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    Jen Walters Petry knew it was time to enter the Kentucky State Fair’s crop-seed art competition when she saw the same seed portrait of a man who looked eerily similar to Saddam Hussein win a blue ribbon two years in a row. “I decided: This will not stand. Somebody’s going to have to work for this if they’re going to win it,” Petry says.

    Since 2006, Petry has taken home the crop-seed art blue ribbon every year but one, for work that includes a cow skull and a mandala. (There are typically six to eight entrants.) Last year, her papier-mâché turtle shell made of seeds (pictured), inspired by a jewel-encrusted crown, earned her first place and $35. For the shell, she molded the papier-mâché to chicken wire, dried it in the oven and, over several days, applied the seeds with craft glue and a dental tool. She has used 40 different kinds of seeds, often finding them (especially triangle-shaped buckwheat seeds) in her backyard near Douglass Loop. Friends now bring her bags of seeds. “I kind of cheated,” Petry says, mentioning the mandala from 2016. “I put in these acorn caps and I was just sick to my stomach about it, thinking, ‘I’m going to be disqualified over these acorn caps.’” This year, Petry has been inspired by nature documentaries featuring narwhal tusks and snail shells.

    A professional glass artist and designer, Petry, 46, says she is in competition with herself, trying to outdo her own creations every year. “This is just totally indulgent,” she says. Last year in the junior division, her 10-year-old daughter’s crop-seed art won a blue ribbon. “We are a dynasty, officially,” Petry says. (The Kentucky State Fair is Aug. 16-26.)

    This originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline "Seeding Is Believing." To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

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    About McKenna Mitchell

    Louisville Magazine summer intern and college student at Western Kentucky University studying journalism and digital advertising!

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