League of New Hampshire Craftsmen celebrates return of its annual fair
After a year without an in-person fair, artisans from the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen overwhelmingly agree about one thing: They can’t wait to see the crowds and their fellow artisans at this year’s annual fair at Mount Sunapee Resort.
“The craftspeople are as excited to be back at the mountain as you can possibly imagine,” said Laury Nichols, a woodcarver from Chichester.
Lisa DeMio of Hampstead, who makes fiber wearables, echoed that sentiment.
“The artists are super excited to be back there,” she said. “It’s one of those places where I feel very at home. … This particular show has so many amazing artists. I’m looking forward to being able to see and touch and feel everything and connect with friends.”
The 88th Annual Craftsmen’s Fair is happening Saturday, Aug. 7, through Sunday, Aug. 15, and is one of the few arts events of its scope and size this year, according to Miriam Carter, executive director of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen.
“We’re in New Hampshire and we’ve gotten through Covid in a way that a lot of states haven’t,” Carter said. “I’m expecting a great response from the public.”
The fair will look a little different, with booths spaced farther apart and fewer artisans, and visitors are encouraged to buy their tickets online to get through the gate quickly. But beyond that, the fair should be everything it has been in past years — and then some.
“[The artisans have] had a year off to create work, so I’m really excited to see what they’ve done in that time,” Carter said.
She said she’s already seen some of the work that will be in the Art, Craft & Design Exhibition — a gallery that’s set up in the middle of the fair — and it’s some of the best she’s seen.
“I think they took advantage of their time off the road to … be creative and innovative,” Carter said.
There will be demonstrations this year, Carter said, following Covid precautions. Instead of the more intimate clay turning booth, for example, they will have precreated clay tiles, which people can use to create a textured piece that they can bring home and paint. Many of the demonstrations and hands-on activities are free, Carter said.
There’s also the Art, Craft & Design Exhibition and the Sculpture Garden, plus new food offerings, and, for the first time, alcohol will be available for purchase on the fairgrounds. The Adventure Park at Mount Sunapee Resort will be open, and the lift will be running for people who might want to ride up and hike down. But that’s all gravy.
“The best part of the fair is you get to meet the artists and you get to see what they’ve been up to,” Carter said.
Meet five of those artists, who talked about their work, what’s new this year and why they can’t wait for the fair.
Michael Gibbons of Derry
What he makes: Functional stoneware for everyday use, like coffee mugs, bowls and teapots. “I’ve been making pottery since about 1980 and I love doing it,” Gibbons said. “I love the fact that it starts off as almost nothing and transforms into something nice and functional.” Gibbons’ work focuses on nature, with mountains adorning many pieces and a line of products made with white clay that look like birch bark.
What’s new this year: With a year off from fairs, Gibbons said he focused on producing, and he developed some new glazes. “My color palette is much broader than it was two years ago,” he said. “I have a red raspberry glaze, and I have a green glaze that I introduced. … I came up with a different glaze for my birch [products] too — less shine and more matte.”
Why he can’t wait for the fair: “It’s the highlight of my year just being around so many talented, great people,” he said. “I’m also excited to see how well-received the new colors are.”
Lisa DeMio of Hampstead
What she makes: Accessories, predominantly for women, like handbags, totes and cosmetic bags. They feature hand-printed linen, leather, cotton and waxed canvas. DeMio started sewing years ago, and as her four children got older, she became interested in fabrics and textiles. She found a handbag pattern and made one for herself, then was promptly asked by one friend after another to make bags for them. “It’s one of those things that everybody needs,” she said. “Everybody needs to [carry stuff], and you might as well look good doing it.”
What’s new this year: “I have some new hand-printed fabrics that I’m really excited about,” DeMio said. She said one of the artists that she admires has started to make hand-printed fabrics again, so she’s been able to create some of her products using those. “I have a very limited number of those bags,” she said.
Why she can’t wait for the fair: “Just seeing people again — this is the first live event I’ll have done since February of 2020,” she said. “It’s one of those places where I feel very at home — with my products in my booth and [on the fairgrounds].”
