At the Martha's Vineyard Artisans Festival
Photo by Lynn Christoffers
Visit the Grange Hall in West Tisbury on a Thursday or Sunday during the Artisans Festival and discover a bustling, festive atmosphere, animated conversations, reunions taking place, and a display of artwork of close to 100 artists and artisans.
In the course of its 16 years, the broad variety of handmade art has grown to include jewelry, metal work, ceramics, glass work, fiber arts, home furnishings, aromatherapy, printmaking, digital and fine art photography, painting and illustration.
More than just selling their art, the participating artisans form an active community that together generate a rhythm and energy that hums throughout The Grange.
"I don't think people come to the Vineyard Artisans Festivals just for Vineyard things," says Lisa Brown of L.A. Brown Photography. "They come for the Vineyard artisans themselves. They are coming for us and supporting the Vineyard."
Ms. Brown joined the Artisans Festival exhibitors last summer, displaying images composed of both Vineyard-based photographs and those taken during her European travels.
Stopping at Ms. Brown's booth on a recent Sunday, Nancy Daly of Brookline, a seasonal resident of Aquinnah, and an Artisans Festival regular, says, "Last week I came here and bought a L.A. Brown photograph as a housewarming present for myself." She adds, "I also like the purses from Susan Handy, of Skora Designs [made from tapestry fabrics & leather trimming]. I just love all of it."
Inside the hall people are slowly jostling between the booths to see the exhibits. The Artisans Festival provides its visitors with the chance to meet the artists, learn about different techniques and materials, and ask their questions.
An enthusiastic crowd surrounds the booth of printmaker and book publisher Daniel Waters, the former West Tisbury Poet Laureate whose linoleum cut prints have become sought-after collectibles. This year he is offering signed copies of his two latest books of collections of verse, "Vineyard Verses" and "Prowling the Tupperware."
Across the way, new artisan Celeste Santee, who weaves Nantucket-style baskets, is engaged in conversations with people, answering questions about her craft as she weaves. "I have had wonderful comments from visitors," she says. "They are surprised by the detail and the time that goes into my work. It all has been very, very positive, and I look forward to being here in the future."
At the booths on the grounds outside The Grange, a group pauses to review their reactions. First time Festival goer Gina Dessources of Rosindale says: "I can't choose a favorite, as it is all so beautiful." But her companion, Carrie Daly, sister of Nancy Daly, has no such compunction. Seconding her sister's appreciation of Ms. Langley's photographs, she says, "My favorites are L.A. Brown, along with Kenneth Pillsworth [who shows his mixed metal bracelets] and Sarah Young's jewelry from Vineyard Sky Bead Design, where I just bought a new pair of earings."
Lynn Fleming, owner and designer of Fredericka's, handmade clothing for young girls and their dolls, has been showing at the Artisans Festival for five years. Ms. Fleming, a clothing designer for almost 30 years who has had shops along the Eastern Seaboard, only presents her work at venues similar to this. "I think most people really love the festival and the artisans. A lot of people don't realize that everything is handmade, as they always ask."
Vineyard Artisans Festivals, Thursdays and Sundays, 10 am to 2 pm at The Grange Hall on State Road in West Tisbury. (Sundays only in September.) Visit vineyardartisans.com.