Living With Art > Creating Distinctive Spaces

When a talented interior designer gets his or her hands on top-notch furnishings and decorative accents, the results can be dazzling. Such is the case with Living with Craft, an exhibition at the annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair at Newbury’s Mount Sunapee Resort on August 1-9. More art exhibition than display, Living with Craft shows visitors how to incorporate fi ne craft objects—from a cherry desk to silver spoons—into their living spaces.

“Living with Craft is a nice way to see how to pair crafts with what you have,” says Terri Wiltse, the league’s operations manager.

A fixture at the league fair since the 1960s, Living with Craft features works by more than one hundred juried members of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, who submit original designs each year for consideration in the show. Alice LaPorte—a Concord-based interior designer who has curated Living with Craft for three years—reviews submissions, then selects pieces to feature. She and her crew of volunteers transform the Mount Sunapee Lodge from ski chalet to exhibition space, creating room vignettes with furniture, wall hangings, textiles, ceramics, metalware and more. Each piece in the exhibit is for sale.

LaPorte’s relationship with the exhibit’s craftspeople has evolved as she’s gotten to know their work. She often contacts artists to request specific pieces to complete rooms.

“I’m really trying to create the illusion of an authentic living area,” LaPorte says. She designs rooms around larger furniture pieces (for example, dining room sets or a unique pool table), considering whether they’re formal or informal, traditional or contemporary. “Strong pieces invariably direct each vignette,” she says. “I make groupings of style—say an Asian, folk or rustic look. And I look at the color of everything.”

The items featured in Living with Craft are stunning. LaPorte is particularly excited about a contemporary ceramic platter and bowl submitted by Contoocook potter Boyan Moskov (“His work is so different, and he’s so expressive,” she notes) as well as a Newportstyle cherry highboy and block-front chest by Jeffrey Roberts of Unity.

Craftspeople often join forces to create unusual pieces. Last year, metal smith Joy Raskin of Concord, who has participated in Living with Craft for nearly twenty years, worked with Marcia Herson, another league member, to create a set of sterling silver spoons that incorporated Herson’s black-and-white glass beads into the handles.

“We encourage the craftspeople to do something different,” says league Executive Director Susie Lowe- Stockwell. “It’s exciting to see new collaborations between them.”

A Magic Garden

Fine craftsmanship also inspires the fair’s Sculpture Garden, a fanciful outdoor space that highlights pieces for the garden. Groupings of objects such as birdbaths, large sculpture and fountains are spread throughout the manicured space.

“If I have an open space in the exhibit, I ask craftspeople who’ve had a piece in the garden in the past if they’d like to contribute this year,” says Wende Shoer Lonergan, designer of the Sculpture Garden. “I also seek craftspeople whose work lends itself to the garden but who might not think of exhibiting there on their own.”

Once the Sculpture Garden is laid out, master gardeners from Sullivan County arrange plantings around the artworks. Last year, plants were donated by Spring Ledge Farm of New London and the exhibit included a grouping of ceramic birdbaths shaped like lotus leaves, an ornate garden gate and even a windmill.

Connecting with visitors

Howard Hatch, a furnituremaker from Brunswick, Maine, has participated in Living with Craft since the 1980s. His billiards table was featured in last year’s exhibition. “Living with Craft shows off furniture,” he says, “plus there’s a cooperative spirit at the fair. Each piece is unique, so you’re not competing with each other.”

Raskin agrees. “Living with Craft gave me an outlet for my flatware when I had very limited sources to showcase my designs,” she says. “I’m now expanding into larger-scale home accessories such as lamps and sculpture.”

Craftspeople volunteer in the exhibit area, speaking with visitors about their work. That connection, Wiltse says, is strong.

“The public loves the exhibit, and the craftspeople really connect with the public,” she says. “That’s why visiting Living with Craft is one of my favorite things to do. It’s a great way to finish a day at the fair.”

Seventy-sixth Annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair

The annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair, the oldest of its kind in the country, features more than two hundred booths of traditional and contemporary crafts by juried members of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. In addition to Living with Craft and the Sculpture Garden, the fair features daily demonstrations, music, as well as hands-on craft workshops for children, teens and adults.

The CraftWear exhibition showcases handcrafted clothing, jewelry and accessories, and the Shop at the Fair highlights work of some of the league’s newest members.

August 1-9, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., daily (rain or shine). Admission is $10 for adults, $8 seniors and students, and children age thirteen and younger are admitted free of charge.

Tickets purchased online by July 31 are $8 for adults, and $6 seniors and students. Mount Sunapee Resort • Route 103 in Newbury • 224-3375 •