By Keri Luise
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Smells of leather purses, sounds of singing wind chimes, sparkles of crafted jewelry and allures of eye-catching paintings and photographs are just a few of the things that drew 15,000 people to the Sugarloaf Crafts Festival this weekend.
More than 200 artisans from across the country gathered at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to present and sell their unique, handmade craft pieces.
“Sugarloaf Crafts Festival was started in 1975 as an outlet for talented artists and craftspeople to make a living doing what they love,” said Jacqueline Verdier, festival director. “The first festival took place at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds and was a huge hit. More than 10,000 people attended that first festival and in the 45+ years since then, we have had the pleasure of connecting many thousands of talented artisans with local communities.”
The crafts festival is organized in fall and spring tours across Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Each event is juried, meaning that craftspeople must apply to participate.
“We require each artist to submit images of their work and their booth display,” Verdier said. “Sugarloaf Crafts Festivals are high quality events featuring handcrafted works only, and we require each artist to be personally present for the duration of each event. You won’t find mass produced products at Sugarloaf, but you will find one of a kind, handcrafted items.”
Customers delight in buying unique artwork straight from the source and meeting the people who made their unique products. The personal connection between the art piece and the artist is what makes the festival popular.
“We come every season, my daughter and I,” Pennsylvania resident Nancy Dieter said. “It’s our thing. So, it’s just fun, come see the crafts, see what’s out there.”
Dieter’s daughter, Kristin McCann, said she made sure to stop at her favorite crafter’s booth – Victoria Heisler Designs from California.
“She makes handmade pottery, she has tapestry, she’s an artist,” McCann said. “So, I stocked up on some bowls…I got a tapestry. It’s all hand painted.”
Verdier said another goal is to connect talented artists with local residents.
“Our mission at Sugarloaf Craft Festivals is to connect talented artists with local communities,” Verdier said. “It’s an exciting and unique experience for shoppers to connect with the hands that actually make what they’re selling – you can’t replicate these human connections when shopping online!”
Blake Voshell, a crafter of laser engraving, presented his work called Avid Imagination. Voshell does his engraved art pieces from photographs taken by his girlfriend’s uncle who goes on photography excursions around the world, including British Columbia, Alaska and Tanzania.
“He’ll go out, take the pictures, and after I get them, I’ll work with them in the computer, on Photoshop for about four or five hours, do some…test runs to see which highlights I have to bring out, which shadows I have to bring down,” said Voshell, explaining his craft.
“And then I’ll go ahead and engrave an entire sheet at one time. So, it takes about four or five passes to actually do a full engraving to build out the depth in it. It’s a machine, universal laser systems,” he said.
This was Voshell’s first year participating in the craft festival. He had only just heard of the event last spring and decided to go for a try for the juried entry.
“They liked [my work] and I got through and it’s been going good so far,” Voshell said. “Every single vendor is so nice to talk to and deal with and it’s more suggestions of what to do to help you, or how to talk to customers and what they want. So, it’s a really good experience for my first-time doing exhibits.”
Dave Maynard of Buffalo, New York, returned to the festival to share his photography. Photographs from his company, La Shot Photography, feature welcoming doorways, windows and gardens from Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Germany, Greece, the United States and more.
The festival also featured clothing, jewelry, pottery, basket weaving, glass art, and much more.
“One of the best things about Sugarloaf Craft Festivals is the variety in the work sold,” Verdier said. “We have artists from all over the country (plus Canada and the UK) selling their work in a wide variety of mediums. There is something for everyone.”
Other activities at the festival included listening to the soft mesmerizing handpan music of Janet Spahr and taking free painting classes. Children also enjoyed an interactive costume story telling theater.