It is widely known that the annual League of NH Craftsmen’s fair is an ideal time to find special handmade crafts. But the League also prides itself on providing numerous opportunities to learn about everything from how crafts are made to how to start your collection.
When the fair, which is the oldest continuously running fair in America, opens on Saturday, Aug. 6, at Mount Sunapee Resort in Newbury, there will be the traditional booths upon booths — 200 in total — of works of varying degrees, which can be easily admired. But if people look closer they will garner a better appreciation of what these craftsmen do.
“One of the key components of what the League does is education,” said Carol Fusaro of Sullivan Creative, which handles marketing for the League. “Educating the public is part of their mission. They show what goes into making these crafts. This way the public appreciates what they’re paying for beyond that it is just beautiful.”
The League educates in a variety of ways. One is through daily workshops and classes. As always there will be the popular glass-blowing and blacksmithing demonstrations, according to Fusaro. This year, for the first time, there will also be a demonstration on acoustic guitar building. Artist John Whiteside is the first member to be juried in making guitars. There will also be classes, like soap-carving taught by chainsaw artist Tom Worcester. A seminar on how to build a proper craft collection was started a few years ago and will continue this summer. Fusaro said the class teaches the basics of how to value a craft and how to take care of it. She said the seminar has panelists but it is open-ended so people (from advanced collectors to newbies) can ask questions.
Beyond these classes there is also the Tour with a Master, in which you can walk around with a juried member of the League and look at the booths in a particular medium, like wood.
“Everybody has their own unique style and different way they approach their work,” Fusaro said. “Having this focused tour helps you go around and understand and appreciate the differences in the work.”
People come from all over New England and other parts of the country to check out the fair, according to Fusaro. This speaks to the talent of the members whose works are on display during the nine-day fair. One of the reasons the fair, which is in its 78th year, is so popular is the League’s stringent standards for allowing new members to be juried in.
“A lot of people who become juried members are honored to be selected,” Fusaro said. “While there are a lot of other crafts fairs, they aren’t any quite like this one.”
The fair has been nine days long since 1984, according to Susie Lowe-Stockwell, executive director of the League of NH Craftsmen. From 1964 to 1983, it was six days long, and before that it was either four or five days. In its infancy, the fair moved from location to location, making its way across the state. But as it has grown, the logistics of finding an appropriate location have made a traveling fair far more complicated than it is worth. Fusaro said the fair has found a nice home in Newbury as the space is large enough for parking, the many booths and large crowds.
This year’s fair will provide an additional surprise: the Pousette-Dart Band will perform on Saturday, Aug. 13. Fusaro said the fair always has music but usually attracts local or regional acts. She said the Pousette-Dart Band has a large national following, which may bring more people who are fans of the band into the fair.