August 1, 2000

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


Last week was Ely’s 20th Blueberry Arts Festival. I have been lucky to have seen six of these people packed festivals. It should have been 7, but last year’s broken leg made the trek impossible. Having been to so many Blueberry Fests I must admit that I never tire of it. The three days swim by so fast, I can hardly believe it when I see the tents gone on Monday. All that remains is the trampled grass and that soon regrows.

To some the fair seems always the same old stuff. For me, I find something new every time I walk the two blocks to Whiteside Park. What I saw this year was the incredible amount of work that goes on. It is one thing to have a great idea and another to make that idea a reality. For that you need hands. You need hard working hands. You need clever hands. Without hands there would not be a Blueberry Arts Festival.

So for the 20th Blueberry Arts Festival I enjoyed watching hands. In fact, I even brought my camera and took a few photographs of hands. I consider myself a good photographer and so it was fun taking a few photos of some of the most hard working and creative hands in Ely.

One pair of hands belongs to someone who probably uses his mouth as effectively as his hands. I have never known this person to not be able to share a great story about some unique character who lived in Ely. When his mouth is not working he works his hands on a keyboard to create word after word until he has written another award winning book. In between the books comes an endless flow of columns and zingers. Sooner or later we will have to build a museum to preserve the word and the drawings that these happy fingers keep creating. From his booth I saw nothing but smiles leave. We are lucky to have such creative hands as these.

I move on down the crowded path and what do I see, but another pair of creative hands that call Ely their home. These hands are so strong they laugh at solid wood. They cause solid rock to crumble into unique designs that are prized by people all over the world. These hands use tools that would make most run away with fear. I know I once tried to make a chain saw sculpture and only ended up with a pair of numb hands and a buzzing in my ears. To watch his hands zig and zag about a tree stump with a chain saw roaring away is a marvel. He handles it like a surgeon and yet after all these years (knock on wood) he still has all ten fingers. Lucky are those that have taken home some of these hands’ carved creations.

You would think that two dynamic sets of hands would be enough for this town, yet in another part of the fair I found the hands of a maiden who is just as deft in making wood sing to the eyes. She actually hand craves wood block prints, which requires a mind that can think in many layers and many colors. Each print is the result of craving a wood plate for each color. I was amazed at all the colors these hands used. Their master must demand perfect discipline to have all these craved surfaces to combine to create the most interesting wilderness prints that I have seen.

After thinking that I had found the best hands in the festival, I find another pair. Amazingly, they belonged to one person as well. These hands have spent years in the wilderness capturing images on emulsion. Sure he may need a good eye to find something amazing to photograph, but without his hands to aim, focus, and snap the view he would be a nobody. How often have we seen photographs of famous buildings, people or landscapes made by amateurs that look as interesting as the inside of a washing machine, yet the same subject photographed by a master can evoke emotions and thoughts just as great music can. It is all due to the magic and power of a pair of creative hands.

At first glance of the photos I took of these hands it is hard to see anything of genius. They all look rather ordinary. Like books, you can’t judge them by their looks; you have to look at what they have done. In Whiteside Park I saw many such hands that I had not the time, nor the skill to capture on film. If you missed seeing them, I suggest you come back for the Harvest Moon Festival in September. There is another chance to see what a simple pair of hands can do.


I would like to have the photos with this caption: "Whose hands do you think these are? For the answer read the note at the bottom of Dane Sorensen’s column."

I will email photos separately.



Whose hands are whose? The hands framing his next shot are Jim Brandenburg’s hands. The photo with the pen in hand is that of Jackpine Bob Cary. The hand with the Swiss knife is Lucky Mike Sinesio and the final photo is that of woodcut artist Beckie Nosbisch.


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