Best of Show — twice

The art awards were announced. “In 2D, second place goes to…, first place goes to…; in 3D,” etc. The crowd of artists held their breath in anticipation of Best of Show. It was obvious where it was going. Yes. “Best of Show goes to Barb Zumdome, for ‘Purse and Boots.'”

The crowd broke out in wild cheers and applause. Barb Zumdome grabbed her husband, Zoomer, and held on in case she fainted. She couldn’t believe it. It was the first time she had ever entered the All-Artist Art Contest at the Ft. Madison Area Art Association. She had only entered the one piece. (Artists were allowed two entries.) She had entered a pair of pink felt boots she had hand made, along with a matching felt purse.

But this wasn’t ordinary felt you buy at a fabric shop. No. This was felt she had made and dyed herself. Barb Zumdome and her husband, Ron (Zoomer), have a 25-acre sheep farm on the north side of Ft. Madison, close to Rodeo Park. The farm used to be 36 acres, but the Highway 61 Bypass took 11 of those acres. Barb spins her own yarn from wool sheared from their sheep. To make the felt boots, she went to a class in Wisconsin where, through a very labor intensive process of soap, water and agitation, felt is made. She then was shown how to make a pattern to fit her foot and calf and, using a last and adding a sole, voila — hand made felt boots.

Yes, she wears them. Yes, they are warm and water proof.

The boots are so pretty that a friend pestered her into entering the boots and matching purse in the art contest. Barb, skeptical, succumbed to nagging. But how to display the boots and purse? From another friend she acquired a pair of manikin legs, dressed the legs in black tights, and stuck the legs in the boots. Then, the “accidental” creative touch, she set her felt purse on top of the legs for a display of, what? Was this a social statement about shopping? (The All-Artist Art Contest is held each year just before Christmas.) Or was it an eclectic display of “Purse and Boots?”

Quips and quotes such as, “shop ’til you drop,” “mindless shopping,” “these boots are made for walking” and “death by shopping” were bandied about. The judges, who are board members of the art association, didn’t reveal their rationale for selection. Barb maintains that her only intention was to display her purse and boots. (Yeah, sure.) True to art, what other people saw in the display was their own interpretation. Outrageous.

Goes to show that art is in the eyes of the beholder.

Barb and Zoomer don’t give it much thought. They have more important things to worry about. There’s wool to card and wash; Fez, their sheep dog, is falling out of training; and Esther, the lamb they take to school presentations, is acting moody.

Then there’s this year’s art contest. Barb wants to make a “yurt” — a felt covered hut or tepee used by Nomads in Mongolia. She’s going to use a satellite dish for the roof, make drop down legs, and cover the whole thing with felt. To agitate wool that large into felt, she thinks she can pull it through the field with their Gator, like the Nomads do with horses. Hmm, will the yurt fit through the doors of the art center?

By the way, Barb’s boots also won Best of Show in the Fabric Division of this year’s Lee County Fair. My my, two best of shows in two different categories. These boots ARE made for walking.


Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com.