There's plenty to do in the Hutchinson area this weekend, including a steampunk festival in Inman and the opening of a ceramic show at the Hutchinson Art Center.



Barbara Jo Converse Stevens will be exhibiting her exquisite ceramic work at the Hutchinson Art Center, 405 N Washington St., through May 28.

Barbara Jo Converse Stevens was raised in central Kansas where she graduated in 1971 with a bachelors degree in art from Fort Hays State University. Ceramic sculpture was her main area of concentration in college. Stevens has taught and created art ever since. Her artwork, both ceramic and paintings, have a natural spirituality, incorporating organic shapes and images, with something more mysterious. Often Stevens includes a physical piece of nature, like a twig or wood piece, into the ceramic work itself.

Raised on a farm south of Pawnee Rock, near the Arkansas River, Stevens experienced nature from an early age.

"I loved the animals, the outdoors, the river, all of nature, the sounds, scents, colors, and most of all, the textures. As I got into clay and realized that the clay picked up the most minute textures, I put them into even my earliest pieces," Stevens said.

Stevens creates primitive vessels, handcrafted ceramic sculptures that come from her love of the outdoors and growing up on the farm. The found wood items the vessels rest on came from walks in her father's 'Magical Forest' when she a child.

She and her husband share an interest in Native American history and have visited many sites and ruins.

"I am fascinated by the ancient women who lived 1,000 years ago and made clay pots. When I think of them as real people, living off the land, being part of families and communities, I realize that they were just like me. I feel so close to them and feel we share a heritage like they are part of my distant family," Stevens said.

She feels all of these concepts are spiritual, forming stories and images. Stevens hopes to communicate a deep feeling that touches the hearts of those who view her work.

Stevens hopes you, the viewer, takes the spirit of her creations home with you after seeing her ceramic art.

"I hope they see the little country girl running through her 'Magical Forest' looking for treasures on the forest floor. I hope they feel the Ancient Women of 1000 years ago who live in each of us and recognize the same hopes, desires and joys. I hope the viewer sees a little of the how God's spirit has woven the path of all those people in my life who have led me to be the person I am today, the artist I am today," Stevens said.



It is a weekend of Steampunk at La Torre Events Venue in Inman.

When I say the word Steampunk, I am referring to a genre and movement that celebrates historical fashions, objects and industrial revolution inventions with a modern and integrative twist.

"I have been interested in combining historical styles with contemporary ideals for quite some time before I knew what Steampunk was," said Kat Heller, the facilitator of this event.

Her love of Steampunk as a subculture took hold while she was an exchange student in England.

"Something about being in a country so full of history and little bits and bobs that were straight from the 1800s, really ignited my passion for Steampunk and I never looked back," Heller said.

Steampunk as a genre encompasses aspects like art, literature, poetry, fashion, costume, interior design, music, and more with a particular aesthetic.

"The focus is on combining historical style and contemporary ideas in such a way that looks or sounds mechanical. For example, a Steampunk design would have a computer that looks like an old typewriter. Steampunk fashion is based on historical designs -- think top hats waistcoats and lace -- but in a style that is contemporary," Heller said.

I remember seeing the show she curated a few years ago in Buhler at the Mustard Seed. It was a weekend of art, workshops and music, all with a Steampunk theme. There was a diverse grouping of interpretations of Steampunk. Currently, she is turning this event into a two-day annual event at La Torre. This two-day Steampunk event has a festival feel to it. The gorgeous location and well-appointed grounds of La Torre, mixed with musicians and performers, along with workshops and costume contests. This years theme is carnival sideshow and is evident in the list of artists who will be providing entertainment.

Among the hands-on creative elements is the McPherson County Makerspace, who are coming to offer a Saturday workshop with adults to make and take a Steampunk-themed box. Artfully Creatives will be to assist people in painting their own Steampunk-themed canvas. On Saturday, there will be a mini top hat workshop for the kids. And on it goes.

Performers are coming from around the region and as far as Kansas City, such as the musical act, External Combustion Orchestra. Flow Foundry ICT will be performing aerial work and artful movement. Known as The Dangling Dames, these ladies do aerialist performances on silk ribbons and hoops up in the air. All this, along with performers from the New Pink Circus, magicians, bellydancers, a bearded lady, a tattooed lady (Saturday only), a stick-horse corral (Sunday only), and of course pirates.

When talking with Heller, her enthusiasm is contagious, and I am now more interested in Steampunk than ever before.

Treat yourself to this unique event at a beautiful location. For more information, schedules, tickets and pricing, please visit the La Torre Events Venue page on Facebook.

Bits & Bobs: Sideshow

La Torre Events Venue, 158 Chisholm Rd, Inman
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 18, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 19