An artisans’ affair

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.


Pottery by Michael Gibbons.

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.”

Fiber wearables

Lisa DeMio of Hampstead

Bag by Lisa DeMoi.

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].”

Fine jewelry

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.”

Wood carvings

Laury Nichols from Chichester

Badger by Laury Nichols.

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.”

Wood sculptures

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

Featured photo: Wood Ffolkkes by Donna Zils Banfield. Courtesy photo.

This Week: Big Events, May 20, 2021, and beyond

Thursday, May 20

Get some music and some art during “Art After Work: Free Thursday Nights” at the Currier Museum of Art (150 Ash St. in Manchester, 669-6144, Admission is free from 5 to 8 p.m. (register for your spot online; the website recommends advance registration). Listen to Sold Under Sin, who will be performing tonight (next Thursday, it’s Alli Beaudry and Paul Nelson). Through June 10 you can also drop by the Open Studios to meet “Artist in the Community” Artist-in-Residence Omolará Williams McCallister.

Saturday, May 22

It’s a symphony of bird sounds in the forests these days. Get more information about local birds during a Saturday Birding with Dave Bechtel program from the NH Audubon (Bechtel is the NH Audubon president). The program is free and no registration is required for the hour-long walk starting today at 8 a.m. at the McLane Center (84 Silk Road in Concord), according to, where you can find details on this weekly event, which alternates between McLane and the Massabesic Center in Auburn.

Saturday, May 22

Buy some stuff! From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., head to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Manchester (669 Union St., for their spring plant sale featuring perennials, annuals, shrubs, houseplants, herbs and veggies, according to the website. (The sale will also run Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) From 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the Friends of the Nashua Public Library will hold a pop-up book sale outside in the Library Plaza (2 Court St. in Nashua; The outdoor sale will feature adult fiction and children and teens books, according to a press release, but Friends members (and you can buy or renew a membership on the day) can browse the selection of nonfiction adult books by going inside (sign up online for a time). From 1 to 3 p.m., the Bedford Garden Club will hold its annual May plant sale, featuring herbs, perennials and annuals, at the Bedford Village Common Bandstand (15 Bell Hill Road in Bedford; see

Sunday, May 23

Catch Stand By Me, the 1986 (R-rated) Rob Reiner-directed movie based on the Stephen King novella The Body, today at 3 p.m. during a special 35th anniversary screening at Cinemark Rockingham Park 12 (15 Mall Road in Salem; The film will also screen at the Lowell Showcase Cinemas at 3 p.m.

Save the Date!

Sunday, June 6

The Capitol Center for the Arts Music in the Park series kicks off Sunday, June 6, with Joe Sabourin performing at 3 p.m. in Fletcher-Murphy Park (28 Fayette St. in Concord). Tickets cost $12, plus a $3 fee (if you can’t make it in person, you can also get an $8 ticket to a livestream of the concert), according to the website. The June schedule also features Jason Spooner on June 13 and Ms. Yamica Peterson on June 20. See for tickets.

Featured photo: Stand By Me (R)

Blast from the past

Robinson decries white supremacy, pays homage to the ’80s in Exo-Hunter

Science fiction, sociopolitical satire and 1980s nostalgia are the basis for Seacoast author Jeremy Robinson’s newest novel Exo-Hunter,released last month.

Exo-Hunter follows a Black Marine known as Dark Horse in 1989 who, after a mission gone wrong, is launched with his team a millennium into the future. In the year 2989, humans have abandoned Earth and expanded colonization throughout the galaxy under the rule of a white supremacist government called The Union. Separated from his team and now the only Black man in The Union, Dark Horse takes control of a space vessel and sets out to find his teammates, disguised as an Exo-Hunter, a space explorer seeking new planets for the Union to colonize.

Robinson said he had been contemplating a “sarcastic, fun, ’80s sci-fi” while also reflecting on the racial tensions felt throughout the country over the last few years.

“I thought I’d kind of just mash all of that together,” he said. “White supremacy … is a serious topic, but I wanted to address it with a sense of humor, similar to how the movie Jojo Rabbit did with Nazi Germany — funny but also moving and revealing.”

The humor in Exo-Hunter comes mostly in the form of sarcasm, Robinson said, with some sci-fi- and ’80s-related jokes thrown in.

“I think sarcasm can be helpful for us now as we look back at 2020 and all the bad stuff,” he said. “It’s a good way to deal with it all.”

