Earl, the hurricane that fizzled, didn’t stop the 15th annual M.V. Artisans Festival last weekend at the West Tisbury fairgrounds. Some 85 vendors spread out their wares, down from a pre-recession peak of 120, but a healthy number, and according to veteran exhibitor, artist Dan Waters, a great crowd turned out .
“It started with a bang,” Mr. Waters said. “Once people found out the hurricane was over, they burst out of the house full of energy.”
The former West Tisbury poet laureate said he saw people he never sees any other time of the year. “It was a victory party,” he said. “We’re a scrappy bunch of people.”
“We’re used to it; we’re New Englanders,” added Festival organizer Andrea Rogers.
Friday night, traditionally when the Festival opens, was canceled, and vendors who planned to exhibit their work scrambled to get their wares to the exhibition hall on Thursday. It can take exhibitors hours to set up their booths. Vendors who planned to exhibit their work outdoors came in early Saturday morning instead, before the 10 am opening.
Potter Frank Creney of Edgartown referred to Saturday as “wild and wooly, really windy.” He didn’t bring his potter’s wheel and spent time worrying that his tent might turn into a kite, but the exhibition hall was full of buyers and sellers. The weather was perfect on Sunday.
New or returning this year were two furniture makers. Outdoor furniture made of recycled wood is Oak Bluffs’ Kyle Carson’s specialty, while Richard Dunbrack of Vineyard Haven makes indoor furniture out of reclaimed wood with unusual brackets and found objects.
Jo Maxwell of Oak Bluffs exhibited her antique chenille bathrobes, pillows, and quilts for the first time this year. Ms. Maxwell is also the owner of Chesca’s Restaurant in Edgartown.
In addition to selling his signature fine art block prints and book art, Mr. Waters sponsored first-time exhibitor James Streicher Evans. “It’s so nice to see an Island kid go off to art school, come back to the Vineyard and sell their artwork here,” said Ms. Rogers. “That’s what the Vineyard Artisans Festival was created for.” Mr. Evans sold 10 oil paintings at the Labor Day event and earlier Artisan events over the summer, according to Mr. Waters. He added that people bought what they could afford and were happy to learn it wasn’t a bad summer after all.
“The economy has hit everyone in every single way,” said Ms. Rogers of Oak Bluffs. “But we’re surviving.”
In its effort to promote Island artists and artisans, the Artisan Festival uses its proceeds to underwrite scholarships for students graduating from M.V. Regional High School, in conjunction with the Vineyard Craftsmen Scholarship Fund. The Artisans Festival will continue on Sundays in September at the West Tisbury Grange Hall.