Urbana's Jill Miller isn't just the woman behind Hooey Batik's lovely creations. She's also the visionary who brought us the very first Hooey Home Show some sixteen years ago. And like the mother of all teenagers, she's seen and learned a lot. And now, on the eve of the 16th annual Hooiey Home Show, she's ready to celebrate, with toast (more about that later)!
I found Miller to be just as vibrant and engaging as her designs and her beloved event. Part local art scene historian/part cheerleader, Miller describes how the first show came about, how it's changed, and what its evolution says about the resiliency of our local artists. So, as they say in all the fancy mags, herewith I present to you, the inspiring words of Jill Miller.
Smile Politely: What was your original inspiration for this event?
Jill Miller: I started doing the Hooey Home Show the firstst year I moved into this house. I wanted to have a little art event that was fun and easy, a laid back atmosphere where you can shop, hang out on a couch, visit with friends. The open floor plan is perfect for something like this even though you wouldn't suspect from the outside. The house has a curious history according to Geoff. Apparently in the 20s, it was built as a furniture factory! In the 50s, it was converted to a duplex. Then it sat empty through the 70s and 80s until Geoff bought it. He and his friend rehabbed it and moved Parasol Records in for a little while before they moved to their current location at 303 W Griggs (Plug! The Parasol Warehouse is home to the Itty Bitty Bike Shop, Parasol Label Group, and the remnants of That's Rentertainment).
SP: How has it changed over the years?
Miller: The first home show was December 6th to 7th, 2002 and featured eight artist friends (I'm old and use the term artist for all the makers of handmade things) from Champaign plus a couple from Springfield. I can't remember if it was 2003 or 4 that I decided to turn the event into a tour. There were enough artists in the neighborhood (and downtown Urbana) that I coordinated The Old East End Art HooHa. (Hooha. a commotion; a fuss. This is also when I learned other definitions of the word!) Anyway, for a few years I managed to get other locations throughout Urbana and a few in Champaign (beyond the HooHa) on board to have a little art event in December. It was fun but too much work when I what I wanted to do was batik and not be a manager of artists so I scaled down and went back to a single home show. And now with Old Town doing their Market and Lara doing her open house just down the street on the same weekend we're back to an art tour of Champaign-Urbana! Check out this Facebook event for locations, times and artists for all 3 events.
Smile Politely: What's secret to the event’s long success?
Miller: I think it's the guest artists that have made this a success. There's such a great pool of fun, interesting, talented people in this community. And we've got friends and shoppers who want to help support us! It's a group effort. We're all passionate about what we do, and we have a great time! I've also been lucky to have great neighbors who were roped into joining
me: Kaya Tate of Hopscotch , Michael Hannah Pottery, Lara of Same Street Textiles all had their first "art shows" here! One of my favorite things is introducing artists I love to each other and the community!
Smile Politely: Tell us about your own work [Hooey Batiks] and how you got started?
Miller: I learned the technique at the University of Illinois while taking"Recreational Arts & Crafts," basically an elective art class that could have been named "Camp Crafts!" We played around with papier mache,printmaking, pottery... and batik. Two days in the semester were about tie dye and batik and there we go. Here I am. What is batik? Basically it's using wax as a resist to dye. I paint a design onto cloth with melted wax and when it gets dyed everything covered with wax is protected from the dye.
Smile Politely: What's your take on the growing "maker movement" in Champaign-Urbana?
Miller: It's great! 40 North and Boneyard Arts Fest, Imbibe Urbana's First Fridays and Mistletoe Market are fantastic. We've got a wonderful supportive community. And all the little pop-up shops. Artists are resourceful and understand that they don't have to wait for a specific event. If what you want to do doesn't exist you can make it!
Smile Politely: What can shoppers expect this year?
Miller: Toast! We've got a toast ornament thing happening over here. Haunted toasters, ghost toast, virgin mary on toast. It's ridiculous. Last year Kim Caisse and Lydia Puddicombe coincidentally both made pickle themed] ornaments. Kim's are mini velvet paintings and Lydia's are clay. They decided this year to do a toast theme. (if you follow @lydiapuddicombe on IG you will see she's into the haunted appliances these days) We announced the Toast Challenge to the other artists... we'll see what the others come up with. I'm sure Jim O'Brien will whip up a holy ghost toast poem or two. Jim (Poet James Escher) will be with us Friday night only and if you haven't had him type out an impromptu poem just for you then you're
seriously missing out on something special.
I've got a few new artists this year: Sarah Shoot from near St. Louis (mixed media collage and reclaimed metal earrings) and Liza Wynette (ceramics). And although Douglas Kistler [of Uptown Concrete] has been part of Champaign-Urbana for years he's joining us for the first time too with his concrete planters and a few other items.
Smile Politely: What makes the Hooey Home Show different than other art fairs?
Miller: Well, I don't really consider it an art fair. It's more intimate and casual. The atmosphere is less structured and more relaxed for sure. It's low key, easy and a lot of fun! We're all already friends so we have a great time hanging out. AND! We've got toast.
Smile Politely: What’s the plan for the future?
Miller: Keep going! I'll start planning the next home show for February soon. Vote. Make things.
For a local arts event to reach this milestone is no small feat, and something very much worth celebrating. Hooey House Show newcomer Llza Wynette said it best when I asked her about participating in this year's show. "I don't participate in many craft shows, but when Hooey Batiks invited me to the Hooey Home Show, I couldn't resist. It's a laid-back and fun event featuring an amazing group of artisans." Jill Miller and friends have clearly found the recipe for success. Create a mix of artists who work in different areas but share similar sensibilies and enjoy each other's work. Add a surpringly theme and have fun.
What else do you need to know? Snacks and adult beverages. Check. Diverse and delightful local art. Check. Chill vibe and cool modern atmosphere. Check and check. A chance to meet artists in their natural habitat and learn more about how they make their magic. Check. So go. Bring your friends. Get those last-minute gifts and support your local art scene.
And yes, there will be toast. Lots of it.
Sweet 16th Annual Hooey Home Show
905 S Lynn St, Urbana
December 21st, 5 to 9 p.m.
December 22nd, 10 am to 5 p.m.
Check the event website for information about all participating artists.
Photos from Facebook