Artist carving his own niche

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Dennis Hines | August 1, 2013

JANESVILLE — When Mitch Bothum sees a slab of stone, he sees art.

Bothum, a stone carver who operates his own business in Janesville, spends much of his time carving business signs, addresses, sports logos and welcome signs into a slab of stone. He also uses stones to create bird baths, mosiacs and garden art.

For the fifth year, Bothum will participate in the Tallman Arts Festival, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4, at the Rock County Historical Society campus, 426 N. Jackson St. in Janesville.

“Every stone I see, I can see something worthful in it,” Bothum said. “If I can see something in a stone, it's just a matter of working with the material. I've been doing it for so long that it just comes naturally.”

Bothum said participating in the festival gives him an opportunity to interact with other artists.

“They appreciate your work, and you appreciate their work,” Bothum said. “Usually at the end of the day, we usually exchange pieces that we haven't sold, because we don't like to bring our own stuff home. I appreciate other people's work, and I like it when they appreciate mine.”

Bothum said the festival attracts many art enthusiasts each year.

“It's busy. There's a lot of people there. It's the type of clientele that likes and appreciates art. It's more of an art festival and not necessarily a craft festival,” Bothum said. “It draws different types of people. It's kind of energetic. Everybody is excited, especially if the weather cooperates. If it's a sunny day, everybody likes to come out for a walk and look at all the different stuff.”

 “I like to get my work out there. Most people appreciate it when they see it and take an interest in it,” Bothum said. “It's kind of a neat thing. It's kind of a lost art.”

Bothum says he's been working on pieces to showcase at the festival.

“I usually sell most of my carry-away stuff, and the referrals I get continue all the way until Christmas,” Bothum said. “I get people who say, 'I saw you at the Tallman festival. I would like to get one of your carved stones as a Christmas gift for somebody.' They've been holding onto my business card for five months. Even the following year, they seem to be a popular buy for wedding gifts. So, it's just not at the fair, it's down the road, too. It seems to be working out for me.”

Bothum has been working as a stone carver for about 10 years. He became interested in stone work while working as a granite countertop designer.

“Carving stone really developed as a hobby, just something to do,” Bothum said. “I made some steps and patio blocks, then I made a Badger logo rock one time and put it outside and I sold it right away, and I knew I was on to something. I made a couple more, and they continued to sell. One thing led to another, and I'm doing all kinds of things now like bird baths. I've got quite a product line.”

Bothum also has done stone restoration work on several buildings and structures throughout the United States, including the Kansas State Capitol building, U.S. Supreme Court building, Yale University, Harvard University and several bridges in Milwaukee.

“It's always nice to know that some of the stuff I've worked on is going to be around a lot longer than I am,” Bothum said. “I kind of feel like I'm leaving my mark.”

For more information about Bothum's business, call (608) 718-4336 or go to the website

A celebration of art

Hundreds of painters, crafters, pottery workers, photographers, soap makers and print makers will take up residence at the Tallman Arts Festival, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 4, at the Rock County Historical Society campus, 426 N. Jackson St.

“You will be able to see people from Rock County, as well as from far beyond,” said Meghan Walker, marketing and communications intern for the Rock County Historical Society.

The event also will include food demonstrations from Best Events Catering, a pie auction, children's activities and food vendors.

“There will be different foods — the classic brats, pulled pork sandwiches and jambalaya. There will be a kids' menu, as well,” Walker said. “We'll be having fruit on a stick, and we'll have a beer tent for the adults.”

There also will be a silent auction, featuring artwork, jewelry items and four tickets to a Green Bay Packers game.

“So, that should hopefully get some Packers fans here,” Walker said. “Some of the artists will be donating pieces for the silent auction, so you can bring some of them home.”

The festival will include live music from local artists. The historical society received a $2,000 grant from the Community Foundation to help pay for the musical performances.

“We will have some old-time fiddle music and some bluegrass,” Walker said. “There will be lots of home roots music to go along with our little event here.”

Volunteers still are needed to help set up the grounds, take tickets and conduct tours of the Lincoln-Tallman House. Residents who are interested in volunteering can call Carol Herzig at (608) 756-4509.

The Tallman Arts Festival is a fundraiser for the Rock County Historical Society.

“This is our biggest event of the year,” Walker said. “We expect at least 1,000 people from all over. After we're done, we'll probably start thinking about next year's art festival... It's so much fun. I work with so many people who are excited about it. Now, it's just getting in touch with the public and making sure they know that we're doing it and to come out and have fun with us.”

The cost to attend the art festival is $3 for those 17 and older, and free for those younger than 17. For more information, call (608) 756-4509 or go to the website



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