From Vineyard hands
Each one of Deidre DeCarion's hand-crafted walking sticks has a unique personality, reflecting the individual qualities of the tree from which it is made. Photos by Diana Waring
In early September the Ag Hall in West Tisbury came alive for two days for the Labor Day Artisans Festival. The grounds were as festive as they are during the Fair, with tents large and small, refreshments for sale, and even wandering musicians. Browsers packed the hall where dozens of booths lined the walls and filled the center sections of both rooms. Outdoors, visitors strolled through tents, admiring the wares, talking with craftspeople, or taking a moment to order lunch - a burger, chowder, or exotic options like Vietnamese cold rolls or fried rice - and relax at a picnic table. The show was a smashing success, according to organizer Andrea Rogers of Oak Bluffs. The annual event is a larger version of the regular festivals held at the Grange on Sundays from spring through early fall and also on summer Thursdays.
Goods range from the lighthearted and whimsical, like Diane Luckey's delicate origami cranes and Gary Mottau's cartoonish wire sculptures, to lush items for pampering from Rebecca Mayhew's Vineyard Candle and Bath. There is art for the wall - photos in every style and subject, realistic Vineyard landscape paintings, quaint and quirky drawings. And there is art for the home to add a handmade accent to any room, from sturdy pottery to Lisa Strachan's ruffled but solid porcelain, sleek hand-made furniture, perky kitchen accessories by Janice Haynes, practical and pretty floor cloths and rag rugs. Last, and far from least, there is art for the body. If you are in search of unique Vineyard fashion this is where to find it. Choose from jewelry, dresses, tunics, capes and shawls, hats and mittens, and Sylvie Farrington's lush vintage bags. There is leather wear and accessories for everyone - handbags, fleecy hats, and slippers from the long-established Hirsel to sweet little moccasins for toddlers by Marie Meyer-Barton, and cozy sweaters - some from Island wool - for the whole family.
Glowing glass Vineyard Vases by Nan Bacon invite autumn flowers to jump right in.
This is just the beginning. There are some 120 artisans on the roster, with 60 to 70 showing their wares at weekly shows. More vendors join in for holiday sales on Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Thanksgiving weekends.
This high-quality, well-organized, and thriving show began only 12 years ago, thanks to the vision and determination of Andrea Rogers. Ms. Rogers, whose Vineyard Vines booth is aromatic with lavender, rosebud sachets, and delectable potpourri blends - much of it from her home gardens - got the idea for an artisans festival while she was a member of the Vineyard Craftsmen. The first show was held at the Ag Hall on Labor Day weekend, 1994, and she laughs now to remember the hard work of setting it up on that rainy weekend, doing much of the work herself. Today Ms. Rogers is assisted by an advisory committee of several long-time exhibitors. For the past six years, the show has been juried by outside professionals, to ensure that the merchandise maintains a strict standard of excellence.
The exhibits are proof positive that Ms. Rogers's vision is alive and blooming. There are many veteran exhibitors, for instance Betsy Edge with her cozy and elegant wearables, Lucinda Sheldon, showing iridescent cloisonne jewelry and enamel jewelry, and nature watercolorist Lynn Hoeft. Helayne Cohen shows pastel pottery and beadwork, veteran artist Millie Briggs paints Vineyard scenes, and Ingrid Goff-Maidoff sells inspirational books and gifts.
Ms. Rogers welcomes creative newcomers and aims to keep the categories balanced. New this year is Lisa Vanderhoop with her "Vineyard Sea Dog" calendar, and Hollis Engley who produces pottery from Aquinnah clay. Earlier, Ms. Rogers added some younger vendors - painter Max Decker, Jannette Vanderhoop with traditional Wampanoag crafts, and her own daughter, Jamie Rogers, who makes dramatic stone and metal jewelry.
Customers take a closer look at delicate bead, pearl, wampum, and sea glass jewelry creations by Laura Artru (far right), all displayed among shells, beach stones, and sand dollars.
"This year's been great and the Labor Day show was the best," said a tired but delighted Andrea Rogers this week. She said that although she works hard, her committee and the vendors take on much responsibility, and there is wonderful camaraderie. Group members gather for potlucks and other outings. "It's really fun! It's a pleasure to be there," she said.
Ms. Rogers is dedicated to her own craft, and is passionate about assisting others in working at what they love to do. So for all the effort to keep the festivals running, she finds deep satisfaction.
"The show is doing what it was created to do - to provide a way for Vineyard artisans to make a living by selling to the public directly without a middleman. That's what it was set up to do."