The book also provides a comic look at the absurdity of a society without diversity.

“I wanted to kind of poke fun at how weird and strange it would be and how dull life would be,” Robinson said. “I guess the main moral of the story is, a world with diversity is just a better world.”

Readers who lived through the ’80s will get a healthy dose of nostalgia with references to ’80s pop culture, particularly sci-fi movies and new wave music. Additionally, Robinson created a playlist of the referenced songs as a musical companion to the book (available on his website) with hits like “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics and “Heroes” by David Bowie.

“A lot of the story hinges on these songs because they’re applicable to what is happening and are just perfect for the situation,” Robinson said, adding that pausing to listen to the songs as they are mentioned in the book can create a more immersive experience for the reader.

A New York Times and No. 1 Audible bestselling author, Robinson has written and published more than 70 books in a number of genres, including science fiction, action adventure, fantasy, post-apocalyptic, thriller and horror, as well as several comic books. Prior to writing novels he did primarily screenwriting, and he continues to write with the ultimate goal of getting his stories made into movies and TV series, he said. A couple of his books are currently in the process of being adapted for the screen, and a TV series based on one of his books has been in development for the last five years. (He is not yet at liberty to say which books, he said.) As for Exo-Hunter, Robinson said, he is “absolutely” envisioning it as an action-packed movie for the big screen.

“It was written with that intention, as most of my novels are,” he said. “[The production] would be really big and cost a lot of money, so [the book] will have to sell really well first for Hollywood to take the risk, but we’ll see.”

Exo-Hunter by Jeremy Robinson
Exo-Hunter is available now on Amazon and Kindle and locally at Jetpack Comics in Rochester. The audiobook is set for release on Audible and iTunes in February. To learn more about the book, visit, and check out the companion playlist at


Call for Art
• 35TH ANNUAL OMER T. LASSONDE JURIED EXHIBITION The New Hampshire Art Association seeks submissions of artwork from NHAA members and non-members. The theme is “Beyond the Boundaries.” Submit up to three pieces. Open to all artistic media. Deadline is Fri., Feb. 5, by 5 p.m. Submission form available online. Call 431-4230 and visit

• “THE COLORS OF GREY” Theme art show presented by the Seacoast Artist Association. On display now through Jan. 30. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment. Visit or call 778-8856.
• “A NEW DAY” Exhibit features work by 35 new members of The New Hampshire Art Association. Viewable online, in the front windows at the NHAA’s Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery (136 State St., Portsmouth) and at the gallery in person by appointment. On display now through Jan. 31. A virtual opening reception will be held on Thurs., Jan. 7, at 6 p.m., on Zoom. Call 431-4230 and visit
• “BRAVE NEW WORLD: RESILIENCE IN THE TIME OF COVID” Outdoor public art display features paintings by 80 students from the Nashua School District that convey a message of hope and resilience amid the challenges of Covid-19. Amherst Elementary School (71 Amherst St., Nashua). On display now through Feb. 14. An opening reception at the exhibit location to celebrate the student and teacher artists will be held on Friday, Dec. 18, at 2 p.m. Visit
• “THE VIEW THROUGH MY EYES” The New Hampshire Art Association presents works by pastel artist Chris Reid. Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce Gallery, 49 S. Main St., Concord. On display now through March 18. Visit or call 431-4230.

• NASHUA PUBLIC ART AUDIO TOUR Self-guided audio tours of the sculptures and murals in downtown Nashua, offered via the Distrx app, which uses Bluetooth iBeacon technology to automatically display photos and text and provides audio descriptions at each stop on the tour as tourists approach the works of art. Each tour has 10 to 15 stops. Free and accessible on Android and iOS on demand. Available in English and Spanish. Visit


• WHERE DO I BEGIN? New Hampshire Theatre Project’s SoloStage program presents. Fri., Jan. 22, and Sat., Jan. 23, 8 p.m., and Sun., Jan. 24, 2 p.m. Performances held virtually and in-person at 959 Islington St., Portsmouth. In-person show tickets cost $30, and virtual show tickets cost $20. Call 431-6644 or visit

Art adapts

2020 became a year of unexpected innovation for arts organizations

In 2020, we saw art galleries and performance venues closed, shows and festivals canceled and classes and programs suspended. But in the face of the many challenges brought about by Covid-19, the New Hampshire arts community did what it does best: It got creative.

