Five years ago, Kathi Easterly felt an adrenaline rush she has never forgotten.
She entered her first ceramic project in the North Idaho Fair and, much to her surprise, won a blue ribbon.
Plus, there was a note attached saying that someone was interested in buying it.
“It is such an adrenaline rush,” Easterly says. “It drives me crazy waiting to see if and what I have won. I cannot describe the feeling.”
And right after fair ends, Easterly begins a new search for her next fair ceramics project.
This year she is entering a hand manipulated platter consisting of an intricate floral design. Her dream is to win a grand champion award — adding to her collection of five first place ribbons.
This award goes to the person who demonstrates the best technique and skill as determined by the judges.
Easterly took her first ceramics class in 1976 and was drawn to the casual atmosphere of Sherry Hayman’s ceramics studio in Coeur d’Alene.
“If you need help, it’s there,” Easterly says. “Ceramics is very exciting because you have no idea how it will turn out until you fire the last time.”
A medically retired mail handler, Easterly’s first ceramic project was a bald eagle. “It is a living symbol of the U.S.A.’s freedoms and represents a free spirit to me,” Easterly says.
Easterly proudly displays, in her home, several of the 75 eagles she estimates she has finished over the years. Many of the eagles have landed in homes of family and close friends.
The ceramic process Easterly uses involves casting where liquid clay is poured into molds to form shapes such as eagles.
Easterly takes this process a step further.
Two to three hours after the clay is poured, and when it has reached a leather-hard state, Easterly uses a process called clay lifting. This entails “lifting” every feather on the body of the eagle.
It is quite time and labor intensive, but the effect is worth the effort.
“The mottled brown and white feathers, once they are lifted, make the eagle look very life-like,” Easterly says.
For others interested in entering items for competition at the North Idaho Fair, scheduled for Aug. 25 through Aug. 29, the deadline is quickly approaching.
All residents of Kootenai, Shoshone, Benewah, Bonner and Boundary Counties are eligible to enter the North Idaho Fair. There are no entry fees unless you are entering livestock.
All nonperishable exhibits must be brought to the Kootenai County Fairgrounds Aug. 16 or 17 from 3 to 8 p.m. Items should be taken to the building listed in the fair exhibitor’s handbook.
The exhibitor’s handbook is available on the fair’s Web site, www.northidahofair.com. Once there, click on “About the Fair and Rodeo” and then click on “Exhibitor’s Handbook.”
A printed version is available at the fair office and various other retail locations throughout the county.
“All the information folks need to get their projects ready for entry is in the exhibitor’s handbook,” fair coordinator Margi Domme says.
In the past years, fair organizers have recorded nearly 6,000 exhibits, awards and premiums by hand. Recently installed new computer software will eliminate hours of manual recordkeeping, and previous exhibitors will find that entries are classified and numbered differently than years past.
Now each department has divisions, broken down by age groups, and each exhibit has its own distinct class number. This is different than the old system which consisted of departments, divisions, classes, lots and sublots.
Besides eagles, over the years Easterly has completed projects ranging from decorative statues, yard ornaments, nursery items, dwarfs, vases, and bowl and pitcher sets. But she enters only the very best at the fair.
Easterly is quick to point out that it is really not about winning a ribbon.
“The fair experience makes you feel really good about yourself,” Easterly says. “And that is what county fairs are all about.”