Fashion, tea, and flowers at Martha’s Vineyard’s Featherstone

Linda Gifford Skladzien won the prize for the Most Elegant hat in the contest. Other winners were Nancy Kingsley and Gail Farrish. — Photo by Diana Waring

It was a colorful scene on the lawn of Featherstone Center for the Arts last Saturday, May 12.

Flowers in hanging pots and large planters decorated the outside of a huge white tent. Inside, chartreuse tablecloths were topped with striking centerpieces and mismatched tea cups in a variety of dainty floral patterns. However, it was the crowd itself that provided the most color. Attendees for the third annual Mother’s Day Garden Tea Party and Fashion Show got dressed up in their spring best, including in many cases, brightly colored and elaborately festooned hats.

The annual tea serves as both a celebration of mothers and a kickoff to Featherstone’s popular Art of Flowers show. This year 260 women were in attendance, more than twice as many than showed up for the inaugural event in 2010. Guests were treated to gourmet finger sandwiches and dainty sweet treats from Cakes by Liz.

The highlight of the day was a parade of models strutting the raised catwalk dressed in fashions from 16 local stores and designers. The spring and summer looks ranged from casual to evening wear, and the models represented a range of ages and included a handful of men.

Michael Hunter, whose selection of men’s and women’s outfits from his store PIKNIK Art & Apparel, kicked off the fashion show and used the occasion to announce the opening of a second store in Nevin Square, Edgartown.

Two of the littlest models displayed professional flair. Chesca Quinlan-Potter joined her family in showcasing outfits from The Collection on Main Street, Vineyard Haven. She executed a perfect catwalk strut and stance. Emmanuelle Woodford danced and twirled down the runway in a fabulous vintage fabric dress by her mom, Crysal Parrot.

A slinky silver one-shouldered evening dress from Laughing Bear, modeled by Shelley Christiansen, drew the most enthusiastic response from the crowd. Marilyn Wortman modeled a stylish black and white ensemble provided by the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services Thrift Shop.

DJ Di supplied the music, spinning tunes from many decades chosen to suit the various looks. Periodically throughout the show, Francine Kelly drew names of raffle ticket holders who won gift certificates from the participating stores. The final raffle item was a lovely little oil paining of tea cups by Traeger Di Pietro, who, along with a few other local artists, also served as a model. Prizes were awarded to audience members for most original, most elegant, and best hat.

The Art of Flowers

After the show, guests were invited inside the Virginia Weston Besse gallery to preview Featherstone’s latest show, the Art of Flowers. The show, curated by Holly Alaimo, is in its 17th year. It was the season opening exhibit for Ms. Alaimo when she owned Dragonfly Gallery in Oak Bluffs, and she moved the annual show to Featherstone three years ago. A record 56 artists are represented this year, working in a variety of media.

A striking image by Stephanie Danforth of a magnolia branch against a metallic gold background is the first piece to greet the eye.

The show is like a fireworks display with something remarkable blooming everywhere you look. Doris Lubel’s impressionistic field of flowers provides a blast of yellow on one wall. Turning around, visitors are greeted by a cheerful pop of red peonies by John Holladay. The collection features a rainbow of hues and a variety of styles, from a bright, modern colorblock painting in acrylics by Sarah Moore to a large three-dimensional watercolor by Linda Gifford Skladzien, featuring an abundance of flowers in every pastel shade.

There are photos, felt handbags, a shells on driftwood construction, wonderful bright bead collages by Chris Dreyer, and a sweet little floral decorated box frame for a wedding photo by Eniko Delisle. A handful of artists are new to the flower show including photographer Michael Stimola, Marjorie Mason, and Deb Coulter.

Ms. Alaimo notes that she is excited to be continuing the tradition which – like the blossoms represented – is for her a harbinger of summer. “We have people that show in galleries all over – in Vermont, Connecticut. This is what gets them back for the season.”