AUGUSTA, NJ – Goats, sheep and small furry critters are gone from buildings at the Sussex County Fairgrounds, replaced by booths full of sparkling crystals, colorful pots, muted textiles, and shiny, serviceable wood.
The annual Peters Valley Craft Fair Saturday, Sept. 29, and Sunday, Sept. 30, features 157 booths of crafters, ranging from decorative soaps and candles to leather wallets and purses to pots, jewelry and boxes.
Crafters demonstrated their skills, and a section near the livestock pavilion allowed kids to try their hand at finger knitting, spinning, and other crafts.
Some of the crafters boast a long-term connection with Peters Valley. Tom Neugebauer is a fixture at the craft village. He and associate, Peter Syak, fired pots near the display tables.
Syak described the process. “The colors we get depend on how we manipulate the oxygen. Any surface not glazed is black.”
The raku kiln runs on propane and heats the pots up to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. They are fired for only about 25 minutes, then nested in sawdust under a barrel. The intense heat combusts the sawdust in a burst of flame consuming the oxygen.
A small number of glazes creates a wide variety of colors. The copper glaze becomes turquoise, then green depending on manipulation in the kiln. Another glaze is pale green, a third is cobalt and the fourth is clear. Crackling can be created with silver nitrate.
The faltering economy pushed at least two crafters into their art.
Paul Bjorke of Sinking Spring, Pa., built and refinished custom wooden boats, not a booming business during hard times. When he and his wife, Cindy, were putting in a flagstone patio, they felts some of the stones were too pretty for a patio, so they looked for a new purpose. Bjorke now makes granite trays. He hollows them out to keep them lighter and figured out a way to attaché handles.
Most craft shows aren’t sure how to classify these trays.
“I get put in the ‘other’ or ‘mixed media’ category,” Bjorke admitted.
Classified or not, they trays are selling well. The Bjorke’s display them with vodka or wine bottles, fruit or other items to show off their uses.
Beverly Adams Hoover of Burdgettstown, Pa., was also hit by the recession.
“We fabricated products for the steel industry,” she explained. “When the economy tanked we had a shop full of equipment and a whole lotta time.”
She started folding metal, Ferrogami, she calls it, into shapes. “Animals make me happy,” she said, explained in the happy dogs and scowling cats surrounding her in the booth.
A native of Parsippany, N.J., Hoover got her first cat from Noah’s Ark Animal Rescue, and 15 percent of her sales of “puppy products” goes to that charity.
Another one-of-a-kind crafter is Deborah Potash Brodie of DorLDor.com, Spiritual Jewelry and Judaica. She creates jewelry out of Hebrew letters shaped into what they represent: a house, musical notes, or a heart.
A special education teacher at a Hebrew School, Brodie said the idea came to her out of a habit of doodling in bubble letters.
Among the potters, the work of Theresita Designs, headquartered in Providence, RI, stands out for the hand-painted designs of flowers, checkerboards and the ever-popular cityscapes. It is a generic city, but Theresita will do custom cities and other designs.
Potter Maria Glaser-Roeser creates raku as well as pots with horsehair singed onto the glaze and pots fired with organic materials, wire and chemicals.
Other booths contain decorative lamps, stained glass, and bright or muted textiles.
Ricky Boscarino presided over his Luna Parc booth of pottery and jewelry in imaginative decorative shapes. Wood ranged from Jonathan’s Spoons to furniture to hand-carved root baskets.
Besides the demonstrations, entertainment was in the form of several musical groups.
Crafters uniformly said sales were fairly good and many visitors were leaving with packages.