so it travels safely across the country for the Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival.

The glass, fired and fused with layers of metal and color, ranges in size from shimmering sheets of translucent wall hangings to tiny drops of reflective beads on earrings.

Artist Laura Thompson and her husband, Michael, of Savanah’s Designs Glass Studio in the greater Chicago area, are bringing sculptural pieces, wall hangings and vessels. Marc and Wendy Zoschke of Vetro Caldo Designs of Springfield, Ill., will bring their jewelry featuring fused glass, stones and silver.

The Thompsons, some of the 40 new artists featured at the festival this year, are eager to explore the Southwest and have added several nearby shows to their full-time traveling schedule of art shows.

“This year we’ve done 22 shows, which is conservative compared to other artists. It can be fun or tiring, but it’s certainly allowed us to see parts of the country we wouldn’t otherwise,” Laura Thompson says.

Thompson, who was a graphic designer 15 years ago before she started her glass studio, also has a background in dance and fashion. Those influences are apparent in the design of her pieces that flow with vibrant overlapping patterns.

For example, Thompson’s ribbon series undulates in vivid slices of turquoise and orange and shades of red and blue, each about 4 feet long and about 8 inches wide. Prices for art in the show range from $100 to $1,500.

“All the work we do is in the kiln,” she explains. “We have no predetermined design. We just start putting the shapes together and this is our end result. Depending on the angle you can see two or three different colors.”

Laura and Michael Thompson of Illinois will bring their fused-glass creations to the Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival.

Thompson says she doesn’t title the abstract pieces: “We just refer to the shape and color. We don’t want people having preconceived ideas about what they are seeing. As you walk around and reflect on it, it changes.”

About 200 artists, almost half from New Mexico and the others from around the country, will display their artwork at the juried three-day festival that also features holiday entertainment, says festival director Ruth Gore.

Jingle Bell Square in the Lujan Exhibit Complex will have continuous entertainment on stage as well as the Kids’ Creation Station, where kids can have hands-on fun. Santa Claus visits each day from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and a resident elf will tell stories, Gore says.

The media range from glass and jewelry to paintings, carvings, photography, wood, leather and pottery, she says.

Like Thompson, Marc Zoschke says he’s fascinated by the color and reflection of fused glass, which can take many months and many firings to achieve.

“I started playing with it and I loved it – all the different layers and the fire within the glass itself,” says Zoschke, who owned a gallery for more than 20 years and also was an art photographer.

He and his wife, Wendy, took classes in fused glass and metalsmithing and their next artistic venture came together.

“We did a few jewelry pieces and it snowballed from there,” he says.

Zoschke says as an Army brat who grew up partly in Japan he brings the simplistic sensibility of that country into his designs that feature the sparkling multicolor glass framed with slender angles of silver.

The jewelry ranges from $30 to $1,000, he says.

He says the couple is pleased to be back in Albuquerque for the festival: “The promoters care about the customers and they care about the artists. They are hoping and wanting us all to do well.”

Sculptural pieces from Laura and Michael Thompson’s Savanah’s Designs Glass Studio.