“Many New Hampshire arts organizations and artists are finding creative ways to engage the public during the pandemic, reimagining events and activities in both physical and virtual spaces,” said Ginnie Lupi, director of the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.

Performance venues erected new outdoor stages and spaces to welcome socially distanced audiences; theater companies, musicians and authors accommodated audiences at home through livestreamed and recorded shows and discussions, and educators in the arts carried on with classes and lessons remotely.

Now, as a Covid vaccine brings hope that a return to normalcy is on the horizon, artists and arts organizations are reasoning that the solutions they improvised to get through the pandemic may still have merit in a post-pandemic world.

“We expect many of these changes to become permanent,” Lupi said. “Many organizations are finding that online performances and activities are reaching more diverse and distant audiences.”

Living room theater

The Majestic Theatre in Manchester is one of many local theater companies that installed new video equipment to offer virtual performances.

“The virtual component has been a valuable tool to share our performances with those who are homebound,” artist director and CEO Rob Dionne said. “Now, a virtual component will be a part of most of our shows moving forward.”

Genevieve Aichele, executive director of New Hampshire Theatre Project in Portsmouth, said that purchasing new video, audio and computer equipment and hiring a part-time associate producer for media was an advantageous use of the CARES relief funds it received.

“The board and staff of NHTP views this as an investment for the future,” she said. “NHTP will be continuing to offer programs online for the foreseeable future.”

Though New Hampshire Theatre Project is presenting in-person performances again, it and many other theater companies that are able to do so are now using both formats, giving audiences the flexibility to experience theater in a way that meets their needs and comfort level. Aichele said the virtual option remains the most popular, noting that New Hampshire Theatre Project’s November production of The Adventures of Sleepyhead brought in 36 tickets for the in-person show and 245 tickets for the virtual one.

Matt Cahoon, artistic director of Theatre Kapow in Manchester, said the company’s “significant [investment in] time, energy and money” to offer virtual performances will “define this company for the next decade.”

“I would hate to see us just leave that behind,” he said. “I imagine that some of the technology will come back with us, and that we will find ways to meld together the live and virtual experiences.”

Unexpectedly, Cahoon said, the virtual format has given Theater Kapow the opportunity to enhance the theater experience for audiences by incorporating storytelling elements that aren’t feasible on a live stage. For example, the use of cameras allows him to draw the audience’s attention to small details that they might miss in person.

“The audience’s perspective of the actors was closer than ever,” he said. “It seems impossible to me to go back to a time where we say to audiences, ‘OK, you sit over there in the dark and we will be up here with the lights on us.’”

Art on screen

The visual arts have also found a new place in the virtual realm, with many arts organizations and art galleries shifting to an online format.

Lauren Boss, co-president of the Nashua Area Artists’ Association, said the Association moved its operations online when the months-long closure of its brick-and-mortar art gallery, ArtHub, limited members’ opportunities to sell their art.

“The pandemic forced us to figure out how to make e-commerce work for us,” she said. “This is something that will definitely remain after the masks are gone.”

The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen made a successful transition online after Covid made it impossible for the League to host its annual Craftsmen’s Fair in-person. The nine-day arts and crafts fair held in August at Mount Sunapee Resort typically draws 20,000 paying attendees, provides 80 percent of the League’s yearly operating income and is the largest opportunity for more than 300 local and regional artisans to sell their work; canceling the event altogether, League executive director Miriam Carter said, was simply not an option.

The League held the fair virtually on its website by providing links to the artisans’ online shops as well as a virtual exhibition tour and exclusive video content including craft demonstrations, musical performances and guided try-at-home craft projects for all ages.

While the virtual fair was a success in that artisans were still able to sell their work, it also had some silver linings that extended far beyond the fair itself, Carter said.

“[It] inspired 80 of our craftsmen to create websites or online sales capability for the first time,” she said. “This is a significant and welcome culture shift in a membership that is generally slow to adopt technological innovation … [and gives] craftsmen online tools they need to sustain their business through the Covid era and beyond.”

Carter said the League plans to make virtual elements a permanent feature of the Craftsmen’s Fair moving forward.

Learning from home

During the pandemic, many local arts organizations started offering classes, lessons and educational programs remotely, with students and educators meeting over video conferencing apps like Zoom, and some plan to continue offering remote education as an option indefinitely.

