State College

Impassioned artists took hobbies to next level at People’s Choice

Susan Wise shows Second Season Mittens.
Susan Wise shows Second Season Mittens. Photo provided

Kacee Burke started out with a Canon Elph more than a decade ago.

The small, “cheap-film” camera allowed her to create new life through the lens instead of on a canvas. Burke said she always enjoyed art and horticulture, but her first camera allowed her to combine a love of the two.

Burke, who owns and operates KC Burke Photography, has since upgraded to a Canon Mark II. She is one of about 200 artists selling her works at the People’s Choice Festival of Pennsylvania Arts and Crafts.

She photographs a variety of subjects, but her favorite subject is nature, she said.

“I just like sharing how I see the world with other people,” Burke said. “... Sometimes I’ll be out with my husband somewhere, and I’ll stop to take a picture. He’ll wonder what I’m shooting, and when I show him later, he’ll say, ‘oh, that’s cool.’ ”

Burke, of Halfmoon Township, like some other local artists, operates her business as a part-time job. But for others, like Lou Rhoades, of Patton Township, creating works of art is more of a hobby.

“I’m a contractor and have done that for 30-plus years,” Rhoades said. “This is something where I can go out and release everything. This is my therapy.”

Rhoades’ Curvy Wood Designs got its start by accident after Rhoades made a bench for himself. It caught the attention of family and friends, and requests soon poured in for more to be made.

“There’s people out there that have wood, but they don’t know what to do with it to make something,” Rhoades said. “It’s fun for me, but another reason I do it is to help people. I do it as if I were were doing it for myself. I want people to have it last for over 100 years in their families.”

Susan Wise saw an opportunity about five years ago to put her art to work for family mementos, a possibility she did not foresee decades before, when her grandmother taught her to sew. She operates Second Season Mittens in Pine Grove Mills.

Wise turns unwanted or outgrown sweaters into what she calls “memory mittens.”

“Something special like that can be handed down as an heirloom,” she said. “I like the idea of recycling things and taking one thing used for one purpose and making it into something new.”

Although her busiest time of the year is still at least a month away, Wise said, getting ready for the festival — which she looks forward to every year — can be just as chaotic.

“It’s a very hectic time, although I try to get ready for this two months in advance to have a supply of inventory for the mittens,” she said. “It’s a great festival because of the wide-open spaces. There’s great parking. As vendors, we can get in and out very quickly, and the people are wonderful to work with, and it’s always a great time for everyone.”