Transplant blooms at Yellow Daisy: from Japan to festival art star

For much of her 20s, Manami Yagashiro Lingerfelt traveled the world, trying to sketch a true likeness of herself.

Who knew she’d eventually succeed at a Gwinnett County festival, of all places?

Lingerfelt was a recent college graduate feeling unfulfilled as a graphic designer in Tokyo when she embarked on a prolonged journey to China, India, Pakistan and parts of Scandinavia. Along the way, she studied music, sold handpainted T-shirts and gave birth to her now 21-year-old daughter. All along she sensed, “I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do.”

Fast-forward to 2005. Now living in Georgia, Lingerfelt sold several of her colorful nature- and mystically-influenced paintings at an art festival in Duluth. In the process, a clear picture of who she was finally emerged.

“Before, I didn’t have the vocabulary for how I wanted to live,” explained Lingerfelt, 48, the featured artist at the 46th Yellow Daily Festival, which takes place Sept. 4-7 at Stone Mountain Park. “Now I did. I said, ‘I will become an artist.’”

Become, nothing. She’s made it there, as the nod from the iconic Yellow Daisy Festival confirms. Consistently ranked as one of the country’s top arts and crafts festivals, this year’s version boasts more than 400 “crafters” from 33 states, offering handmade work in categories ranging from pottery and photography to fabric and fine art. Out of this group, an internal committee each year selects the featured artist, whose work appears on the official poster and program cover.

“It’s based on a variety of factors including their uniqueness to the festival, variety of work (that we believe will be a conversation topic among our guests), and someone who we believe best captures the spirit of the festival,” said Laura Ramos, advertising manager for Stone Mountain Park. “Manami brings a great story with her artwork and the vivid colors.”

A deceptively simple depiction of flowers whose stems seemingly shoot up from a bed of hearts, Langerfelt’s “official” design, like nearly all of her painting, is heavily influenced by the natural world and what she calls “the power of energy.”

“There might be lots of life going on on the surface,” Lingerfelt explained recently inside the cheerful, art-stuffed house in Dallas she shares with her husband, Tommy; their 6-year-old daughter, Kaia; and Lily, Manami Lingerfelt’s almost-11-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. “But life doesn’t exist without love. That’s why I put hearts underneath, because you have love growing on love and making life.”

She flashed a grin: “And I put in yellow daisies!”

Speaking of the power of energy … a smaller cousin of the black-eyed Susan, the festival’s namesake flower grows only within 60 miles of Stone Mountain. In 1968, a local garden club hosted a luncheon to celebrate the annual blooming of the yellow daisy. From that initial, humbly planted seed emerged an annual flower show that soon bloomed into what is now the Southeast’s largest outdoor arts and crafts festival (see the accompanying “By the Numbers” box).

The flower show lives on, running Sept. 5-7 at Memorial Hall. Meanwhile, the festival also features a children’s corner; live musical entertainment (Atlanta’s own Grammy-nominated Christian pop artist Jamie Grace performs at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 7); food trucks and other outdoor dining options, as well as the “Men’s Den,” where you don’t have to be a guy to pull up one of the comfy recliners or couches and watch football on the large-screen TVs.

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