Vineyard Artisans launch the summer season

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The scene at the Artisans Festival — Susan Safford

The 2016 Artisans Festival season began Memorial Day weekend, bringing a burst of color and creativity to the Grange Hall in West Tisbury. The two-day holiday show drew enthusiastic visitors to browse, buy, and appreciate new work by familiar artisans and festival newcomers.

A dozen white pop-up tents added to the festive feeling as vendors showed off their creations to visitors strolling in the sunshine.

Candy Schweder of Up-Island Pottery displayed stacks of bowls in rainbow hues. Gwyneth Wallace offered tantalizing samples of her all-natural Blue Wave Body Co. skin care products. Nearby, Jannette Vanderhoop showed chunky Island Naturals one-of-a kind beach-themed necklaces along with gossamer dream catchers.

Across the drive, Kate June Fournier, a Rhode Island School of Design grad from Maine, displayed striking, utilitarian Noepe Design bags in heavy linen, hand-silkscreened with her subtle nature-inspired patterns.

Perky linoleum prints on wood by Althea Freeman-Miller bore single country life images — an artichoke, a squash, a fish, an owl, a kitchen implement or hand tool. Cool blue ocean tones suffused the undersea photos of Benjamin McCormick. Rachel Baumrin’s Austin Designs gift items included eye pillows, herbal heat packs, and bags and wallets in pretty floral patterns, often using repurposed fabrics.

The veranda was busy with vendors and visitors too. Photos by L.A. Brown and Sylvie Farrington’s vintage handbags added a kaleidoscope of color. Island authors Cynthia Riggs, Shirley Mayhew, and Lynn Christoffers signed books. Ms. Riggs was especially pleased with sales of the reprinted “From Off Island,” by her mother, Dionis Coffin Riggs. Ms. Christoffers, photographer and writer, is known for her “Cats of Martha’s Vineyard” book and calendars. Ms. Mayhew, selling her nature classic “Seasons of a Vineyard Pond,” offered a sneak peek at her illustrated children’s book, “Islander — The Circus Comes to Martha’s Vineyard,” due in late summer.

Visitors to the historic hall were drawn in by displays in the entryway. Beldan Radcliffe, a mistress of many media, was highlighting her upcycled skirts and sweaters with funky but sophisticated fashion flair. Cecilia Minnehan’s jewelry cases twinkled with hard-to-find handmade silver cufflinks and other bright items. Booths throughout the hall featured a rich smorgasbord of Island-mades from artwork to pottery, furniture to fiber art, and much more.

Show manager Andrea Rogers was flitting in and out of her own booth, lusciously scented by her lavender sachets and pillows, to check in with her fellow vendors.

Ms. Rogers, who founded the show some two decades ago as a spinoff of the original Vineyard Craftsmen events, wore a bright smile late Sunday afternoon, despite days of work preparing for and overseeing the event. She recalled that the first festival was held at the then-new Agricultural Hall, the first nonagricultural event to take place there. It included some 80 vendors and popular food by Bill Smith, who continued with the Artisans for many years.

Although the current roster boasts at least 100 creative Islanders, not all attend every show. Vendors choose which dates to participate. Nonetheless, venues are always filled.

Woodworker Laura Silber of Demolition Revival Furniture was surrounded by several appealing painted pieces. Her designs, crafted from salvaged wood and using antique hardware, have found places in many Vineyard homes.

Jewelry maker Laura Artru showed her two distinctive lines of earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. One style incorporates wampum, shells, and sea glass into iridescent designs; the other pieces sparkle with semiprecious stones, pearls, and metalwork for a more elegant, graceful look.

Lisa Strachan displayed her delicate porcelain pottery, but with a very new accent, using a striking black glaze instead of her usual white or sandy seaside finishes. Jamie Rogers, Andrea’s daughter, offered her familiar metal jewelry and new acrylic mandala paintings in a pointillistic style.

Taylor Stone, in her second year at the show, crafted a whimsical array of cut paper art, from tiny paper plants in pots to fanciful three-dimensional scenes. The young artisan is a second-generation exhibitor. Her mother, Lori Stone, had long sold her handmade dolls here.

Sara Thompson, 19, a student at Oregon College of Craft and Art in Portland also returned for her second festival season. She showed inventive silver and gold jewelry, often enhanced with colorful glass enamel.

John W. Osborne Jr. of Edgartown has also rejoined the festival for the second year with his scrimshaw and carved wood jewelry creations. It’s a welcome and unusual addition to the show, Ms. Rogers said.

David Stanwood’s live piano music added an air of celebration. “David was hired to come to the show and play his piano for us,” Ms. Rogers said. “We love the music, it really adds ambiance to the show.”

Daniele Dominick’s Scottish Bakehouse served a tasty menu, from freshly baked breakfast pastries to healthy snack and luncheon fare. The Bakehouse has assumed the festival’s food service, ensuring neither customers nor artisans will leave hungry.

“The Memorial Day weekend show was fantastic,” Ms. Rogers said this week. “We had steady groups of visitors, and it was great to be able to talk to customers who come back every year to see our new work and admire the show.”
The festival launches its regular summer schedule this Sunday, June 12. Shows are held Sundays, 10 am to 2 pm. Thursday shows are added on during July and August. Holiday shows are Columbus Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving weekends. For more information, visit vineyardartisans.com.