New Hampshire Writers’ Project hosted its annual 603: Writers’ Conference, normally held in Manchester in the spring, remotely in October. The reimagined 603: Writers’ “Sit and Click” Virtual Conference featured most of the same activities as the in-person conference, including panels, classes and a keynote speaker, accessible live on Zoom and through recordings that were available to participants for 90 days following the conference.

“We also have become more creative with our programming,” New Hampshire Writers’ Project board chair Masheri Chappelle said.

Many of New Hampshire Writers’ Project’s regular programs are now offered virtually, which has increased membership and participation, including writers from as far as Utah and Australia.

Peggy Senter, president of Concord Community Music School, said there has always been a number of students who travel from out of state to participate in the school’s programs as well as students who discontinue their education after moving farther from the school. Remote classes and lessons have eliminated that barrier, she said, and have proven to be “a wonderful opportunity for people who live far away and otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate.”

“Going forward, we will most likely offer remote learning to those who would be unable to participate due to distance, illness or adverse weather,” she said.

Additionally, virtual student recitals have given students a chance to share their musical abilities with people who would not be able to attend the recital in person.

CCMS has produced 11 student recitals on YouTube since March, Senter said, the most recent of which featured 40 students.

“Going forward, we will look forward to in-person recitals again, but also having a recorded version is allowing friends and family to access these performances from around the country and the world,” she said.

Supporting the arts

Lupi said that while the creativity exhibited by the New Hampshire arts community to keep the arts alive has been “encouraging” and “speaks to the value of the arts,” local arts organizations aren’t out of the woods yet.

“The pandemic will definitely have an ongoing, long-term impact on New Hampshire’s arts sector,” she said. “Some organizations and businesses may not survive, and those that do will have a long financial and programmatic recovery. … More aid to the sector will definitely be necessary for 2021 and beyond.”

Featured photo: Peter Josephson in Theater Kapow’s virtual production of A Tempest Prayer in November 2020. Photo by Matthew Lomanno.

Will paint for smiles

Nashua students create uplifting art for the community

Nashua high school students are using art to spread messages of hope and positivity amid the pandemic.

A new public art exhibition, “Brave New World: Resilience in the Time of Covid,” features paintings by about 80 student artists and is attached to the chain link fence at Amherst Street Elementary School. It will remain up through Feb. 14.

“Brave New World” is a collaboration between three Nashua public high schools, organized by art teachers Stephanie Sewhuk-Thomas of Brentwood Academy, Robin Peringer of Nashua High School South and Rodney Coffin of Nashua High School North.

The students started on the project in the fall in various art classes and programs that were utilizing “Choose Love,” a social-emotional curriculum developed by Scarlett Lewis, whose son was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The curriculum teaches strategies for turning negative thoughts into positive ones through courage, gratitude, forgiveness and compassion.

“The lessons talk about how, for the average person, 60 to 80 percent of the singular thoughts they have in a day are negative, and because most of our thoughts are repetitive, there’s a lot of power in changing even one negative thought to a positive thought,” Sewhuk-Thomas said. “We really zeroed in on that.”

With “Choose Love” as the basis for the project, the students also learned about the history and style of street art and techniques for using color, design and typography to create impactful images with a message.

Then, the students and teachers worked together to compile a list of short uplifting phrases to incorporate into their artwork, either literally with text or symbolically with imagery. “You are loved,” “Apart, but still together,” “Be someone’s reason to smile,” “Only good vibes” and “Be the best version of yourself” are some of the phrases they came up with, Sewhuk-Thomas said.

“The objective was simply to give someone passing by a positive thought for their day,” she said.

“I think the installation will be a lovely addition to Nashua, as a reminder that togetherness and a sense of community is possible even in separation and isolation,” added student artist Sarah Hinds, a senior at Nashua High School South.

Sewhuk-Thomas said the project has been just as uplifting for the students themselves.

“It’s been really important for them to be able to do something to make a positive difference, especially on a community level like this, at a time when their contact with other people is so limited,” she said.

“[It’s] been a wonderful opportunity for young artists … to really showcase their talents while spreading positivity in a time where most people could really use a reminder that things will be OK,” added student artist Ben Almeida, a senior at Nashua High School North.

“Brave New World” is dedicated to the memory of Tyler Almeida, a senior at Nashua High School North and student artist for the exhibit who died in November.

