Whether they are smooth or rusted, gray or green, Wauwatosa artist Suzanne Zakry will find a use for them.
They are bottle caps, which she uses to make furniture and home décor. This year, Zakry is taking her art work to a new level as she turns from spectator to participant during the Wauwatosa Historical Society's Firefly Art Fair from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 4 and 5 in the Victorian gardens at the Kneeland-Walker House, 7406 Hillcrest Drive.
"I generally sell my work through galleries and specialty shops, until now, when I will participate in an art fair," Zakry said. "This is my maiden voyage and I am looking forward to it."
On display will be an assortment of her pieces made from bottle caps including lamps, mirrors, cupcake stands, tables and framed pieces. Zakry said she has recently begun to repurpose yard sticks and meter sticks and she is excited to see how well they are received during the art fair.
Finding one that fits just right
Discovering the tools of her trade did not happen overnight.
Zakry has always had a creative mind and a knack for making things with her hands. If she sees something in a store she has the ability to recreate an identical piece at home.
Over the years, she has gone through numerous artistic phases. Quilting and knitting became a quick passion. Much of her bottle cap work is influenced by quilts, she said. Then, she discovered floor cloths, which she made and sold for a few years.
"I also loved to repurpose furniture with decorative painting," Zakry said. "It was always gratifying to take something that had seen better days and to make it look beautiful."
Six years ago, while driving to her second home in Door County, Zakry discovered a desire to make rural mailboxes more aesthetically pleasing.
After experimenting with different materials that could handle harsh Wisconsin weather, she discovered what she calls "the wonderful world of bottle caps."
She soon realized the good humor that exists among people in the beer and soda industry when it comes to branding and marketing.
"I discovered small breweries that create products that are crowned with distinctive caps, the likes of which I had never seen before," Zakry said. "The caps were full of color, they were irreverent, they were graphically unique, and they were all the brainchildren of very talented and driven entrepreneurs."
A cap that fits
Zakry was hooked, both by the names of products such as "Moxie" and by the colors of the caps. Though she never did beautify a mailbox, she found a new artistic passion in bottle caps and their eclectic colors and designs.
"I think color is one of the most important elements in our lives," Zakry said.
As a self-proclaimed bottle cap hoarder - 40,000 caps to choose from - it seems Zakry has only just begun the creative process with the unique media.
Zakry's pieces can be seen at the Blue Dolphin House in Ephraim, Wis. She also has work at a shop called Chiaroscuro at Water Tower Place in Chicago, and at The Secret Garden in Empire, Mich.
Zakry's bottle cap creations have spread across the country as her pieces were commissioned for the brewery at Flying Dog Brewery in Maryland and their tap room in Denver, as well as Upland Brewery in Indiana and Real Soda in Real Bottles in California.
Firefly Art Fair offers artists galore
Zakry will be one of 95 Midwestern artists at the Firefly Art Fair. The event also features live music, beverages and homemade sandwiches and desserts.
"Inside the restored Victorian-era mansion, more than 200 hats from more than 100 years will be displayed," said Chris Vogel with the Wauwatosa Historical Society.
Many of the hats are on loan to the historical society, while others are from the society's permanent collection and date from the early 1900s. The Firefly Art Fair supports the historical society's educational and preservation missions. Admission is $4 and is free for children 12 and younger.
For information on the event, visit wauwatosahistoricalsociety.org.
JUST THE FACTS
NAME: Suzanne Zakry
NOTED FOR: Featured artist using bottle caps at Firefly Art Fair 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 4 and 5 at the Kneeland-Walker House
PEARLS OF WISDOM: "Make time for what you love to do. Everyone has business to take care of like raising children and working to support a family. But, at the end of the day, be sure you take time for what it is that excites you and provides you with a creative outlet. That can be gardening, cooking, woodworking, or creating something that is uniquely yours."
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