Arts / Galleries

Best of Show Winners at The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival Get to Prepare Early For 2025 — See Which Artists Stood Out and What to Expect

A Huge Boost For Any Artist

BY // 04.30.24

The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival handed out several awards on the final day of this spring’s show. Six Best of Show winners and the 2025 Featured Artist were selected. A team of judges representing The Woodlands Arts Council reviews work from all the participating artists to select Best of Show winners. The judges are local gallery owners, art teachers, artists and business professionals. Artists are scored on artistic merit and on booth presentation. 

A win allows the artist to return with no booth fee for next year’s festival. It also grants them automatic entry into The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival for the next two years, letting them skip the jury process.

Let’s take a closer look at all the winners who all will be part of the 20th anniversary edition of the festival next April:

Featured Artist For 2025: Sculptor Thomas Wargin

Thomas Wargin creates one of a kind cast and fabricated bronze/aluminum scuptures with patina heat induced coloring. Wargin was a Best in Show winner in 2021 at the festival.

When Woodlands Arts Council Executive Director Jenny Carattini-Wright approached Wargin’s booth on the final day of the show, he had no idea he’d been selected.

“I thought I was in trouble at first, but then it dawned on me that I was selected as Featured Artist,” Wargin tells PaperCity The Woodlands. “I felt ecstatic, giddy and grateful. I am very thankful and overwhelmed with joy.”

Thomas Wargin will be the featured artist for the 20th anniversary of The Waterway Arts Festival. (Photo by Mauricio Ramirez)
Thomas Wargin will be the featured artist for the 20th anniversary of The Waterway Arts Festival. (Photo by Mauricio Ramirez)

He’s no stranger to The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival either.

“I’ve been here enough to become noticed by a great committee and create new friends and fans in the community,” Wargin says.

His goal as an artist is to engage the viewer and stimulate the mind as well as their visual senses.

Suzanne Seiler — 2D mixed media

Suzanne Seiler used to be a watercolor painter, but changed the medium of her art to mosaics. Seiler created a technique to achieve “realism through micro-piecing mosaics” utilizing colored, textured and patterned papers. Using paper intended for landfills, she has amassed more than 40,000 colored, textured and patterned papers. These papers give her a palette of colors, shade and textures to give the illusion of depth to her work.  Each piece is cut and shaped to build a mosaic with realism.

Up close, the pieces reveal textures, cuts and patterns, but at a distance the pieces come together visually.

Artist Suzanne Seiler's mosiac technique is a unique piecing process that she developed herself. (Courtesy of Suzanne Seiler)
Artist Suzanne Seiler’s mosiac technique is a unique piecing process that she developed herself. (Courtesy of Suzanne Seiler)

Seilder lives in The Woodlands and has exhibited at several Waterway Arts Festivals in past years, in both watercolor and mosaics.

J. Howard — Drawing

This is the first Waterway Arts Festival for J. Howard, despite growing up in Houston. Her artistic journey began when she was a child in the Bayou City, when she showed an early talent for drawing and painting. 

“I always wanted to get to this festival, but there was always another show on the same weekend that I was accepted to,” Howard says.

Jenny Carratini-Wright and J. Howard in her booth at The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival. Howard won Best in Show in Drawing. (Photo by Laura Landsbaum)
Jenny Carattini-Wright and J. Howard in her booth at The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival. Howard won Best in Show in Drawing. (Photo by Laura Landsbaum)

Some in The Woodlands are familiar with Howard’s work. One of her pieces is on permanent display at The Woodlands High School as part of the school’s Art Trust collection.

Howard creates vivid animated characteristics using the hyper realistic styling developed in the 1960s that shows viewers what the camera lens sees rather than that of the human eye in every subject matter. 

Seth and Jana Coldren  — Wood 

Seth and Jana Coldren are a husband and wife creative duo. Both of are proud alumni of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with degrees in fine arts. This is the first Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival for the couple.

