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Last modified: 8/12/2010 12:00:00 AM
Much of the handcrafted art and craft items displayed among the more than 200 booths, demonstrations and stores at this year's 77th annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen's Fair are fairly serious in tone and technique. There's the jewelry delicately actualized by Jennifer Kalled using crystals extracted from drusy quartz and then plated with titanium or gold. The Abenaki baskets by Sherry and Bill Gould, using techniques learned from their 95-year-old mentor. And then there's Jim Lambert.

Lambert, of Hillsboro, has been mixing traditions of found materials and folk art to create his unique, whimsical, and deliberately unrefined works for a decade. The results are engaging, bright and one-of-a-kind works, often with a visual pun built in. In his booth at the League Fair at Mount Sunapee, Lambert - who was, perhaps, the only exhibitor running around barefoot - said that one of his mixed-material creations was creating a lot of traffic and some shared memories among visitors.

The work was a kind of generic grandma of the 1960s era. She has one of those laced and flowered grandma hats, a brooch on her fur collar, and, of course, a pocketbook hanging on her wrist. She looks at visitors with an inquisitive, kind, half-smile. Lambert said grandma is catching most everybody's eye.

'People have been stopping in to tell their stories - one person told me that her grandma used to carry around in her purse a tiny little bottle of vanilla extract. For medicinal purposes, apparently,' said Lambert, who has been collecting

suggestions about just what should be in his created grandma's purse (at the moment, it's a carton of eggs).

'I used to be an art teacher, and I took this up about 10 years ago, starting with a focus on classic American folk art, created using all scrap material,' Lambert said. 'Then there's a twist, a bit of humor, a bit of nostalgia put in. And people are responding to that. They get the sense of fun, they relate to the work.'

In another of his pieces, a woman stands, with an egg on her head and an alarm clock (working) where her belly should be. The piece is called, of course, 'Biological Clock.'

The fair offers handmade treasures big and small, from finely-hewn clothing to impossibly bright dichroic jewelry to one-of-a-kind etched and carved desks. There are demonstrations and classes offered daily - in the next few days, you can check out wood-carving, rug braiding and Japanese sashiko beading quilting techniques.

Into the home

As always the fair offers craftsmen not just an opportunity to show off and sell their wares, but displays that offer vision on how to incorporate some of this work into the home.

The Living With Craft exhibit offers views of what, say, your bedroom could look like with a couple of carved nightstands, or how any room could be improved with well-crafted mixed-media lampshades or braided rugs.

Shop at the Fair is a sort of one-stop shop of approachable and buyable works - some by craftsmen new to the League - where you can find everything from woven baskets to fine vases to huggable stuffed cats to hand-made catnip mice.

Whether your budget is large, small or window-shopping only, the once-a-year collection of artists and their works has diverse offerings, and you're sure to find something that calls to you. (In my case, the catnip mouse made by Diana Lind and featuring potent, locally grown catnip called to my cat Casy. He cannot, however, be blamed for certain purchases of dichroic earrings created by Julie Schroeppel of Francestown.)

Pottery maker David Pellerin offers a unique twist on his craft with his doitsu sinks. (The word doitsu is derived from a particular type of koi with intense and colorful markings.) Instead of constructing traditional bowls, Pellerin uses his clay (which he formulates himself) to create richly glazed, one-of-a-kind sinks that are both utilitarian and visually stunning.

Photographer Mark Klein offers a mix of camera skill and painting technique, printing his stunning, New England, Western and animal scenes onto canvas. Klein lives in (find pun here) Mirror Lake, New Hampshire, and he has found a way to combine different artistic tools and technologies to capture and create his vivid work.

'I print directly onto the canvas with a large format printer,' Klein said, as visitors found themselves taken with his white-on-white image of polar bears playing, or his deliberately soft-focus shots of fall in New Hampshire. 'Using the canvas gives the picture a much greater depth, texture - they almost become 3-D.'

And Joseph Godek of Pelham uses his talents in stained glass and etching to create birds for your windows, mirrors with stained glass borders, and even etched nightlights.

The League

The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen was founded in 1932 as a means for Granite State artists and craftsmen to share and market their talents; in 1968 a standards committee was formed to set a jury process, to ensure the quality and passion of works displayed and sold under the League banner.

The first actual Craftsmen show took place in 1933 in Crawford Notch. That first show had a final sales tally of about $2,600; it was declared a success and a tradition was born. The show has been held at Mount Sunapee (now the Mount Sunapee Resort) since 1964.

Perhaps most importantly, the show offers craftspeople the chance to talk about how they create, what they create, and how, exactly, their life's paths brought them to Mount Sunapee for nine days in August.

Back at Jennifer Kalled's jewelry booth, she happily chatted and told her story to visitors to her tent.

Kalled explains that she was born in New Hampshire but spent time wandering, including stints in Alaska and Arizona, where she ended up studying metalsmithing and finding her inner creative voice.

'John Lennon was right,' explained Kalled. 'Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.'

(The League Fair runs through Sunday at the Mount Sunapee Resort. Hours are 10-5 daily; admission is $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and students. Children under 13 are admitted free. Tickets can be used for two days of admission. For further information, schedules, and a map of exhibitors, check nhcrafts.org and click on the Annual Craftsmen's Fair link on the left.)


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