The Literary calls attention to local Champaign-Urbana artists


Sydney Laput

Artist Clara de la Fuente’s paintings are displayed during the local artist market hosted by The Literary on Saturday. The market gave local artists a space to showcase their work from paintings, prints and earrings.

By Allyson Lin, Staff Writer

On Saturday, The Literary — a bookbar in downtown Champaign — hosted a market to promote local artists. 

The store is the brainchild of its ‘genius and fearless leader’ Jenny Shima. Her goal was to create a space where people of all interests could gather.

Remington Rock, the store’s manager and events coordinator, said she was excited to highlight the community’s diverse talents through the event. 

Rock said she hopes the market encourages people to shop locally wherever and however they can. 

“We’re big believers in local support, and we have no shortage of artisans, vendors and resources in C-U for people to enjoy,” Rock said. 

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    Mug earrings created by artist Emmaline Loren at the local artist market at The Literary on Saturday. (Sydney Laput)

    One featured artist, Emmaline Loren, grew up in a family of artists and said she has been creating art ever since she can remember. 

    She finds inspiration from her childhood or in nostalgic themes. She said she’s also obsessed with retro home decor and has started to create pieces based around that. 

    She said she loves being a part of the talented C-U community. 

    “There are so many talented people here,” Loren said. “It’s really inspiring to see someone in a completely different field or niche who is so passionate about their work. I love how diverse the makers are.”

    For aspiring artists, Loren said,  “So cheesy, but just don’t give up. That’s my best advice. Put yourself out there and keep trying, because if it’s something you truly love, I think success will find you.”

    Dr. Cris Hughes is an anthropology professor at the University and the creative brain behind Secret Gardens C-U. 

    Hughes said she began crafting her floral pieces six years ago. After getting her Ph.D. in Anthropology and having a daughter, she said she felt compelled to go back to doing something creative. 

    “I was inspired by some other artists doing floral work,” she said, “so I started collecting things and learning how to dry them and then creating compositions.”

    Her floral pieces are three-dimensional. Hughes said she uses a drying technique involving sand or silica, drawing out the moisture of the flowers while keeping their shape. 

    As for materials, she said she enjoys foraging for them on hikes. She said she has now learned how to grow some of her own materials from seed. 

    Hughes said she finds joy in the city-like landscape of C-U. She said she didn’t notice the area’s little details until she started collecting materials and tries to reflect this in her artwork. 

    “I try to put little tiny details in so that everybody can feel (it),” Hughes said. “If you look into (it),  it’s like a little world and closer to the sea, all that will surprise there. For me, it’s motivating people to take the time to look a little closer at nature.”

    She said she used a trial-and-error method to figure out what materials would successfully dry and hold their shape. Spring flowers like hyacinths and daffodils are perfect for her work, Hughes said.

    As for her creative process, she said she likes to start with one thing that excites her and builds pieces around it. 

    “I’ll try to start with something that sets the tone of where I imagined it in space. Wherever that is, I create the style, and they have a little world I want to create based off that,” Hughes said. 

    On knowing when her pieces are ready, Hughes said she usually drafts a piece and has a gut instinct of when to stop. She said she waits until she feels the piece is visually right. 

    “Once I start, I feel like it’s almost frantic trying to get it right, and then I know, and I can just feel that sense of urgency is gone when I got it right,” Hughes said. 

    Hughes said the art community in C-U has been phenomenal. She raved about the support from local businesses, artists and community members. 

    “It’s really special. I always loved this community. When I started my art, I saw different sides of it because I’m faculty and I’ve been in the university space,” said Hughes. “So, to have an excuse to be outside of that and be a part of the art community has been wonderful.” 

    Hughes tries to keep her prices as low as she can while still feeling like it’s doing honor to the art. At the artist market, Hughes sold the most expensive piece she has ever created.

    “I was like, ‘This piece is gonna be for somebody.’ It was totally all mushrooms and insects, moss, and they came in and they were like, ‘We have to have it. We’re the people. We’re the ones,’” Hughes said. “I was like, ‘I’m gonna start crying.’”

    Dr. Cris Hughes’, professor in Anthropology, works a part of Secret Gardens CU is shown at the local artist market on Saturday. (Sydney Laput)

    She said that when she makes a piece, she knows that it will be the right one for a special customer. This makes it hard for Hughes to let her originals go. 

    She said she occasionally prints photos of her originals to sell on her RedBubble and social media pages for customers who can’t afford expensive artwork but still want to appreciate her art. 

    Hughes said every piece she creates is one of a kind. 

    “I never make anything the same before. Even if I really love that piece and I want to recreate it, I can never do that. Even if I have the same materials, it doesn’t sit right,” Hughes said. 

    Hughes said she has also transitioned into working with local wedding florists. She deconstructs and converts bridal bouquets into pieces that will last a lifetime. 

    “I feel like it’s not just your bouquet, right? It‘s like nobody else has to know what’s your vital for you. It’s like a little secret memory,” Hughes said. 

    Hughes said the goal of her art is not to make a profit, but to create human connections. She said discussing her work and seeing the impact it has on the community feels healing for her. 

    She explained that her intention for the show was to bring joy to the community. Hughes said she loves that her work evokes in her customers a new way to communicate and share stories. 

    “I feel most at peace when I’m working with the materials and collecting. I really love seeing customers that don’t even buy anything, they just want to talk or engage with my art,” she said.

    Hughes said she’s interested in expanding into Chicago one day, but for now, she’s happy with the support she receives from the local community.

    “There’s always pressure,” Hughes said. “You always feel like in order to be successful, you have to keep doing more. I’m trying to remind myself that I don’t have to do that if I’m getting what I want out of it. I can just rest in it and enjoy it for now.”

    Hughes has passed her appreciation for art onto the next generation through her daughter. She said her 6-year-old daughter is extremely curious and respectful of her art. Hughes said the pair of them plan to continue exploring various plant species and art forms through experimentation. 

    For aspiring artists and students, Hughes said she herself had to make a decision when she was an undergrad at the University. She was pursuing photography but chose a more logical and money secure path, anthropology.

    “I chose to do the nonart path because I trusted that I would be able to do my art on the side. It’s a hobby, you train yourself and that’s something you can do in your free time,” Hughes said. “That’s what worked for me, but I think you’ve got to give your passion a chance in the space to work.”

    Hughes said she uses the local community’s support to advance her work. 

    “I think it’s hard in today’s space because of social media. There’s a lot of ways to promote yourself and you can get lost in it. As somebody who’s not into technology, I can see the benefit of both. But for me, tapping into your local resources is the best way to move forward, especially if you live in a community like this.”


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