A two-day gathering featuring handmade crafts, artisan food vendors and a tasty array of music will help ease the transition from summer to autumn at Canterbury Shaker Village. For 25 years, the museum and historic site has celebrated Wool Day, with spinning, weaving and displays of fiber-producing animals. But the Shakers are a forward-thinking community, and the time seemed right to change things up a bit.
The result is the first Canterbury Artisan Festival, to be held on Sept. 15 and Sept. 16.
“We love Wool Day, it’s a great adventure,” says museum Education Director Maisie Daly. “We decided to incorporate not only textiles — a wonderful thing — but also different aspects of artisanship. That led to the idea of incorporating traditional arts demonstrations that we can’t do here all the time, such as blacksmith and coopering, basket making and woodworking.”
A well-rounded palette of music is also on offer. Ubiquitous fiddler Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki will lead things off on the first day. His trio’s repertoire mixes Celtic traditions with music informed by funk and jam band influences, a reflection of the time he spent playing pubs in Ireland as well as the work he’s done with his former group JamAntics and the Dusty Gray Band, along with countless guest slots with a wide array of musical ensembles.
Berklee-trained Chasing Blue, a regular at summer festivals like North Branch, Grey Fox and Podunk, perform Saturday afternoon. The young bluegrass quintet mixes old-time and original songs, and the group recently completed a new album, due for release by year’s end.
Closing out the first day’s musical offerings is Three Tall Pines, a Massachusetts-based quartet specializing in tight harmonies and clever arrangements of Americana, alt-country and bluegrass material. The group was named Bluegrass Band of the Year in 2011 by Motif Arts Magazine and also won the Ossipee Valley Bluegrass Festival band competition.
Fittingly enough, Day 2 begins with the Canterbury Shaker Singers doing a noon performance at the museum’s Meeting House. Their appearance is followed by the multifaceted Crunchy Western Boys, who blend edgy modern sensibility into traditional motifs.
The day ends with Amy Black, a songwriter born to parents hailing from Muscle Shoals, Ala. Because her father was an itinerant preacher, Black moved around the South as a child; she ended up in Boston at age 16 heavily influenced by Southern mores and family stories. She traveled back and forth between New England and Alabama throughout her teenage years.
Lorne Entress, who’s worked with Lori McKenna, Mark Erelli and Catie Curtis, produced Black’s second album, 2011’s One Time. Her original songs draw from a variety of Americana influences, and No Depression magazine praised her “folk-styled country voice that suggests bits of Patty Loveless, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Judy Collins, edged by the blues of Bonnie Raitt and a hint of Jennifer Nettle’s sass.”
Daly handpicked the musical talent. “I spent a lot of time thinking about and looking at different bands to come,” she says. “Essentially it was about groups that really look at traditional sounds and create something that is really their own. What we’re thinking about now is rethinking tradition.”
The farmers market and artisan fair share this spirit.
“The common thread with all of them is that they are all authentic,” Daly says. “We’ve got a really good spectrum of arts that people can find.”
There will be traditional arts demos, a beer garden sponsored by Smuttynose Brewing and artisan food vendors. Hands-on exhibits include a community mosaic project and cornhusk doll making. Admission includes entry to village exhibits and Shaker buildings. A farmers market features homemade maple products and produce.
Forty-one craftspeople and artisans will be on hand, selling handmade soaps, stoneware, wooden bowls, oval Shaker boxes, paintings, watercolors, jewelry and photography.
Photographs shouldn’t seem out of place amidst the bucolic natural splendor of the Shaker Village, Daly says. “It’s the most common misconception. People often think of the Shakers as quaint, quiet quilters, and they were anything but that. They were radical thinking, socially progressive and they embraced technology. In fact, they were great camera bugs, which has been great for the museum. We have numerous photographs that we can call upon to represent them in various ways.”
The Shaker command of useful beauty, Daly insists, is driven by a very practical need.
“Their name became synonymous with quality and the idea that form follows function, which really appeals to our contemporary eye,” he says. “All of this came from a core belief that time is the most precious gift of all and that it should be saved.”