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Spring Old Court Days

Ohio-based Risner a popular artist

The former cartoonist found
his niche working with clay

(May 2015) – The time has come for the Jefferson County (Ind.) Courthouse Square to once again be transformed into a festive marketplace known as Old Court Days. Vendors from the region will travel to Madison, Ind., to make their crafts, antiques and specialty food items available to attendees from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday to Sunday, May 22-24.
The original designs of Jay Risner will be among the items that festival-goers will see. This is the first year that “Sculptures by Jay” will be included in the semi-annual event. Risner’s ornamental garden decorations have proven to be very popular at other art and craft festivals, such as the Mellwood Art Fair and the Gaslight Festival in Louisville, Ky.

Photo provided

Jay Risner creates whimsical
alligators out of clay.

Kim Steinke, who handles the retail portion of Risner’s designs with her husband Ned, says that people flock to purchase the sculptures. During an art show on last year’s circuit, Kim was told by a customer that she would be sure to “bring a bigger car” next time so that she would be able to carry more of the whimsical items home.
Risner is a full time, self-taught artist but that has not always been the case. The Ohio-based artist says that he had always been interested in cartooning and worked on that for years in his spare time. When that method of creativity showed little result, Risner decided to pick up some clay. “That started me on the path I am on today,” the artist says.
He adds that he held many jobs before becoming a full-time sculptor. He has been employed at numerous sign shops, small factories and was most recently a groundskeeper at Piatt Castles in West Liberty, Ohio. He resigned from that position in 1996 and has been creating ever since.

Jay Risner

According to Risner, his learning process was one of trial and error. “A lot of error!” he emphasizes. Lacking the funds for formal training, he tried and tried again until he got it right. “I always felt I could make something happen if I just kept at it.”
A fun-loving individual, Risner says that he draws inspiration from the world around him. He tries not to take himself too seriously and strives to have fun with his work. He says that he feels very lucky to be a practicing artist. The fact that he can now make a living at it is an added bonus for which he feels thankful.
The Spring Old Court Days Festival is sponsored by The Pilot Club of Madison. According to President-Elect Elsie Perry-Payne, the event is its primary source of fundraising and occurs every year in the spring and the fall. Money raised from the sale of booth space goes back into the community in many forms. Four scholarships are available to area schools. Pathways Youth Shelter also benefits from the event.
“The Pilot Club was one of the founding organizations that helped to open the youth shelter,” says Executive Director Troy Hedges. He adds that contributions help the shelter celebrate Christmas with the residents and also funds summer activities.
The Pilot Club has also partnered with the Madison Bicycle Club to promote safety at a “bicycle rodeo.” Club members volunteered throughout the day and distributed helmets to all participants. The Pilot Club is a co-ed organization.

• Anyone interested in joining may get more information at www.PilotClubofMadison.com.

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