Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Feeling Crafty

By Brianne Harrison

I am a craft show junkie. I can’t resist the opportunity to marvel at other people’s creativity and skill and get a (very early) start on my Christmas shopping. So, when I heard that the Sugarloaf Crafts Festival was starting off its spring season in New Jersey this weekend, I started to get pretty excited.

Before we go any further, I should point out that these are not your typical neighborhood or church fundraiser craft shows. There are no piles of crocheted afghans or popsicle stick birdhouses. The people who show at these festivals are genuine artists who create everything from exquisite paintings to jewelry you won’t find anywhere else to handwoven baskets, spectacular pottery, and handmade furniture. They can do things with a tree trunk or a chunk of metal that you and I never dreamed of. And while the prices can run high, you definitely get what you pay for. Purchases easily become heirlooms, and you’ll never see that necklace on someone else at a party or that sculpture adorning someone else’s mantelpiece.

Sugarloaf maintains a certain quality and doesn’t allow just anyone to show—all the artisans are selected by a jury that judges them on quality of design, workmanship, and materials. The show has grown since its founding in 1975 and now travels to 17 locations throughout the country and attracts nearly 350,000 visitors. It serves as a marketplace every year for artisans who otherwise might find it difficult to show their wares, and who are suffering just like everyone else (if not more so) in these difficult economic times.

Sugarloaf Crafts Festival will be at the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday March 13-15. Tickets are available online for $7 or are $8 at the door. For more information, visit sugarloafcrafts.com.

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