TOWSEND — Marilyn Brown has been painting all her life, but when she began her career as a professional artist, she wasn’t exactly using a brush and a canvas.
“I had a 30-year career as a graphic artist for government contractors. I was actually an illustrator for technical manuals for the Army, Navy and Air Force,” she said. “Then, when I got laid off, I said,’What am I going to do now?'”
The answer was simple: Paint. As a hobby, Brown started painting home decor, such as furniture and mailboxes. Finally she decided to put her work on canvas, and has been doing so for about the past eight years.
“I’m not a crafter anymore, now I’m an artist,” she said.
Brown, who paints mostly landscapes, especially New England scenes, shows her work in many art shows in the area and has won several awards. But the one event she makes sure to attend every year is Townsend’s annual Arts and Crafts Fair, hosted by the Townsend Historical Society on the common for 31 years.
“I’ve been participating for 10 years. Even before I started doing work on canvas, I displayed my crafts,” she said. “I had all these things hanging around the house that I’d painted and I need to sell some.”
This year is no different: On Sept. 15 and 16, regular fair-goers can expect to see Brown’s tent once again, complete with a plethora of her original work.
“I have all my originals on one side, then prints and framed ones on the other side, racks my husband made to hang everything on and my table with note cards,” she said. “I think it gives me more visibility and I can get some commissions … It also gives me an opportunity to let people know what I’m doing later on in the year. I can kind of set myself up to get more people to get interested coming to see my work.”
Brown said the patronage is different every year but it’s usually easy to tell who’s interested in buying and who is just there to browse. But her favorite part of participating in the fair is being surrounded by others who love art and forging friendships with like-minded artists.
“People look at the art and want to talk to me about it. That’s what I like. I’ve also gotten to know a lot of people who exhibit there … so it’s kind of like meeting old friends you haven’t seen in a while,” she said.
Brown isn’t the only one eagerly anticipating the fair.
Jeannie Bartovics, site administrator for the Townsend Historical Society, usually expects anywhere from 35 to 60 crafters and artists; the deadline for applicants is Sept. 1.
“We have everything from artwork to beautiful handmade jewelry to quilts and knotted items, the whole spectrum,” she said. “Our requirement is that they be done by the individual.”
Judy Hanks of Lunenburg, who carves leather pieces such as belts and wallets, said this is her second year participating in the fair, though she’s been doing leather work since 1970. Along with speaking with the attendees, she also enjoys taking in the festive atmosphere.
“I like the common, being there in the center of town outside. It’s comfortable … It’s just a good way to show off your stuff,” she said.
Leominster jeweler Maria McInerny said she loves having an outlet to show her work, which she began two years ago after retiring.
“Initially when I started making jewelry, I did it for me personally … then I enjoyed it so much, I basically started mass producing it. I thought, ‘I couldn’t possibly wear all this jewelry and it just kind of snowballed from there,” she said. “I try not to make the same piece twice, so for me it’s always something new.”
McInerny said she most enjoys the “hometown feeling” of the fair.
“Even the kids enjoy it, so if a woman wants to go shopping, she’s welcome to take the kids and they feel like they’re participating, too,” she said. “I’ve approached people and said, ‘This is the fair for you.'”
The art isn’t the only thing the kids have to look forward to, either. Bartovics said the festivities include a range of musicians, from Jeff Jam to Finnish folk band Oivan Ilo.
“Townsend had a significant Finnish population in the first half of the 20th century, so this is a way to celebrate Townsend’s heritage,” she said.
The Townsend Military Band will also be playing and an actor portraying Henry David Thoreau will greet early-morning Saturday patrons. As always, there will be a cornucopia of food. The historical society is joining with the Townsend Community Couples Club to supply all the grilled food and baked goods.
“It sort of sums up New England,” Bartovics said. “It’s right on the edge of the foliage … and when the weather cooperates, there’s nothing like the blue sky and the September sun.”