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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Chamber Arts & Crafts Show Kicks Off Summer Season

Chamber Arts & Crafts Show 
Kicks Off Summer Season
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Fairfield Citizen News)

Fairfield, CT – Gray skies yielded to blue and the sun streamed down through the trees onto the Town Hall Green, lighting up the neat rows of white tents and warming the people browsing them. One could safely venture to say that summer had finally arrived.

The tents, and crowds attracted by them, were part of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Arts & Crafts Show, which opened Saturday and has heralded the beginning of the season for the past 49 years. This year, over 60 crafters were featured, offering everything from jewelry and food to fine arts and crafts. Additional attractions included the Kiwanis Club of Fairfield, preparing grilled foods, and Zarella Farms, hosting a farmer’s market. The Show is a two-day event, with hours of 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

Patricia Ritchie, the Chamber’s President and CEO, said the event’s draw is broad. “The show attracts not only Fairfield residents but people from all adjacent towns and even out of state,” she said. “It has always been held the weekend after Father’s Day.”

Among the more shining examples of craftiness at the show was the hand-carved artwork created by Neal Blodgett, 90 years young, whose Higganum, CT-based business is Country Folk Art. “I’ve exhibited here for the past five years,” he said. “I’ve been woodworking for 40. I hand carve animals and birds. Some pieces may take a couple weeks to do. People look at the work and gasp. They get so excited. People like to collect folk art, especially one-of-a-kind. Every piece is unique.”

Another eye-catching display was Verne Yan’s hand-embroidered artwork which, at a quick glance, appear to be watercolor paintings. “I create a pattern and then use many different strands of colored silk to make a picture come alive,” the Toronto-based artist said. “I sew from the heart, which adds passion to the work. It’s very different from typical embroidery, which is one-dimensional. People are amazed.”

Attracting a lot of buzz was Gene Bernardin’s True Blue TC Collection of hand-dyed indigo products. “My wife is from Jiangsu Province in eastern China,” he said. “Her family has been doing this for 300 years. She learned at seven. We have embraced the craft and produce our work out of our basement in Torrington. People love the deep colors and when they learn about the creative process, they are often impressed.”

There seemed to be something for everyone here. Twins Brianna and Bethany Faiella, visiting from Massachusetts, were busy browsing jewelry at Elias Designs. “We’re looking for summer jewelry,” the pair said. “Rings or bracelets with sea and shell themes.”

Nearby, Bridgeporter Theresa Garcia was buying a bracelet from Beads 4 Dreams, a jeweler that incorporates handmade beads from Uganda into its designs. One-hundred percent of proceeds from the jewelry benefit Kiwoko Hospital in Uganda. “I’ve been to Rwanda and will be going to South Africa in August,” said Garcia. “I really love this style of jewelry and the connection to Africa.”

Jon Findley, looking at items at Rebecca Dolber’s jewelry stand, said he and his girlfriend, Evelyn Tapia, were driving through the area and saw the tents. “The weather makes it nice to walk around and browse all the beautiful arts and crafts,” he said.

Considering a rough-hewn “Beach” sign with coat hooks, shown by Poverty Hollow Primitives, Fairfield Beach Area resident Jennifer McGowan said, “We live on the beach in a tiny beach cottage. This would be perfect as I have four children and the theme fits my home.”