It makes me ridiculously happy, this coffee mug. It is the right shape for my hand to curl around its smooth surface and feel the warmth of a fresh cup. It’s beautiful and one of a kind. My dragonfly mug was handcrafted by Terry Plasket, a master potter at WheatonArts. He hand-painted it and fired it in a kiln multiple times. In one of those rounds, Plasket threw rock salt into the kiln. That salt mixed with the silica in the clay to make the glaze. It is of the earth and of the craftsman; and now it is a daily reminder of the lovely afternoon my husband and I spent at WheatonArts.
Plasket is one of 125 artists who will be selling their work at this weekend’s Festival of Fine Craft at Wheaton Village.
“Five of us work here,” Plasket says. “We make primarily functional pottery. You can eat out of it, drink out of it, and put stuff in it. People use what we make. We high fire it. It can go in the microwave, dishwasher, oven.” He will be selling mugs, vases, bowls, and pitchers. His work is in greens and blues and browns.He started a new technique before the pandemic with hand-painted designs.
Plasket says the Festival, unlike some other craft fairs, is all about the artists: “The most important part is that the artists make money. It’s got a good reputation. People travel from Florida to come.”
Visitors can expect to see top artisans as they were selected by jury and come from multiple states, says Cathy Nolan, WheatonArts’ chief operating officer. “The artists make sure they have accessible pricing and also higher dollars—they will definitely be able to find something for anyone’s pocketbook.”
She would understand my connection to my coffee mug: “You’re walking away with the appreciation of the handmade,” Nolan says. “It feels good for the soul. It is work that has humanity.”
There is a wide variety of artists—food (wine), clay, fiber, fine arts (painting), glass, jewelry, metal, mixed media, photography, and wood. In many categories there will be functional as well as sculptural or decorative items.
“An example in metal is Sandra Webberking’s work. She creates whimsical sculptural objects for the garden. She uses found objects as well as recycled materials,” says Nolan.
There are new artists as well as returning favorites. More than a dozen artists will also be demonstrating their craft. One of them is jewelry artist Sharon Manewitz, who runs Davala Designs out of New York City. “I’m so drawn to Wheaton. It’s such an extraordinary place,” says Manewitz. “It’s the amazing sophistication of the artists and the sheer interest it attracts. You meet people there—they impress you.”
Manewitz makes intricate, geometric, colorful bead-woven bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. “I’ve always had an arts background. My mom and my aunt were European, very much into crafts.” Manewitz worked as a portfolio manager and later as a consultant.
“A number of years ago I got into Contemporary Geometric Beading,” she says.” These are seed beads, literally the size of a seed—so very, very tiny.” In Japanese, these glass beads are called Miyuki Delica Beads and the process of working with them is called bead weaving.
“They are tiny tubular beads that lap into each other,” she adds. “You create a fabric.They come in thousands of colors. The mathematics of beading is critical. You have to make sure you’ve got the math right for the fit and the pattern. To me, the marriage of the color, the design, the use of the object (ankle bracelet, earring) all play into it. It gives me a huge amount of pleasure and it gives other people pleasure.”
She and her daughter have also begun making mixed media necklaces, using seed beads, old watch parts and embellishing them with little Swarovski crystals. Manewitz will have a large array of her beautiful bead-woven designs for sale. “It is a huge amount of satisfaction to be able to share what I love.”
Dr. Sam Moyer, who harvests broom corn grown in Burlington County and fashions both the brooms and the handles, has been making brooms for more than 40 years when he “was smitten by the colors of the plant material of the broomcorn.” He is a pioneer of the Festival, there from the first show, and will be showing how his multicolored brooms are made. They are meant to be both appreciated and used, making sweeping more fun. “Buying something at Wheaton—it’s personal,” he says. “It’s different than going on the Internet and ordering something from China. This morning I ate out of a cereal bowl that was handcrafted. My wife is wearing wearable art. There is a relationship between the person who buys it and the person who made it.”
No festival would be complete without music and local favorite PackageGoods Orchestra will be performing their mix of folk, rock, country, swing, and R&B. There will also be a Beer & Wine Garden. Visitors can join in hands-on activities for all ages, such as scarecrow construction and tissue paper stained glass. There is also a Community Arts Project of a Maya Sawdust Carpet, which will be led by Master Guatemalan artist Ubaldo Sanchez.
This is the 21st annual in 22 years as the show had to be cancelled last year due to COVID. “This is the first event that WheatonArts is producing since the antique show of January 2020—where we’re inviting the public in,” says Nolan.
The festival will be inside and outside, rain or shine. “Twenty-five artists will be inside our event center,” she adds. “Our policy is masks are mandatory inside, vaccinated or unvaccinated. Outside we ask that you wear a mask if it is not possible to socially distance.”