A craft fair is truly a feast for the senses. It’s a veritable cornucopia of aromas, colors and textures. Within the stalls, booths and tables of Southern Maryland’s plentiful fairs and festivals you can find a one-of-a-kind paper creation alongside a home-baked tart or a handcrafted bath lotion. Or a craft – a painting, piece of pottery, wood carving, piece of jewelry, hand-sewn baby gift or hand-woven basket – as unique as the artisan who created it. Local craft fairs provide a special space for local artisans to display their talents and interested buyers to discover them.
Both serious crafters and hobbyists alike turn out to display and sell their creations, and even though most crafters hope to make a little profit from selling their work, some are happy to sell enough to sustain their hobby. Gary Frick of Charlotte Hall, who has made stained glass art for thirty years, has kept up with his part-time hobby since retiring from a career as a professor at the College of Southern Maryland. He says, “I do it because I enjoy it. I just sell enough to keep doing it.”
Craft fairs also provide a social network for crafters. For Marta and Dave Kelsey of Hollywood, Md., who have been crafting for the past eight years, the culture of the fairs brings enjoyment. “There is a lot of impressive local talent. I see things and I think, ‘I just want to buy that!’” says Marta. They look forward to seeing familiar faces and keeping up with the artistry of their peers.
Both Kelseys are craftspeople (Marta makes hand-painted gourds and Dave custom woodwork), and their shared interest makes attending craft fairs something they can do together. Both have retired from professional careers, but have found that their crafting keeps them very busy. They co-run the Creek Side Gallery in Leonardtown with watercolorist Sue Stevenson, and they have received numerous requests to create custom work. Notably, Dave was commissioned to create the fossil table in the children’s area at the public library in Prince Frederick.
Since becoming more engaged in the crafting community, the Kelseys have become involved in the leadership of the Unique Boutique: A Fine Arts & Crafts Show in Southern Maryland, held each year in the fall. They explain what makes shows like the Unique Boutique different from other craft shows: “Some craft fairs [like the Unique Boutique] are juried. This means the artisans already involved must approve new crafters who want to attend. A juried fair ensures a wider variety of higher quality items as well as less duplication.” Many of the larger craft fairs in our area are juried, but most of the smaller ones are not. Non-juried fairs enable anyone to try selling their work without a major financial buy-in to participate, thus creating a venue for crafters of all levels. Many of the smaller fairs also benefit local organizations like churches and volunteer fire and rescue departments.
Other crafters use local fairs as a stepping-stone to launching and sustaining their businesses. Katrina Griffis of Callaway is a small businesswoman and the owner of Pink Koala Design, a fashion-forward bag and baby product company. She loves the interaction she has with customers who attend the monthly Maker’s Market at Annmarie Garden. “I’ve sold my designs online, but I sell more at craft shows and get to see the reaction of people who see my work. The people who come to the Maker’s Market are looking for something unique.” Her business thrives thanks in large part to local craft fairs.
Lusby’s Sue Stevenson, the watercolorist with whom the Kelseys operate their gallery, discovered her talent for her craft after retiring from teaching. Inspired by the unique natural environment of Southern Maryland and its culture, Stevenson engages with craft fair attendees and secures commissioned work as a result. “People see my work and ask if I can paint custom pictures.”
Both Stevenson and the Kelseys agree, “There has been dramatic growth in arts and expression in Southern Maryland, causing more art instruction in the area.” The presence of art inspires more artistry, thus giving our community a reputation for cultivating and encouraging creative expression.
With creations ranging from the edible to incredible and made from new or recycled materials, our local craft fairs shine a light on those who are creating a cultural identity for our area. Visit a craft fair this fall to discover a unique gift or keepsake, and to support a local crafts-person and the arts in our community. You’ll be part of a Southern Maryland tradition! ✦
Marta and Dave Kelsey and Sue Stevenson display their work at Creek Side Gallery inside the Maryland Antiques Center on Rt. 5 in Leonardtown. Find the Kelseys on the web at www.whiskeycreekwoodworks.com; contact them by phone at 301-373-3671; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Sue Stevenson can be reached by phone at 410-326-3087 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Commissions welcome!
Katrina Griffis of Pink Koala Design regularly attends the Maker’s Market at Annmarie Garden. Find her on the web at www.pinkkoaladesign.com and her designs at Cecil’s Country Store and The Vintage Source. She can be contacted at 240-538-2337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gary Frick displays his work at Mattawoman Creek Art Center inside Smallwood State Park in Marbury (www.mattawomanart.org). Contact him by e-mail at email@example.com.