Henry County Extension Holiday Bazaar

Conroy’s unique scratchboarding designs are popular

She is among the 30 vendors
to take part in holiday bazaar

NEW CASTLE, Ky. (November 2013) – When her youngest daughter entered high school, Kathy Conroy decided it was time for her to go back to school as well. She took art classes to further her talent in a field she had been interested in her whole life but had never taken time to pursue while raising a family.
Conroy attended the Art Institute of Cincinnati. After graduating, she worked as a graphic artist for the Breeders Cup. But she couldn’t forget the two-week class she took on scratchboarding, realizing she had a passion for this unique medium.
“There is a resurgence in it now,” said Conroy, 58, of the very detailed medium.

Kathy Conroy

She will be one of more than 30 artists and vendors participating in the 21st annual Henry County Extension Holiday Bazaar, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9.
Held at the 4-H Fairgrounds building on Hwy. 421 in New Castle, Ky., the bazaar will feature hand-painted items, customized farm toys, turned wood items, jewelry, metal art, yarn and felted items, Christmas items, gourd art, leather items, and fried apple pies, jams and jellies for sale.
“The quality of the handcrafted items always amazes me,” said Maryellen Garrison, Henry County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences. “We have artists that are juried members of both state and local artists’ guilds, and people who are just getting into the art and craft business.”
Conroy’s artwork begins with a Masonite board, over which she layers a white china clay coating. Over this she places a layer of black India ink. She then draws an outline of the image she wishes to create.
“I use an Xacto knife and various different tools to scratch out the image. It is then completely black and white.” Her next task is to decide whether or not she wants to add color by painting with special inks, gouache or acrylics.
Oftentimes, she will re-scratch between layers of paint or ink to achieve the desired effect. The final step taken to protect the surface consists of applying two or three layers of clear acrylic spray. The finished result looks similar to a painting, which she frames but does not place under glass. If placed under glass, “you can’t see the details of my work,” she said.
The largest piece she has created is 18x24 inches. It took 90 to 120 hours to complete it, said Conroy. She also fashions smaller versions of her work, 3x3 inches or 6x6 inches, which are placed on easels for display.
“It is a very long process to create one of these,” she said. Each little scratch she makes is time-consuming, but invaluable to the overall effect.
 “Birds are my favorite subject matter,” she said. “I love birds, but I also like a lot of different kinds of wildlife. I’m a big birdwatcher.”
She uses 90 percent of her own photos to work from when creating her artwork. Conroy, who lives in Pleasureville, Ky., has a line of equine scratchboard art for which she took a lot of photos at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky.
A popular piece of artwork Conroy sells during the Christmas shopping season is commissioned pet portraits.
Originally born in Memphis, Tenn., she grew up in Colorado and Massachusetts. She moved to Kentucky 29 years ago when her husband was transferred for work. In May 2013, Conroy moved from Georgetown to Pleasureville.
Although she would like her scratchboard art to become a full-time job someday, she currently works full-time for Toyota. Conroy creates her medium from a home studio.
Conroy is a member of Kentucky Crafted, the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen, the International Society of Scratchboard Artists and the Henry County Arts & Craft Guild. “My goal is to become a Master scratchboard artist,” she said.
The Henry County Extension Holiday Bazaar will feature several small entrepreneurs who sell items that are not necessarily hand made but are very unique, Garrison said. “We have a wide variety of items that will suit the tastes and pocketbooks of everyone.”
Shoppers will find unique, handcrafted gifts and holiday goodies ranging in price from $1 to more than $100. A lunch menu of soup, chili, fried cornbread and pie will be available from the Tri-County Senior Citizens group.
Many shoppers who visit for the day are from surrounding counties. “Some of them are originally from here and enjoy the chance to come back and meet and greet friends and neighbors, but others just love to come to the country and enjoy the opportunity to purchase from our vendors,” said Garrison.

• For more information, contact the Henry County Extension Office at (502) 845-2811.

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