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Niewoehner nets ribbons at NDSF
August 9, 2019

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Like most Pierce County residents who make the drive to the North Dakota State Fair in late July, Marilyn Niewoehner has fun seeing new things and visiting people.

She also has fun competing. This year, she had at least 10 blue ribbons' worth of fun.

Niewoehner walked through her art and gift shop, called Embroideries, showing prize paintings and plants and discussing a venture into a new State Fair competition food.

"I went out on a limb and entered food," Niewoehner said. "I wouldn't enter something in food that's just not me."

"So," Niewoehner continued, "This year, I decided I entered four loaves of bread; sour cream pound cake and biscotti cookies. I got a blue ribbon on my communion bread and I wanted a blue ribbon on my communion bread. And I got a blue on my bread machine bread, and a red on my biscotti, and a white on my sour cream pound cake."

Niewoehner surmised her interest in competition came from her mother, teacher and artist Alice Jelsing.

"Maybe she taught me to be competitive," Niewoehner said of her mother. "She always entered the fair. She always went to things locally there was a flower show; she'd take flowers. If there was this kind of a show, she'd take this. She would do it just to participate."

Niewoehner pointed out her own blue ribbon-winning entry in the fair's floral competition: an arrangement of ferns and other greens inside a conch shell.

"I also took a few other things because driving to Minot it's a long way to take stuff to the fair," Niewoehner noted. "You look through the handbook, and you say, 'What else can I enter?' I've got porcelain dolls, and I entered the dolls in a category called 'Collections.' I won a blue ribbon on my porcelain doll collection. That's very fun."

Niewoehner put her ribbon count for the 2019 North Dakota State Fair at 10 blue, seven of them for art; three red and one white.

Like her mother, Niewoehner enjoys painting and enters work produced by a variety of techniques in the fair. She also displays and sells her work in her store.

Niewoehner said another local artist with national renown, Terry Jelsing, is a relative as well. She has taken several classes offered by Jelsing.

Pointing to a floral collage made of photos of flowers, she said, "That, I made in Terry Jelsing's collage class. A number of us took classes from him in the summer."

Niewoehner said she also takes classes taught by art instructor Bern Skaug.

Adjusting an abstract ink and watercolor painting in a green frame, she described the piece's "loose style."

"I entered the one with the green frame (in the state fair). "That is very fun. I have several styles of work."

Niewoehner turned to a display of florals and still life paintings. "This is pastel," she said, indicating a landscape. " These are all pastel also," she added, pointing to paintings of orchids and other flowers.

"They're work," Niewoehner said of her florals, landscapes and portraits. "You have to really put an effort into them. I work from a photograph," she said, turning a pastel painting of orchids around to show the small photo she copied with paint to produce her art. "It's a challenge to get it to look the way you want it."

"But then," she added, "I relax and do something just fun to do, and just let loose, and then I do that," Niewoehner noted, pointing to abstract paintings done with free-flowing lines and dashes of color.

Niewoehner sells boxes of cards decorated with the same free-flowing ink work each done by hand, not printing software.

Other techniques she uses include thread painting, artwork that from a distance almost has the patina of chalks.

"You take a piece of stiff fabric for those who sew you lower your feed dogs; you put in a darning foot, and you move it's basically machine quilting by hand," Niewoehner explained. "You move the fabric back and forth with your hands, rather than the machine moving around the fabric. The needle stays in one place, and you move the fabric to get it done."

"It takes maybe two afternoons to do. I'm a prolific sewer, so ," she said with a slight smile.

Niewoehner said she would "absolutely" encourage people to enter the North Dakota State Fair.

"It's enjoyable. It's a lot of work. There's planning not just your project, but you have to have your paperwork filled out and mailed in before the Fourth of July. So, you have to plan a month in advance to get the paperwork done," she noted.

Niewoehner described the State Fair staff and environment in Minot as "very welcoming."

"Maybe the first year you go, you might feel (intimidated). But when you get there and see what it is, you think, 'Oh, I can do this.'"

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