As artists (and art fans) we are deeply indebted to the little pieces of the natural world. They provide us with not only the inspiration for our work but usually the very materials with which we produce our creations.
Bits of glass, clay dust, the little chips of all sorts of things that become paint, flakes of teas and other plants that become dyes and thousands of other little shards of nature transform themselves, sometimes with a little assistance from us, into our artistic creations.
As a Northern Michigan artist and owner of a gallery of Northern Michigan art, I was thinking about one of those particular little bits that we are particularly fond of up here, the petoskey stone. The petoskey is our state stone and is only found here in the shoreline areas of the Northwest corner on Michigan's Lower Peninsula. As illustrated in the photos adorning this post*, the petoskey stone has found its way into a fair amount of our regional artistic product.
And what thanks do we give to this humble fossil for all it has done for us? What recognition? What accolades? What festivals? Roaming around the Internet today I found at least one answer – the Antrim County Petoskey Stone Festival. You may not have heard of this august (May, actually) event. I admit that I had not before today. But that is clearly our loss.
The annual festival takes place this year on Saturday, May 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Antrim County's Barnes Park in Eastport, Michigan, on the eastern shores of Grand Traverse Bay just north of Torch Lake. (You no longer have any excuse to miss it.)
The Petoskey Stone Festival features a stone skipping contest (of course), a myriad of booths provided by vendors of petoskey stones and related paraphernalia (also mandatory), expert presentations on the art of finding, polishing and otherwise transforming petoskey stones, children's games, magic tricks, face painting (indispensable), food, music and, to top it all off, a petoskey stone hunt on the Grand Traverse Bay Beach. (Dedicated Michigan festival followers may be chagrined to learn that I could find no suggestion of a Miss Petoskey Stone Pagent anywhere on the website.)
The Antrim County Petoskey Stone Festival looks like it will be a lot of fun. I have put it on my calendar and hope to be able to attend. After all, it is important to pause every once in a while and hoist an elephant ear to some of those tiny, natural bits and chunks that are so essential to our artistic activity and appreciation, particularly to that little fossil that is so dear to us all, our state stone, the petoskey.
By the way, for the few who do not know, petoskey stones are composed of fossilized skeletons of colony corals that formerly lived in the warm sea waters (a somewhat strange concept as I write this looking over a frozen Little Traverse Bay) that at one time covered all of what is now Michigan during ancient Devonian time, some 350 million years ago.
* The artworks pictured here are the creations of Northern Michigan Artists Market artists Steve Webster, Terry Thoma and Susan and Jeff Lange.