Local craftsmen prepare for annual fair at Sunapee Resort 

  • Some of the speciality bowls that Scott Ruesswick makes in his Canterbury shop. After 25 years as a builder, Scott Ruesswick decided he wanted to make wood creations on his own terms. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • One of the specialty bowls that Scott Ruesswick makes in his Canterbury shop. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Scott Ruesswick holds one of the specialty bowls he makes in his Canterbury shop. After 25 years as a builder, Ruesswick decided he wanted to make wood creations on his own terms. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Scott Ruesswick sits on a pile of wood that he makes bowls out of in his Canterbury shop. After 25 years as a builder, Scott Ruesswick decided he wanted to make wood creations on his own terms. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jack Dokus and his granddaughter, Violet Dokus-Rohelia, examine their jewelry. LUCAS MASIN-MOYER / Monitor staff

  • Suzanne Connor works on her rainforest collection of fabric art at her home in Northfield. LUCAS MASIN-MOYER / Monitor staff

  • Suzanne Connor's fabric wall art depicting mermaid scenes. Courtesy Suzanne Connor

  • Adele Sanborn shows off her mixed-media art in her gallery. LUCAS MASIN-MOYER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Saturday, August 05, 2017

For the last 85 years, craftsmen and women from all across New England have congregated in New Hampshire to share and demonstrate their crafts at the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s annual fair.

This year, the event, the oldest of its kind in the United States, runs from Aug. 5 to 13 at the Mount Sunapee Resort in Newbury.

In addition to the almost 300 league-approved craftsmen who will demonstrate and sell their work, the fair will have a “Next Generations” tent this year, where young artisans – sponsored by juried league members – will be able to showcase their art.

Participants in the fair will vary widely in the crafts they bring, from wood turners to quilt makers, and from jewelers to mixed-media artists.

Scott Ruesswick

Canterbury – Turned Wood Art

After 25 years as a builder, Scott Ruesswick decided he wanted to make wood creations on his own terms.

When he first made the decision 15 years ago, Ruesswick began preparing to do mill work until his wife suggested he get a lathe – the machine most commonly used for wood turning.

After getting a lathe from Las Vegas, picked up by a friend who was on a road trip out West, Ruesswick began to create turned wooden bowls.

“There I was with a complete set up,” he said. “I haven’t looked back since.”

Ruesswick does all his work on his 100-acre property, long off the beaten trail in the Canterbury woods.

On his property, Ruesswick built all the workshop and sheds necessary for his operation.

Making the turned wooden bowls is a long process, Ruesswick said, and it begins with acquiring any wood he can.

“I get wood from all types of sources,” he said. “Sometimes a neighbor will call up with a big tree coming down. ... I’ll move it here and start processing.”

After getting the lumber, Ruesswick slabs it out on a sawmill he has on his property and marks where he will later carve out a bowl.

After carving the area out with a bandsaw, Ruesswick mounts the wood on his lathe and begins the turning process.

“I spin it on the lathe and I have a hand-held gouge that I carve away the parts I don’t want,” he said. “I’ll carve away the outside of it, get a form I like.”

After turning the wood on the lathe – which takes about four hours for an average sized bowl – Ruesswick sands it down and prepares it to sell.

Most of Ruesswick’s sales come at various League of New Hampshire Craftsmen shops around the state.

While being able to share his creation is rewarding, Ruesswick said the most enjoyable part of the process is discovering the intricacies of the wood.

“I love finding what’s inside of the tree and playing with the shape I cut versus the grain in the wood,” he said. “That’s the fun part.”

Jack Dokus

Franklin – Jewelry Design

One of the many people behind this year’s fair is Franklin’s Jack Dokus – the chairman of the fair committee.

According to Dokus, the fair helps show the public all the great craftsmen who live in the area.

“We’ve always been on the forefront of promoting the crafts industry,” he said. “Our mission is education. ... At the fair we have a great number of demonstrations and good demonstrations, like glass-blowing.”

Dokus, a self-proclaimed “sculptor on a jewelry scale,” will be participating in his 40th fair this year and will, for the first time, be accompanied by his granddaughter, Violet Dokus-Rohelia, who will be displaying jewelry at the “Next Generation Tent.”

Dokus, who was trained in fine art, came into jewelry making while studying to become a teacher at Kean University in New Jersey.

“On a whim, I took a jewelry-making course,” he said. “The course required that you make four pieces. I made 40 ... I enjoyed it so much.”

After moving to New Hampshire, Dokus turned to his craft full-time, with the help of the league, when teaching jobs were hard to come by.

Dokus makes most of his sculptures and jewelry using lost-wax casting, creating images inspired by fantasy – Atlantis and the Wizard of Oz are two of his favorite subjects.

“I like whimsy and fun,” he said. “That’s what I do in my work.”

Suzanne Connor

Northfield – Fabric Wall Art

For most people, fish sticks are type of food they reheat for a quick snack or grab at a restaurant, but for Suzanne Connor, fish sticks have a much different significance – it’s the name of the initial pieces of art which launched her on her journey to making fabric wall art.

After doing traditional quilt work for many years, Connor was inspired to try something new, and make intricately designed fish out of some leftover fabric, and place them on sticks for display.

The first customer to purchase these “fish sticks,” decided to velcro them onto her wall. Connor was inspired by this decision and decided to model all future designs on this idea.

Connor said she uses a unique 32-step process to make her fabric creations.

“It’s an original process that developed from a sewing background,” she said. “It’s been a learning process, but it’s been a lot of fun to work the kinks out.”

Most of Connor’s early creations, which take her up to four days to create for the largest pieces, were ocean-themed and got her invitations to show her work all over – including the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.

Recently, Connor began work on rainforest-themed designs.

These designs, which portray nature scenes and colorful birds, had long been in the works, but Connor only began work on them when she was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago.

“It was part of the recovery process for me, it got me through unpleasant stuff,” she said. “I think that’s the value of art in general, it helps you focus on what you want. ... Cancer, the word, takes up your whole brain, and the only thing to push it was to work.”

The rainforest designs will be on display at the Craftmen’s Fair, and available for purchase by potential customers.

Connor said most of her customers seek her out, and it’s working with these customers that makes her work most rewarding.

“The way I look at it, everyone who buys my work collaborates with me,” she said. “Everyone installs it differently in their house, some people use one piece and some people use a lot.”

Adele Sanborn

Boscawen – Mixed-Media and Calligraphy 

Almost five years after she finished studying photography at Rochester Institute of Technology, Adele Sanborn wanted something more to do in the winter, so she took a few calligraphy classes and came to a realization.

“I realized I could combine calligraphy with photography,” she said. “It led me down this path of creativity.”

Since having this epiphany, Sanborn has gone about making mixed media projects which combine her calligraphy and photographs.

Sanborn said the process for making her projects is a long one – taking 18 to 20 hours. 

“Once I have an idea in my head, I lay the calligraphy out, whether its in a book or actually combined in a frame piece,” she said.

In addition to selling these mixed media projects at her Boscawen gallery, Sanborn sells books which she hand binds.

While she had a booth at the fair for 25 years, Sanborn has recently taken a different approach to the fair.

For the last three years, Sanborn has sold her works in the general sales area and done demonstrations. This year, she will be demonstrating the process of book binding.

“I like to try and involve people,” she said. “I think if they sit down and do the things with their hands, they realize what goes into making a handmade product.”