“Brave New World: Resilience in the Time of Covid”
: Chain link fence outside Amherst Street Elementary School, 71 Amherst St., Nashua
When: Now through Feb. 14
More info:

Artists & their “Brave New World” creations

Mariah Rodriguez Costa, junior at Nashua High School South
“I wanted my artwork to be simple, bold and easy to understand. I wrote ‘Save Our Planet’ on a plain black background to really highlight the words. The most important, and personally my favorite, part of the piece was my handprint overlapping the Earth. I thought that this tied the piece together and it shows that we have to do whatever we can to save our home. During these hard times, it is crucial that we take care of ourselves, our loved ones, and our planet. … I want people to look at my art and want to make a change to how they treat our planet, whether it be recycling, going zero waste or even picking up trash on the ground. … I truly believe that we can save our planet and provide a better future for the next generation.”

Andre Dabney, freshman at Brentwood Academy High School
“I used the classic smiley face emoji as my inspiration [and] as the focal point of [the] piece and decided to add rays coming from the sun. I used a cloudy sky as the backdrop and wanted to make it [so] that the sun was clearing away the clouds. I added goggles to show that he was having fun and his tongue sticking out to represent that he was silly. … In the times that we are all facing in today’s world, it’s important that we all keep each other smiling and laughing together through this pandemic.”

Ben Almeida, senior at Nashua High School North
“My piece features my demon character Smudge next to the words ‘You Are Loved’ in big rainbow letters. My inspiration was from some of my personal struggles with feeling loved. I find that on my darkest days some of the simplest things can really make me feel better, and being reminded that you are loved … can lift one’s mood. [Smudge] is a symbol of positivity for me. … I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they find him to be very cute so I thought he would be a pleasant addition to my positive message. When people see my piece I want them to smile … [and know] that no matter how dark things may be in their life currently there is someone out there rooting for them now and always.”

Sarah Hinds, senior at Nashua High School South
“My inspiration for the piece was my reconnection with nature during the Covid-19 pandemic. I have been so focused on school and work before quarantine, but as soon as I was forced to isolate myself, I felt an urge to go out and rediscover nature. I started hiking and just tried to spend more time outside, and my increased immersion in nature allowed me to finally feel at peace again. … The hand extending from the [top] right corner was inspired by ‘The Creation of Adam’ by Michelangelo, but instead of the arm of God extending from the opposite corner, I included a bunch of wildflowers. This was meant to represent Mother Nature, and to encourage the audience themselves to reconnect with nature and immerse themselves in it as I had done.”

Featured photo: Mariah Rodriguez Costa, junior at Nashua High School South

Definitely try this at home


Between Covid, snowstorms and shorter days, we’ll all likely be spending a lot of time at home over the next several months. Here are seven ideas for projects, from the giftable truffles to the ongoing satisfaction of indoor greenery, that can add some fun to your winter.

Build a Rube Goldberg machine

Kids, adults and families can stimulate their creativity and STEM skills this winter by building a Rube Goldberg machine, a contraption made from household items that uses a series of interconnected steps to perform a simple task.

Zach Umperovitch of Bedford is a contracted Rube Goldberg machine builder for Rube Goldberg Inc. and Synn Labs and a two-time Guinness World Record-setter for the longest Rube Goldberg Machine. He said that, traditionally, the machine’s final task is something mundane, and the fun lies in the irony of making the process “incredibly complicated.”

“Say you want to water a plant,” he said. “You might blow up a balloon, and that balloon hits a seesaw, which causes a [toy] car to roll down and trigger something else, and all those steps link together in order to water the plant.”

Once you’ve decided what your machine’s final task will be, start looking around for materials and thinking about how they could work together.

“Rube Goldberg is all about repurposing everyday objects and using them in a new, creative way,” Umperovitch said. “You’re using resources in your own home, so you don’t even need to leave the house.”

Dominoes or objects that could act as dominoes, such as books or DVD cases, and objects that roll, like balls or marbles, are good ones to start with, he said. Kitchen utensils work well as catapults.

Six to 10 steps is appropriate for a beginner, Umperovitch said, and it’s easiest to start with the last step — the one that will directly trigger your goal task — and work backward.

You may prefer to plan out all of the steps before you start building, or you may prefer to start building and let inspiration come to you along the way; both styles are valid, Umperovitch said, but if you’re a pre-planner, you’ll need to be flexible.

“When I try to build a fully designed machine, I would say between 70 and 90 percent of it gets changed from the initial design to the final product, and this is my profession,” he said.

