Pensacola, Florida
Saturday December 16th 2017

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Foo Foo Fest ’15: Vintage Craft Brought Back to Life

By Shelby Smithey

Every fall, the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival (GGAF) sets up in Seville Square, and thousands come out to experience paintings, pottery, sculptures, jewelry and graphic design from prominent artists around the country. An integral part of the festival is also the Heritage Arts area, which showcases craftspeople demonstrating their traditional skills including blacksmithing, engraving, spinning, weaving and now tatting, a form of lacemaking dating back to the early 19th century.

“It’s related to macramé, in that the maker uses knots around a core thread to create rings, chains, and picots (the basic building blocks of tatting), which create the overall design, depending on the number of knots and size of thread used,” said Georgia Beliech, one of the featured artists of the Heritage Arts portion of the festival. “Many people remember their grandmothers tatting.”

Beliech said that there are two main ways to create tatted lace – by shuttle and by needle. In shuttle tatting, the maker wraps the thread around one hand and passes the shuttle over and around the loops created to make the knots. In needle tatting, the knots are formed on a long, thin, threaded needle, and when the needle is pulled through, the knots are deposited onto the core thread.

Beliech is primarily a needle tatter, and she said that she likes to incorporate beads, fabric, and other materials into her pieces. This is her first year being a part of GGAF.

“Many people in America consider tatting a dying art form, but it’s starting to have a renaissance, thanks to the internet and tatters all over the world, especially in Japan, Italy and Poland,” she said. “I bought my first set of tatting needles from an eBay auction, and through the years I’ve built my skills by learning from the generous lessons of global teachers. My goal with my tatting is to not only showcase my skills and create beautiful work, but to teach others and help in the tatting resurgence.”

Beliech grew up in Crestview and began honing her skills at a young age.

“My artistic beginnings in one sentence: I was a very antsy child with a very elderly great-grandmother, who told me when I was seven that if I didn’t have my ‘hope chest’ finished by the time I was fifteen that I would be a spinster,” Beliech said. “I don’t know if she was serious or just wanted me to sit still for more than five minutes, but that year she taught me how to embroider so that I could make items for my trousseau. After embroidery came sewing, quilting, crocheting, beadwork and many other crafts, so that by the time I was a senior in high school, I had a cedar chest full of pillowcases, tea towels, doilies, quilts and afghans.”

Beliech participated in her first craft show when she was 18 and has been in about a dozen throughout the years. In 2005, she had the opportunity to go back to school and attend Pensacola State College, earning degrees in Graphic Design and Art.

“I worked as a corporate graphic designer for years and won awards for my work, but my passion was always working with my hands, creating beautiful objects from raw materials,” she said.

In 2013, Beliech said that she went through a corporate downsizing and ended up re-evaluating what she wanted to do with her life.

“I left Pensacola for over a year pursuing other jobs, but then I decided to see if I could live off of what I could earn from my art and my needlework,” she said. “I returned to Pensacola to sell off my remaining belongings and learned about the studio rental program at First City Art Center. I applied and was accepted, so I spend most of my time in my studio at the Art Center, creating new pieces and meeting new people. It hasn’t always been easy financially, but I’m so much happier and more fulfilled with the life I lead now.”

After attending last year’s GGAF, Beliech said that she noticed the tatting artist was absent from Heritage Row, so she decided to enter the festival.

“I took a ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’ attitude, and I was beyond thrilled when I was accepted,” she said. “Of course, after receiving my acceptance letter I realized that my biggest challenge would be to have enough pieces for a three-day show with tens of thousands of visitors.”

“I see this festival as the next step on my new career path,” Beliech said. “My handwork has brought me peace and fulfillment, and I want to help foster that feeling in others.”

Great Gulfcoast  Arts Festival
WHEN: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6 and Saturday, Nov. 7; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8
WHERE: Seville Square, downtown Pensacola
COST: Free
DETAILS: ggaf.org