4-H Fair: Ceramics a longtime leader

Ariana van den Akker/The Herald
Lynnette Whitsitt of Duff, 18, painted her ceramics project for the Dubois County 4-H Fair at her home Wednesday. Whitsitt is a 10-year member of 4-H and is entering projects in ceramics, drawing, painting and creative writing this year. With 140 projects expected to be entered, ceramics is the most popular 4-H project.


Herald Staff Writer

Today, 985 4-H’ers will turn in their completed projects, kicking off this year’s Dubois County 4-H fair. Of those projects, 140 will be in ceramics, making it the most popular project at the fair. Other popular projects include drawing, foods and photography, each with more than 100 entrants.

Charlotte Hunter, 4-H secretary, said the ceramics project has been popular for as long as she can remember.

“We’ve always had a huge enrollment in ceramics,” Hunter said. “We accommodate a large amount of space for those projects.”

Lynnette Whitsitt of Duff, 18, and Kendra Wineinger of Dubois, 18, are both 10-year 4-H members and have completed projects in ceramics since they began 4-H.

Whitsitt’s experience in ceramics reaches back further than her first year in 4-H. In the summer before she started first grade, she took a ceramics class at Beth Mathies’ ceramics shop in Huntingburg and has returned every year since to complete her 4-H project. This year, the shop didn’t offer classes so Whitsitt has been working on her project at home.

“This is the first year I’ve seen the whole process,” Whitsitt’s mother, Jane, said Wednesday as Lynette worked on her project at the family’s home.

Whitsitt sat surrounded by bottles of acrylic paint carefully painting the detailed areas of her ceramics piece, a Native American totem pole. As she painted the black hair of the Native Americans, her fingers stained with the dark paint, she described the yearly process of completing her project.

The 4-H’ers are not required to make the ceramics pieces themselves. Whitsitt purchases hers from Mathies’ ceramics shop. Once she chooses her piece, usually a figurine — her projects from the previous three fairs combine to make a complete nativity set — Whitsitt begins by cleaning the edges of the piece. Raised edges form where pieces of the mold fit together and must be removed by gently sanding them away. The piece is then fired in a kiln and painting begins. Whitsitt starts by painting the basic, neutral colors — ivory, tan, brown — with a brush. She then adds detail by using stains of more intense colors, like red and black. The stain is applied with a brush and wiped away with a rag, but the colors linger in crevices and slightly tint the piece. This year, Whitsitt used a red stain on top of a tan color to transform the skin of the Native Americans to a realistic tone.

The tiny details, like the headdresses worn by the Native Americans on Whitsitt’s piece this year, are the part of the project that requires the most work and concentration.

“When it’s all starting to be detail work and you’re working on it for such a long time then it starts to end up getting messed up more frequently,” Whitsitt said.

Whitsitt usually works on her project for three or four hours at a time. If she works any longer, she gets tired and risks mistakes. Whitsitt’s total time working on the project added up to seven hours by Wednesday, but she had at least another hour of work to do that evening as well as a few hours Thursday.

The Whitsitt’s home is scattered with Lynette’s artwork. A sculpture of Yoda, Lynnette’s favorite piece that she made for an art class at Southridge High School, smiles slyly from a shelf in the family’s living room.

Lynnette, the daughter of Dennis and Jane Whitsitt, will take four projects to the fair. In addition to ceramics, she will also enter projects in drawing, painting and creative writing.

Though Whitsitt worked to finish her ceramics project in the last few days, Wineinger completed her ceramics project last week at L&K Ceramics in Jasper. She began working on the piece in April during her free time, sometimes spending a couple hours a day at the shop; on a couple trips, she worked for six hours.

Wineinger had no experience in ceramics before she took the project in her first year of 4-H a decade ago. In the first few years of the project, 4-H’ers are limited to using only a small number of colors, usually two or three of the 4-H’ers’ choice. Wineinger said these restrictions almost convinced her to her drop the project because she wanted to use more color in her pieces, but her mother, Marla, suggested she stick with it.

Once she got to her fourth year of 4-H, Wineinger grew to love ceramics. Then, she was able to use more color and choose more intricate pieces. That same year, she was introduced to dry brushing, a technique of painting that involves dipping the brush in paint, brushing off the excess on a paper towel and applying the paint to the piece. Wineinger has used this technique on her project every year since.

“There’s just a lot of different things you can do with it,” she said. “That’s what I like about this project.”

Wineinger, the daughter of Terry and Marla Wineinger, will take five other projects to the fair this year — gift wrapping, shooting sports, sheep, cows and hay.

Whitsitt and Wineinger planned to drop off their projects at the fairgrounds this afternoon with the rest of the 4-H’ers as the fair begins and runs through July 20. Events will take place all next week at the fair.

The grand opening celebration will officially kick of the fair at 5 p.m. Sunday, though events begin earlier. A new activity this year is a 5K run and walk at 9 a.m. Sunday. Sign-in for the run will take place at the fair office, which has been shifted to the northeast of the Clover Pavilion. The fair will close July 20 with the Demolition Derby set to start at 6 p.m. in the grandstand arena.

Contact April Dittmer at newsintern@dcherald.com.

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