Pepperell artisan among locals participating at fair

Garment designers, painters and others to display work

Betsy Keeney showcasing her hand-crafted metal jewelry. (Courtesy photograph / Nashoba Valley Voice)
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PEPPERELL — A local woman who crafts jewelry from metal is among several local artisans currently participating in the 86th annual Craftsmen’s Fair that began earlier this month and concludes late Sunday.

Taking place at the Mount Sunapee Resort in Newbury, N.H., just off Interstate 89, the annual event features exhibitions and workshops on various hand-crafted items.

Craftsmen from around New England are displaying works of clay, glass, leather, metal and wood.

Attendees include returning participant Betsy Keeney of Pepperell, who makes and sells gold and silver metal jewelry at Lowell’s Western Avenue Studios.

Betsy Keeney crafting metal jewelry. (Courtesy photograph / Nashoba Valley Voice)

Operating under the label Centre Village Studio, Keeney’s creations include earrings and necklaces inspired by nature.

Keeney said she’s been to the fair 12 times in the 15 years she’s been making jewelry.

Among other things, the highlight of the fair for her is making new connections.

“You meet a lot of people there and form friendships with customers,” Keeney said. “I like the camaraderie with the other artists too.”

Keeney said she’s been working with her hands all of her life, so much so that she boasted about having “hand-made everything I gave for Christmas when I was a kid.”

Her current endeavor started after a friend told her about crafting classes at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester. Within a year of taking classes, Keeney started renting her studio in Lowell and later started teaching her own classes at the institute.

Betsy Keeney showcasing her hand-crafted metal jewelry. (Courtesy photograph / Nashoba Valley Voice)

“Teaching keeps me active,” she added. “A lot of my students are community ed people, typically middle-aged women and some men learning how to use their hands on something that they can be proud of. ”

Making her fair debut is Barbara Poole, a Lowell resident who founded her own local clothing company called B-Felt. Through her 11-year-old company, Poole designs and crafts a variety of intricate dresses, scarves, jackets and coats with vibrant colors. B-Felt plans to also offer jewelry and handbags in the future.

Poole’s artistic skills come from her time as a painter, but she said she started losing money and opportunities to have her work displayed after the financial crisis of 2008. She said that the lack of work from her artistic passion lead to a spout of depression, what she referred to as “post-art-um depression.” But then she started changing her field a bit.

That other door opened one night when she was out to dinner wearing a shawl that she designed herself. A woman at the restaurant noticed her hand-crafted garment, was floored by it, and then became B-Fit’s first wholesaler. Poole has picked up a head of steam since then, but she notes how it’s not all about the money.

“I’m a person who loves to make things,” Poole said. “I make my work to make women feel beautiful. I believe clothing is transformative and I love the transformation that happens with different garments.

Tickets for the 86th Annual Craftsmen’s Fair are still available for purchase at nhcraftsmen.ticketbud.com

 

Jon Winkler: @MrJW595 on Twitter