Driftless Maker’s Exchange To Feature Art Both Unique And Meaningful

By Emily Pyrek La Crosse Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "The Exchange", developed in early 2017, is the creation of a group of women hoping to celebrate local artists while supporting those in need.

La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Joy Davis Ripley makes a dress like no other.

The cuts are simple, the fabric familiar, but the prints are one of a kind, captured by a lens and brought to life as wearable art.

The method, known as print on demand, is one Davis Ripley of Winona has been perfecting since fall 2015, when she aspired to find other uses for her photographs "besides just hang(ing) them on the wall."

The results are garments both unique and thought provoking, with a dual purpose of fashion and philanthropy.

Original apparel by Davis Ripley will be among the many arts and crafts featured at the Driftless Maker's Exchange, being held from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday at Pearl Street Brewery.

The Exchange, developed in early 2017, is the creation of a group of women hoping to celebrate local artists while supporting those in need. Booth fees collected from the 20 participating artists will be donated to Pearl Street Brewery's nonprofit Sprout for Kids Foundation, which benefits area schools, families and organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, The Boys and Girls Club and Hunger Task Force. In addition, many vendors choose to donate a portion of their proceeds to local causes.

Among the featured crafts will be jewelry, pillows, carved spoons, handmade lotions, poured candles, accessories, 3D metal works and handcrafted tools. Admission to the event is free, with entertainment by musician Amanda Grace and food for purchase.

"We believe in giving back to the community in every way we can," Davis Ripley said. "The Pearl Street Brewery is the perfect location for such a show, where fine art, award-winning craft beer and talented musicians help create a family-friendly environment where everyone has a good time."

Davis Ripley has seen a profound response to her dresses, many of which she donates to fundraisers for the Women's Resource Center in Winona, an organization which will also receive a portion of her sales at the Exchange.

The nonprofit, which offers support to survivors of abuse, is close to her heart, a survivor of sexual assault herself.

While six months pregnant with her youngest child, Davis Ripley was violated by a practitioner at a prenatal appointment. Eventually facing her assaulter in court, her ordeal continued when the perpetrator's attorney proceeded to shame her, accusing her of "wanting it."

"What I realized, once I got over my shock, was that there's never a 'perfect' victim," said Davis Ripley, who understood her privilege as an educated, Caucasian and middle class woman. "At the same time that I began dipping my toes in activism, I also began picking up my camera and seeing the world around me in a new way. This opened up new possibilities that led directly to healing for me -- expressing my creativity, but also expressing my fear and rage, anxiety and PTSD through my photos and designs. I've been able to capture my experience, my internal landscape, what I was feeling."

Using all original photographs, Davis Ripley selects shots which lend themselves to the flow of fabric and the structure of the body. The collection shows her progress through the healing process, from the image of a chain link fence outside a weathered building on a dress in shades of black, white and blue to a print of scattered red lichens on a sleeveless white dress.

"(It) symbolizes this 'crust' that we all wear in our day-to-day lives," Davis Ripley said of the latter. "We usually present a calm exterior to the world, but beneath that crust can be roiling emotions that the outside world can only guess at."

While her pieces are conversation starters, they are also designed to be comfortable and durable, suitable for everyday wear.

"I think people understand the value of functional art," Davis Ripley said.

Kalla Kalloway of La Crosse, a first-time exhibitor at the Driftless Maker's Exchange, shares Davis Ripley's appreciation for art both practical and exquisite, having found her niche in jewelry crafted from found objects and recycled materials.

Fashioned from buttons, beads and bottle caps woven into crocheted wire or wrapped cords, no two bracelets or necklaces by Kalloway are alike. The animal lover draws inspiration from photos, wildlife and her surroundings, with recent pieces capturing the vivid colors of exotic birds.

"My imagination has gone wild with new ideas," Kalloway said of creating for the Driftless Maker's Exchange. Kalloway was a hobby jewelrist before co-founding the nonprofit Heart 2 Heart Pet Lifeline last fall, a collaboration with the Coulee Region Humane Society. Through a grant application process, the organization helps families pay for essential urgent care treatment for their pets, covering unexpected costs which might otherwise force an owner to surrender their cat or dog.

With her animal welfare mission in mind, Kalloway has taken her jewelry making to the next level in recent months, selling at local events to support Heart 2 Heart Pet Lifeline, to which she is donating 90 percent of her proceeds from the Driftless Makers Exchange.

"It's fun to express myself, and have a purpose to do so," said Kalloway.

The Driftless Maker's Exchange will also feature acrylic paintings from Shawna Johnson, scarves and puppy bandanas from Emily Hughes, and recycled t-shirt onesies from Chuck Berendes. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/driftlessmakerexchange.

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