Finally, while not as exciting as building, testing your machine is one of the most important parts of the process and will probably be the most time-consuming. That said, Umperovitch said, make sure the steps in your machine are made with stable or infinite resources and are relatively easy to reset.

“I have a rule: 50 out of 50 [successful attempts],” he said. “You want to be able to test every step, individually, over and over, because if one step fails one time, what’s to say it won’t happen again when you’re trying to run the entire machine?”

Set up an at-home obstacle course

Start your ninja training this winter by building your own obstacle course using the layout of your home and common household items.

Tabitha Stevens, youth coach and lesson planner for Ninja Fit Club, an obstacle-based fitness center in Londonderry, shared some ideas to get you started. The exercises themselves are mostly aimed at kids, she said, but engineering the course can be a fun creative project for parents or for parents and kids to do together.

“You can turn it into a family activity,” Stevens said. “It’s something to get everybody moving.”

A good obstacle to start with is one for balance, she said. Lay a trail of spaced-out cans, buckets (flipped over), sturdy boxes or heavy books on the ground for the kids to walk across. You can up the challenge with the same idea using softer objects like pillows or couch cushions and having the kids jump across.

“It’s basically the ‘the floor is lava’ game,” Stevens said. “You have to use balance not to touch the floor.”

Space the soft objects out further to make it a jumping obstacle; have the kids jump from one object to another, increasing the distance a little more each time.

If you don’t want the kids elevated off the ground, there is a simple way to modify these balance and jumping obstacles.

“You can use the objects just as markers and have the kids jump to them while staying flat on the floor, or you can stick colored tape on the floor to mark the distances,” Stevens said.

For a jumping obstacle focused more on height than distance, hang an object from the ceiling — Stevens suggests a balloon — and have the kids jump up and try to touch it.

“You can hang several balloons in a row at various heights and have the kids jump, tap, and move on to the next one as quickly as they can,” she said.

Regular chairs from your kitchen or dining room table can be used for all kinds of obstacles. You can line them up like “little hurdles,” but for climbing over, not jumping over, so that it’s safer, Stevens said. The kids can also do an army crawl and weave around the chairs or, if there’s enough space, they can crawl under the chairs.

Finally, no obstacle course is complete without somersaults.

“Forward rolls, backward rolls — those are always great to add into the course,” Stevens said.

Grow an indoor succulent garden

If you want to have some fun with indoor gardening this winter, Alyssa Van Guilder, owner of Apotheca Flowers in Goffstown, said succulents are the way to go.

“They’re clean, they’re modern, there are so many different styles to choose from, and the overall care [requirement] is much lower than [it is for] other house plants,” Van Guilder said. “I think that’s why people are really drawn to them.”

Before you start designing the succulent garden of your dreams, there are a few things you should know about caring for them, Van Guilder said.

When planting your succulents, start with a layer of rocks to help with water drainage, followed by a layer of gardening charcoal to help control bacteria and excess moisture. Then, place the succulents in a succulent-specific soil.

They do need sun, which can be difficult in the winter when the days are shorter, so just be sure to put them by your sunniest window. If that doesn’t seem to be enough, consider supplementing with a fluorescent plant light.

There is no objective rule about how long you should wait between watering; the key, rather, is to allow the plants to dry out completely, then water them thoroughly, and repeat, so how often you need to water them will depend mostly on the size of the container and amount of soil you use.

There are more than 100 kinds of succulents, Van Guilder said, including ones in various shades of green, purple and mauve tones and some with white spotted or striped patterns. She suggests putting three to five plants in a cluster, depending on the size of the container.

“It’s hard to pair succulents that don’t look good together,” she said. “I think it’s nice to design a medley and have different colors, shapes and textures play off of each other.”

Succulents will grow in almost anything, so “if you really want to go crazy with containers, you can,” Van Guilder said.

“We all have things laying around that we could turn into some really interesting plant containers,” she said.

Van Guilder said her favorite containers are terrariums — clear glass globes — because the layers are visible, giving you another design element to play with.

You still need to have the rocks-charcoal-soil foundation, but you can layer on top of that with decorative sand, rock, moss, wood and shells (being careful not to layer too thickly or too tightly so that the soil can still air out).

“You can put all kinds of embellishments or found objects on top,” Van Guilder said. “Plastic animals are a fun one, so that it looks like a little habitat.”

