So much of fine craft is about traditions passed down for generations – but for fine craft to truly thrive, you need to think about the future, too.
For Miriam Carter, executive director of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, this weekend’s Capital Arts Fest is the perfect way to show newcomers why handmade crafts are so valuable to the city of Concord and the state as a whole.
“While we have a very important presence in the state, there are many people who don’t know about the League. Having a street fair really gives us the opportunity to create a broader awareness about who we are and what we do as an organization,” Carter said. “We have a longstanding tradition of being leaders in craft, and we feel it’s also our obligation to build future supporters of craft as well.”
The Capital Arts Fest, now in its fifth year, takes place outside League Headquarters Saturday, Sept. 24, and Sunday, Sept. 25, with 32 juried craftsmen displaying handcrafted work in jewelry, metal, wood, glass, printmaking, fiber arts and more. In addition, there are live concerts coordinated by the Capitol Center for the Arts on the main stage, including headliners Firefall and the Screaming Orphans, and special activities that take place all over the city.
For craftspeople, it’s a refreshing change from the League’s most recent event, the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair in Sunapee.
“It’s such a nice, relaxing atmosphere out there on the street. To see everything at Sunapee is a bit of a marathon, but this event emphasizes the walkability of Concord,” said Laury Nichols, a Chichester wood carver. Nichols won’t have a Booth but will be demonstrating her craft – carved and painted woodland creatures – in the League of NH Craftsmen Concord Retail Gallery on Saturday. “There are a lot of tourists, but there are also a lot of local people who come out to Concord. It’s nice to be able to talk to them. Since I live in Chichester, they’re sort of my neighbors.”
For some artists, participating in a large event soon after Sunapee might sound overwhelming, but North Sutton jewelry artist Erica Walker says her ideas flow best when she’s at her busiest – though maybe it’s just in her blood. Walker’s father was a hobbyist silversmith and goldsmith, and her sister, Kiki Huston, is a jewelry artist based in New Orleans. When their father died years ago, Huston began taking the craft seriously, Walker followed suit shortly after. The hobby turned into a full-time job for Walker when an unexpected layoff provided the chance to make a go of her craft.
These days, the siblings help each other out with their work, Huston visiting New Hampshire for the Craftsmen’s Fair, Walker traveling down south for Huston’s equivalent event, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
“We’re both mainly self-taught, so it’s fascinating sometimes to work alongside somebody else. There’s a lot of, oh, that’s how you do that? And, why didn’t I ever think of that? It’s really special that we have this in common,” Walker said. “Our dad would have been thrilled to know two of his daughters are making their living as jewelry artists.”
Walker will be driving to Concord from her North Sutton home and studio with her simple pop-up tent and jewelry collection, which she says has a simple, organic aesthetic that’s both livable and contemporary. She loves that the League has branched out and added this festival to the roster. “I want to see these additional shows prosper, so that’s part of the reason I want to take part – to support the League,” Walker said.
The event is co-sponsored by the League, the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, Intown Concord, the Capitol Center for the Arts, with support from the State of New Hampshire and the City of Concord.
“Nonprofits these days really have to involve themselves with partnerships. It’s a smart thing to do. That’s one thing I think COVID taught a lot of people. By creating these partnerships with other organizations who have a following, we’re amplifying the reach of our message, which can only help artists have more people attend the event,” Carter said. “This is an opportunity to let people know we’re here, and we’re active.”
In addition to the handcrafted work on Main Street, visitors can enjoy the opening weekend of the New Hampshire Potters’ Guild exhibition, “Storied in Clay,” Hosted at League Headquarters; the KidsCreate! activity tent; music by local artists and groups; a downtown Concord historic walking tour; and more.
Capital Arts Fest takes place outside League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Headquarters, 49 S. Main St., Concord, on Saturday, Sept. 24, from 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday, Sept. 25, from 10 am to 4 pm All events are free to attend. For a detailed schedule, visit visitconcord-nh.com/capital-arts-fest.