TOWNSEND — Since its inception 31 years ago, Pam Snaith and husband Jock of Townsend have made a tradition of attending the annual Townsend Historical Society Arts and Crafts Fair. As they meandered beneath the perfect cloudless sky on Saturday, Sept. 15, with their 8-year-old granddaughter, Rosie, and her friend, Rose Carr, also 8, surveying the landscape of tented canopies, the Snaiths reflected on what had changed and what stayed the same since their first fair more than three decades earlier.
Many years ago, said Jock, a member of the Historical Society, what began as a showcase for artists and artisans to display their crafts had slowly begun developing into vendors selling more “manufactured” items.
Over the past several years, however, the focus of the fair has shifted back to the hand-made crafts and their crafters.
Jeannie Bartovics, sight administrator for the Historical Society, said each crafter is to bring only items they have created themselves; a jury committee screened all of the applications and photos to make sure that each item was handmade and appropriate to the fair.
“(The society) is really trying to bring it back to its roots,” said Jock.
Their mission has been accomplished; for the 31st annual fair, 41 artists and artisans piled into the town common to display and sell a incredible variety of pieces, each individually hand-crafted, no two pieces exactly the same.
For some crafters, like Serafina Baronowski, it would have been impossible to duplicate a piece exactly, even if someone had asked her to. Baronowski, who began crafting jewelry seven years ago with her daughter, also creates incense burners made from driftwood. For her work, she exclusively uses sea glass, shells and driftwood found on the beach.
“Every piece I collected myself from an island off of Maine,” she said. “I spent the whole winter up in Maine collecting.”
Baronowski was by no means the only crafter to transform something broken and useless into something beautiful. In fact, as a complete divergence from the manufactured feel from previous years the Snaiths mentioned, many of the crafters this year had adopted an eco-friendly “go green” concept when designing their crafts.
Lisa Chisholm sold repurposed “trash to treasures,” which she made from old, broken items she found at yard sales, giving them new life. Under her careful hand, a broken child’s bed frame became a sky-blue bench, complete with a handmade cushion.
“It’s re-fabulous,” she said.
In addition to several other hand-crafted items, Liza Mattison and her wife, Regina Shopiro, displayed handmade tote bags made from old shopping bags and dog food bags. They said sustainability was just as high a priority as making something unique and interesting.
“We like to make items that are fun and funky, but also have environmental conscientiousness,” said Mattison as she sat spinning yarn from wool at a spinning wheel.
Not everyone was there as a seller or a shopper; many attendees of all ages came just to enjoy the environment.
Nicole Laviolette and her 2-year-old daughter, Lea, stopped by when they saw a sign for the fair, but stayed for the free concert from children’s musician Jeff Jam.
“She loves the music,” Laviolette said as Lea bobbed her head along to the tunes.
Joan Clement came to enjoy the country atmosphere, bringing Bob Page to tag along.
Still, although the buyers may not have been actively purchasing, it didn’t decrease the enjoyment of the crafters.
Joyce Provencher said although sometimes the sales might be slow, people will often return later with an eye to buy.
“I never get discouraged,” she said.
Regardless of the sales, she said, creating her painted ceramics is the most gratifying part.
“Sometimes when you have too much on your mind, it takes your mind off of things,” she said. “Crafts are a nice get-away without having to get away.”