Make truffles

Before you begin this recipe, you need to know that making truffles can be messy and time-consuming — but the end result is a delicious and decadent truffle that’s well worth the trouble. Even for those of you who wouldn’t normally head to the kitchen when you’re bored, I want to highlight one important thing: When you are done with this recipe, you will have twenty-four rich and delicious chocolate truffles.

From start to finish, it is about 2½ hours of mainly active time — the perfect amount of time to fill a cozy afternoon at home. Once they are done, you have a delicious treat to enjoy while you watch a movie or read a book. Despite being a bit time-consuming, this recipe really is pretty simple. As long as you can stir melted chocolate and form it into a ball, you have all the skills you need.
Michele Pesula Kuegler

Triple Chocolate Truffles
Makes 24
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chopped
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chopped
1/2 cup chocolate sprinkles

Combine the cream, corn syrup and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil.
Remove from heat.
Add 8 ounces of chocolate; gently swirl the pan.
Allow to sit for 5 minutes off heat.
Whisk to combine.
Transfer to a small mixing bowl, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Stir mixture, return to refrigerator for two more 15-minute periods, stirring after each for a total of 45 minutes.
At this point the mixture will begin to harden more quickly, so the mixture should be stirred every 5 minutes.
When mixture is thicker but not hard, remove from refrigerator.*
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Using a teaspoon, scrape a small amount of mixture from the bowl.
Using hands, roll into a ball approximately 1 inch in diameter; place on parchment paper.
Repeat until all mixture is used.
Place baking sheet in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Place remaining 4 ounces of chocolate in a small bowl and microwave in 30-second increments, stirring after each, until melted.
Pour sprinkles into a separate small bowl.
After 15 minutes, remove baking sheet from refrigerator. Place an individual ball in melted chocolate and roll until fully coated.
Using a fork, transfer the ball to the sprinkles bowl.
With a clean hand or fork, roll the ball in sprinkles; return to baking sheet.
Repeat with remaining balls, and refrigerate for 10 minutes to set.

*I found that my chocolate mixture reached the thick but not firm stage after 10 minutes, for a total of 55 minutes in the refrigerator.

Do a jigsaw puzzle

Doing a jigsaw puzzle can be a great way to unwind and unplug this winter, said Laura Keith, general manager of Diversions Puzzles & Games in Portsmouth.

“​It’s such a nice break from screens,” she said. “It’s tactile, it’s relaxing, and you feel a sense of accomplishment. Putting the pieces into place is so satisfying.”

Most puzzles have between 300 and 3,000 pieces, with 1,000 pieces being the most popular, Keith said, but there are some puzzles that have up to 40,000 pieces.

The difficulty depends not only on the number of pieces but also on the shapes of the pieces and the image.

“We find that collages are usually easier, while landscapes with large sections of similar colors are much harder,” Keith said.

You can find a puzzle with an image of “almost anything you can think of,” Keith said, including cartoons, pop culture subjects, landscapes, plants, animals, fantasy themes and more.

“I’ve recently done a Pokemon puzzle followed by a tranquil mountain scene followed by a fun veggie collage I’m going to hang in my kitchen,” she said.

Keith recommends that first-time puzzlers choose a puzzle with 500 pieces if they’re going solo and 1,000 pieces if they have a partner. An image with a lot of variation in colors and patterns will be easier than an image with big blocks of the same color, like a landscape with a large blue sky.

There is no right or wrong method to do a jigsaw puzzle; it’s a matter of personal preference, Keith said, but starting with the edges is a good way to start. Then, try putting together pieces with distinct colors and patterns that only appear in one localized area of the image.

“Keep doing that over and over [and] whittle down the pieces available until it’s just the hardest pieces left,” she said. “By then, there are fewer options, so it’s a little easier to find where [the pieces] go.”

Create a cozy outdoor space

Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you can’t relax outdoors this winter. Keith MacKay and Jody Ferreira are the owners of Snug Life, a private campsite in Wilton that’s heated and equipped for winter camping. They shared some ideas over email about how to create your own cozy outdoor space.

First, consider how you’re going to warm up. A natural fire is ideal, MacKay and Ferreira said.

“Even pulling out a small charcoal grill and getting some coals going adds a cozy feel, a little radiant warmth, and beauty,” they said. “It also provides an opportunity for comfort food [like] hot dogs, a kettle of water for cocoa, s’mores or plain old marshmallows.”

If a fire source isn’t feasible, there are other ways to keep warm.

Seating, for example, can make all the difference, MacKay and Ferreira said. Use seating that gets you above the ground or puts a physical barrier between you and the ground. If you really want to lounge you can even use an air mattress or sleeping pad.

