Living with Art > Artworks for Home and Garden
If you wanted to bring more art into your life, you could always move into the Louvre but a more practical option—one that doesn’t require a passport—comes your way in August when the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen holds its annual fair at the Mount Sunapee Resort in Newbury.
A staple of that fair—which is the oldest of its kind in the country—is a juried exhibit called Living with Craft, in which the open space of a ski chalet is converted into a series of room vignettes that showcase the work of the league’s members.
“On the most basic level, the exhibit is wonderful because it benefits the craftsmen who are able to sell their pieces,” says Terri Wiltse, who is operations manager for the fair. “But it also educates the public about how you can live with craft. The venue enables us to put things together in a homelike setting that might match one artist’s handmade bed with another artist’s braided rug with another artist’s print on the wall. A lot of people don’t have the eye to do that, so the exhibit puts it together for them.”
Coordinating the Art
Alice LaPorte, who owns Alice LaPorte Interiors in Concord, is serving as design coordinator for the Living with Craft exhibit for the second time.
“I have to say that the league itself was fairly new to me last year,” she says, “so I had a lot of learning to do very quickly. The thing that really attracted me to the project was to be able to work with this great quality of furnishings and accessories, and with that, my goal was to take these disparate objects and create a living environment.”
That’s not easy to do in the vast, open expanse of a chalet that is crowded with skiers in the winter months, but LaPorte was up to the challenge last year and has been working on her encore since February.
“The craftspeople have to apply to have a piece in the exhibit,” she explains, “and when we review the applications, the first thing I do is pull out the furniture. Last year, we didn’t have any beds at first, so I was able to contact the league and say, ‘Who can do a bed for us?’ or ‘Who has an exciting bed that they would be willing to bring in?’ “Another problem last year was dining- room chairs,” she says. “It was the first time a request had been made for a full dining-room setting, so this year, I’m looking for someone to do four chairs for us. In that sense, I have some control as to what is there, but for the most part, we really do work with what has been submitted.”
Influence of the Exhibit
This will be the twentieth year that furniture master Terry Moore of Wilmot has submitted pieces to the Living with Craft exhibit, and he views it as a godsend.
“I would have to say it’s probably the primary reason that I am a furniture maker today,” he says. “I went into business in 1976 building kitchen cabinets, and when I visited the fair when they first started the Living with Craft exhibit, that really inspired me to go beyond simple kitchen cabinets.
“The furniture on display was so awe inspiring, it started me thinking about design and fine furniture,” Moore says. “The simple result of me walking through the fair is why I’m there today. I’ve been exhibiting consistently for what will be twenty years this year, and it’s important to me that I continue that tradition.”
And Moore’s personal take on traditional furniture is what sets his work apart.
“Last year, I submitted a bow-front dresser that was an interpretation of a traditional Portsmouth-era furniture style,” he says. “Two hundred and fifty years ago in Colonial Portsmouth, they were making Federal-era furniture— Portsmouth and Boston were quite famous for it—so I took that old Portsmouth design and reinterpreted it. Mine as a bit more contemporary, but I used that as a jumping-off point.”
Fine furniture is just one element of the Living with Craft exhibit.
“We usually have at least 125 people participating in the exhibit,” Wiltse says. “The various media can include handmade paper, leather, glass—both practical glass and decorative glass— plus silverware, quilts, pillows, sculpture and prints for your wall. The range is as unlimited as the imagination of our members.”
Connecting Visitors and Artists
Jane Balshaw—a Canterbury-based fiber artist—knows the Living with Craft exhibit from both sides of the fence, having served as the event’s design coordinator and as an exhibitor.
“The thing that moves me most about the exhibit is that many of us work alone, we get our inspirations alone and we are alone when we come up with something that we think is important, so the chance to get feedback from people— from my perspective—is really, really crucial to my work,” she says.
“Am I moving people? Am I touching people? Is my work relevant? A venue like Living with Craft is fabulous for me, because, if you spend the time at the exhibit and just observe, you can see people react to your work. That affects my work in a good way.”
And a good way to enjoy the exhibit is to speak with the exhibitors themselves.
“When you submit pieces, you have to do volunteer time at the exhibit,” Wiltse says, “so anytime someone visits the exhibit, they will be meeting the craftspeople who have items there. A lot of them are very modest and might not talk about their work, but they will happily talk up the work of others.”
“I volunteer every year,” Moore says, “and they don’t have to twist my arm to do it. I’m there to talk to visitors and explain what I do and how I do it, and if need be, I can explain the works of others, too.”
“It’s a mutual learning process,” LaPorte says. “It’s a great opportunity for craftspeople to present their work in a very interesting and exciting way, in the context of a home, so people can go in and look at pieces of furniture and decorative art that is not only magnificently crafted, but they can discuss the piece with the artist who created it and think about that piece in their home.”
A Milestone Fair for League Craftsmen
The League of New Hampshire Craftsmen will hold its seventy-fifth annual craft fair August 2-10 at the Mount Sunapee Resort in Newbury.
Craftsmen’s Fair Birthday Bash
To help celebrate the league’s seventy-fifth anniversary, a special Craftsmen’s Fair Birthday Bash is planned for Thursday, August 7, with a guest performance by New Hampshire’s own Tom Rush.
During the banquet the league will present awards to juried members and recognize those who made significant contributions to the league throughout its seventy five year history. A fireworks display tops off the evening.
Documentary Film Screening
In addition, visitors to the craftsmen’s fair can attend free screenings of a documentary film titled A League of Our Own: New Hampshire and the American Craft Movement, which was produced to commemorate this anniversary and celebrate the league’s rich history.
For more information, go to www.nhcrafts.org or call 224-3375.