The Evanston Art and Big Fork Festival underway downtown through Sunday features 150 juried artists plus a variety of food vendors and live music.

A Friday stroll through the festival offered a wide variety of painting, sculpture and jewelry vendors.

Michael Benstein’s phone boosters. Credit: Desiree Shannon

But you can also discover a man who sells wooden creations called “Phone Boosters.”  They are small, rectangular-shaped, slotted blocks of wood with an extension that looks like a gramophone horn.

Created by Michael Benstein of Lake Zurich, the Phone Boosters work on the same principle as Bluetooth, albeit on a much lower tech level. 

Placing a cellphone in the rectangular portion of the Booster will direct sound being streamed over the phone to the wooden horn, thereby amplifying it. 

“I knew if you put a phone in a bowl, it makes it louder…the wood gives it a better tone and it looks better than a bowl.”

Up until recently, Benstein worked creating built-ins for people’s homes.  He wound up with a lot of left over scrap wood, and eventually got the idea of producing the little Phone Boosters, which he now sells at various art events.

A vase from Robert Lagestee. Credit: Desiree Shannon

Another unique item could be found at Robert Lagestee’s stall.  At first glance, his wares look like the colorful glasswork that is a staple of many art shows.

However, there is no paint involved in producing his creations, and they are made primarily out of sand. He basically cooks the sand in a furnace and turns it into glass (the name of his business is “We Cook Sand”).  He mixes different minerals to make the color designs on the glasswork.

“Every color has its own recipe,” he said. He learned this unique art form from his grandfather, and has been creating the pieces on his own for about eight years.

A colorful bird from Joanie Mar Credit: Desiree Shannon

Joanie Marhula of Fort Myers, Florida, specializes in producing painted canvasses accented with colorful pieces of glass.  The easiest part of the process is painting the canvasses—she says she can do about 50 a day. 

But the process of preparing the glass that will go on them is much more painstaking work.  She has to break the glass into various sizes, sort it out for color and pour resin on it. It takes about 72 hours to dry, but she has to constantly monitor each piece to make sure the glass stays in place.

Musicians performing at the festival. Credit: Desiree Shannon

The Evanston Art and Big Fork Festival is produced by Amdur Productions, a company headquartered in Highland Park.

More information about the festival is available online.

Desiree Shannon relocated to Evanston in 2022 from Columbus, Ohio. She has a journalism degree from Otterbein College of Ohio. During her undergraduate studies, she completed an internship with the Washington...

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