“Our artist friends told us how difficult it is to get into this show,” Seth Coldren notes. “This is our first show in Texas.”

The couple had success with their art at Ducks Unlimited.

“They invite us to come to Texas and we thought we’d start looking into Texas — and we found The Waterway Arts Festival,” Seth Coldren says.

Seth and Jana Coldren won Best in Show in Wood. This was their first time exhibiting at The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival. (Photo by Laura Landsbaum)
Seth and Jana Coldren won Best in Show in Wood. This was their first time exhibiting at The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival. (Photo by Laura Landsbaum)

These artists’ company name — Aaron Grey — comes from the combination of Seth (Aaron) and Jana’s (Grey) middle names.

Seth and Jana Coldren bring together the finest materials and stunning design to create something special. Their art is colorful and creative. Each piece represents what they love about the world they live in.

Luis Gutierrez – Ceramics

Gutierrez has been working with pottery since he was 13 years old. His technique is based on his Nicoyan Indian heritage and he considers himself an artist working from his native foundation. His color, geometry and contemporary ideal are his personal interpretation of what he has learned from his family. Gutierrez’s traditional art is based on the pottery traditions of his father and godfather.

North Carolina ceramicist Luis Gutierrez was awarded Best in Show in Ceramics. (Photo courtesy of Luis Gutierrez)
North Carolina ceramicist Luis Gutierrez was awarded Best in Show in Ceramics. (Photo courtesy of Luis Gutierrez)

His personal advancements are based on geometric designs and use of color. Although Gutierrez considers himself a contemporary artist, he continues to use traditional techniques in his work. His crafts evoke pre-Columbian iconography.

Yan Inlow — Fiber

Yan Inlow has been doing embroidery since she was 10. Her mother needed help with her own embroidery so she taught Inlow. 

She began to learn how to draw while doing embroidery. Soon, she was eager to learn art. Inlow went to the University of Art in China after high school to learn textile design, and later went to Kobe University to study Japanese Art. 

Her images are created using very fine silk thread and bring a sense of Japanese style blended with a Chinese embroidery technique.

Jenny Carratini-Wright and Fiber Artist Yan Inlow in her booth at The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival. (Photo by Laura Landsbaum)
Jenny Carattini-Wright and Fiber Artist Yan Inlow in her booth at The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival. (Photo by Laura Landsbaum)


First, Inlow paints an image on silk backing, then accents the painting with silk embroidery over the image. The embroidery is very detailed and of high quality using very fine silk thread. 

Richard Bond — Glass

Canadian glass artist Richard Bond creates hand-crafted original work by cutting, sandblasting, carving, laminating and/or layering various pieces of multicolored and/or clear glass. The technique is unique — one that Bond developed himself. 

He’s inspired by nature, and is guided by the patterns of the glass itself. Bond graduated from the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, moved back to Ottawa and worked in a commercial stained glass studio, where he developed his new art technique. He set up his own studio in 1988 and has traveled to festivals across Canada and much of the Eastern United States.

Jenny Carratini-Wright and Richard Bond chat after he was awarded his medal and invitation to next year's The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival.
Jenny Carattini-Wright and Richard Bond chat after he was awarded his medal and invitation to next year’s The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival. (Photo by Laura Landsbaum)

His attendance at The Woodlands Waterway Art Festival came down to a happy accident.

“I was on the waitlist,” Bond says. “I really wanted to be in the show. It’s a beautiful setting. And chatter amongst the artists that it was a good show. It was lovely. And every time I wanted to be here, and we were going to be down here anyway.

“In fact, we had planned to be here even if I wasn’t in the show.”

Now, Bond is in the show for the next two years too.

Look for these artists at next year’s The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival, which is scheduled for April 11 through April 13, 2025.  New this year is the upcoming Texas Fine Craft Show, set for this November 1 through 3 at The Woodlands Resort. 

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