Fall Mountain Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival offers unique wares

September 24, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Slide Show

HARPERS FERRY, W.VA. -- Three men who bend iron as easily as a chef forks spaghetti occupy the same spot near the front gate at the 35th Annual Fall Mountain Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival.

The event began its three-day run Friday at Sam Michaels Park off Job Corps Road between Flowing Springs Road and W.Va. 230 near Harpers Ferry.

The festival is sponsored by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, which holds a companion event in June. In a good year, both festivals can net as much as $50,000, organizers said.


The Chamber donates the proceeds to local fire departments, community ministries and the United Way, as well as to other charities, Chamber Executive Director Heather Morgan has said.

Chamber Vice President Julie DeHaven said about 200 vendors have set up booths this weekend. They pay a booth fee and a commission on sales. Vendors, all of which are juried, have to contract for both shows each year.

The fall festival draws more patrons than the one in June, DeHaven said.

"The weather is usually better, and people come here for their Christmas shopping. They see things they like in June and come back in the fall and buy them."

Friends Ros Burns of Harpers Ferry and Gail Katz of Frederick, Md., pulled their little red wagon with purchases in to Doug Coleman's Images Glass Studio booth.

"We buy for ourselves, for others and for each other," Katz said.

Each year, they pick up the latest copy of Coleman's dated Christmas ornaments.

Like Katz and Burns, Amy Osowski of Lincoln, Va., and Deb Barbieri of Stephens City, Va., became friends when both worked for the same company. Their favored outing is a "shopping adventure" at the craft fair.

"I go to a lot of shows, and this one is great," Barbieri said. "It's very high quality. There's more artwork than crafts," Osowski said.

Mona Kissel of Martinsburg, W.Va., has been making jewelry from polymer clay for 16 years. For nine years, the festival has been the only market where she can display her collection of hundreds of pieces in one place at one time, she said.

Polymer clay was developed in Germany in 1930, a replacement material for the porcelain used to make dolls' heads, Kissel said.

"Porcelain breaks easily," she said.

Eugene and Rosa Winton of Cowpens, S.C., have been setting up their Pottery by Eugene booth at the fair for 13 years.

Looking at Eugene's massive hands, it's hard to imagine how they can turn out the delicate pieces that line the shelves in their booth.

John Gorton and Joe Adkins are wood carvers from Petersburg, W.Va., who were particularly proud of their "Maryland" Santa Claus figure that sat among their inventory of mostly wildlife subjects.

A commissioned work for $2,400, Gorton's patriotic Santa signified the Old Line State from every angle. Carved from caltalpa wood, "because is shows the grain," the work stood about 1 1/2 feet tall on a wooden map of the state's outline. Santa wore the state flag as a waistcoat. Figures on and around it represent a skipjack, a Preakness racehorse, Barbara Fritchie, Black-Eyed Susans, blue crabs in a pot, Edgar Allan Poe and a Chesapeake Bay retriever.

At the entrance, Frank Graves of Rockdale Forge, Dan Boone of Boone Wrought Iron and Dave Dufficy of Penguin Forge sat at a picnic table under shade trees and talked about what they know best -- ornamental iron work.

"There's no competition among us. We all do different stuff," Graves said.

"Anyone who buys anything from us knows that no one else in the world has one like it. What we make is unique," Boone said.

The market for their work has been getting better, Dufficy said.

"People are demanding the one-of-a-kind, decorative home-furnishing pieces that we make."

Working with "mild steel, not iron," all three said they make their living at their forges.

The three craftsmen said their forges are relegated to the same spot under the trees near the entrance because "We have to keep our fires away from everybody else."

If You Go ...

What: 35th Annual Fall Mountain Heritage Arts & Crafts Festival

Where: Sam Michaels Park, off Job Corps Road between Flowing Springs Road and W.Va. 230.

When: Today, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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