Kristin Kennedy of Concord
What she makes: One-of-a-kind jewelry pieces made with precious metals and gemstones. Her inspiration is based on nature and her outdoor experiences, like hiking the mountains and swimming in the ocean.
What’s new this year: Kennedy has a few new collections, including the Everlasting collection that features pieces with rose-cut emeralds and London Blue topaz, and a Nuevo Deco collection that features pieces with rose-cut aquamarines, step-cut chocolate diamonds and champagne diamonds.
Why she can’t wait for the fair: “I’m definitely looking forward to seeing lots of familiar faces, being able to celebrate being together, enjoying art together,” she said. “Most of my customers I’ve had for 20 years, so it’s fun to see them.” Kennedy said she typically checks out the fair herself on the last day. “It’s fun to get to know the artists and handpick some of their special designs,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to support local artists and appreciate some of the finer things.” This is Kennedy’s 20th year at the Craftsmen’s Fair, and she said it’s the only one she participates in. “I think it’s one of the most highly acclaimed art shows in the country.”
Laury Nichols from Chichester
What she makes: Whimsical woodland animal characters and custom woodcarving projects. The carvings are mainly characters she designs herself, and she has a few characters from children’s books like The Wind in the Willows and Beatrix Potter’s tales. With the carvings just inches tall, Nichols said she’ll be bringing about 500 of them to the fair.
What’s new this year: Nichols said she always has new carvings, and this year her booth itself is brand new. She took an online wooden puppet making class during the pandemic, so she’ll have a few puppets and will be taking orders for them. She has also created cards with pictures of her woodcarvings, but since she’s juried as a woodcarver, she’s not allowed to sell anything but woodcarvings. So instead, she’s giving away a free pack of “Celebrate” cards to anyone who asks.
Why she can’t wait for the fair: “I’m so excited to see everyone again, and I know the public is excited to be back to the fair,” Nichols said. “I [especially] love it when children come into my booth. They are so great. … I make free stuff for kids — I was an art kind of kid, and talking to real artists was very inspirational and influential.”
Donna Zils Banfield of Derry
What she makes: Sculptural art made out of wood. “Most of my work will appeal to about 10 percent of the people who will be at the fair,” Zils Banfield said. “It’s sculptural art — it’s not utilitarian, it’s not functional.” One example is her Wood Ffolkkes, a community of sculptural wood people that come in various shapes and sizes, with different moods, personalities, wardrobes, loves and hates, but all created from the same core. “At our basic core, we’re all the same,” she said. Zils Banfield started participating in the Craftsmen’s Fair in 2012 as a bowl turner. “I’ve slowly moved into the more nonfunctional artwork,” she said. “I knew early on that I had to be more than a bowl turner.” Zils Banfield said this kind of work is much more intricate, taking days, weeks or months to complete one piece, so she usually has several pieces going at a time. “Nothing is done quickly, which is unusual for the wood turning world,” she said.
What’s new this year: “I have a new sculptural piece that is going to be titled ‘Cityscapes,’” she said. It features 3D images carved into the wood with small particles of 24k gold leaves and silver leaves for the skyscrapers and the stars.
Why she can’t wait for the fair: “Seeing the people that I miss, both my fellow peers and the people who come to the fair to see me and to see my work,” Zils Banfield said. She said she loves showing her new pieces to past customers. “Every year I have at least one new idea that appears in my booth.”
More than a craft fair
Woodcarver Laury Nichols shared her recommendation for how to approach the fair.
“If you go to the fair only to buy stuff … you miss a huge amount. If you look for only acquisition you will miss the staggering artwork and craftwork. If you go with the mindset to just marvel … it is just amazing. … If you buy something and you’ve talked to the person who made it … there’s something about knowing that it’s handmade and knowing the face of the person who made it and having the conversation with that person.”
The 88th Annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair
Where: Mount Sunapee Resort, 1398 Route 103, Newbury
When: Saturday, Aug. 7, through Sunday, Aug. 15, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, rain or shine
Cost: General admission for one day is $16 for adults, or $24 for two days. Seniors are $14, and children under 12 get in free. Online ticket sales prior to the event are encouraged at nhcrafts.org.
Featured photo: Wood Ffolkkes by Donna Zils Banfield. Courtesy photo.