“The thermal mass of the planet is huge relative to the thermal mass of a person,” they said. “As a result, the earth will draw the heat right out of you if you’re laying on it.”

Wearing a heavy winter coat will keep you warm but not necessarily comfortable, so be sure to wear comfy clothes under your outdoor gear.

“Your most snuggly sweater, your warmest and softest fleece or your favorite plush sweatpants … can give the tactile triggers for coziness,” MacKay and Ferreira said, adding that a blanket or two can also contribute to that “cozy feeling” while providing additional warmth.

A thermos of cocoa, coffee or even a hot alcoholic drink can provide an element of comfort, too, they said.

Atmosphere can be just as important for creating a cozy space as physical warmth, MacKay and Ferreira said.

Candles or incense sticks can add a bit of “campfire ambiance” if you can’t have a full-scale fire, they said, and there’s “nothing more magical” than warm-toned LED string lights (you can get battery-powered ones).

“Aside from helping to define something that feels more indoors (and psychologically warmer), [they’re a bit fancy], which adds to the cozy feel,” they said.

Bringing some nature into the picture by hanging up bird feeders or throwing some seeds for birds and other nearby critters is a nice touch and provides some entertainment, MacKay and Ferreira said.

Finally, think about what kind of soundscape, if any, would help foster the atmosphere you’re going for.

“It’s a matter of individual taste, of course, but music can provide immediate mood alteration,” MacKay and Ferreira said. “Choosing your favorite chill playlist can set the right comfy tone.”

Declutter your digital life

If it’s been on your to-do list for a while, this winter may be the perfect time to finally sort through all the photos and videos taking up storage on your devices.

“We’re all taking more photos than we ever have before because we always have a camera in our hands. We can easily take 1,000 photos in one week,” said Angelina McGlashan, certified photo manager and owner of Preserving Memories, a photo management service based in Windham. “The goal is to get to a point where you aren’t so overwhelmed, so you’re able to actually enjoy your photos and find the photos you’re looking for when you need them.”

Your first order of business, McGlashan said, should be to back up your photos. She recommends the 3-2-1 backup rule: three copies of your media, two of which are on two different devices (a computer and an external hard drive are preferable) and one in a reputable cloud storage.

“Getting those photos off your phone is the most important thing you can do,” she said. “A phone can easily be lost, stolen or broken, and then all those photos are gone.”

Next, pick one device to serve as a “digital hub” where you can do all of your organizing, McGlashan said. Start by deleting screenshots, duplicates and photos that are blurry or unusable. The photos that remain will fall into three categories: the “best of the best” album-worthy photos, photos that aren’t aesthetically perfect but serve as reminders of a time or place that’s important to you, and photos that have no personal significance, like a random sunset or flower you saw. The latter you should delete, McGlashan said.

“If they don’t tell a story or mean something to you, or you can’t even remember where or why you took it, you’re never going to use it,” she said.

Once you’ve got your collection culled down, you can sort your photos into different folders. How you sort them is a matter of personal preference.

“Everybody’s different,” McGlashan said. “I tell people to think about how they would put things in a filing cabinet at home. Do they like to have things alphabetical? By year? By [subject]?”

Once you’re totally done backing up and organizing your media, build a habit of maintaining going forward so that it doesn’t get out of control again.

“Set aside 15 minutes one day a week to go through and delete photos off your phone … and back up your photos monthly,” McGlashan said.

New Hampshire puzzle makers
Ravensburger, leading European jigsaw puzzle publisher based in Germany, with its warehouse for its North American division located right here in New Hampshire, at One Puzzle Lane in Newton. It offers a wide variety of jigsaw puzzles for kids and adults through its online shop, ranging from puzzles with under 100 pieces to puzzles with more than 40,000 pieces. Call 257-1500 or visit
Piece Time Puzzles (746 1st NH Turnpike, Northwood, a puzzle store specializing in custom and made-to-order photo puzzles.
Fool’s Gold (based in Harrisville, 827-9825, creates handmade wooden jigsaw puzzles without pictures to assist the puzzler, making the image of the finished puzzle a surprise.
Platinum Puzzles (9 Stark Hill Road, Canaan, 632 1105, creates custom, handmade wooden jigsaw puzzles.

Featured photo: Set up an at-home obstacle course to help kids stay active. Courtesy photo.

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