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Crafts, with Surprises, Too

This article by Pat Summers was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

November 18, 1998. All rights reserved.

It’s sometimes hard to choose between two alternatives.

Try 131 of them for a dilemma with a scazillion horns. Fortunately,

at the 25th Annual Princeton YWCA Crafters’ Marketplace on Saturday

and Sunday, November 21 and 22, there’s no need to choose. Visitors

need only wander among the wares of more than 130 artisans on display

at John Witherspoon Middle School, Princeton, and like — or buy

— the work of any number of them.

The event makes it easy for those who go: ample parking near the

school,

varied foods to fuel flagging shoppers, and, best of all, crafts

representing

12 different mediums — metal to paper, and pressed flowers to

leather. This year the majority of entries are in the fiber area,

with jewelry, mixed media and wood following, in that order. Then

there’s the "miscellaneous" category, encompassing a wealth

of surprises, such as chicken and goose eggs, painstakingly decorated

in the Ukrainian tradition.

The decorator is Olga Cluff, of Lambertville, who can spend as much

as 21 hours turning a plain egg into a beautiful and symbolic keepsake

of many colors. Talk about makeovers.

With the wax-resist process she learned from her mother — a native

Ukrainian, as was her father — Cluff continues a process that

originated, she says, before the time of Christ. Symbolizing spring

and the re-birth of life, decorated eggs have long been given to

friends

and lovers, and even the dead. Drawing from the stock of 16 dozen

eggs she keeps on hand for her hobby, she usually uses fresh, smooth

chicken or goose eggs, although she has also worked with bantam eggs

and even peacock eggs, which are between chicken and goose eggs in

size. (Despite their origin, peacock eggs do not come naturally

decorated.)

Using a stylus — picture a ball point pen with a cone tip that

"writes" in hot beeswax — Cluff applies the design, then

colors the egg everywhere but where the design was drawn because the

wax resists a color coat. She can draw with wax before each new color,

adding to the layers of both design and color until, finally, she

removes the wax and cleans and varnishes the egg. Surprisingly, her

process requires Cluff to work with a raw egg; the shell isn’t emptied

until after all decoration and four coats of varnish have been

applied.

At that point, she blows the egg out; and fortunately, she says,

mishaps

at this point are rare.

Cluff’s geometric designs often start with a tape measure. She may

divide the egg into quarters before moving into the design phase.

Each stroke of the stylus can be fraught with meaning: a meandering

line signifies eternity; a circle stands for the sun; and wheat, the

harvest. Colors also tell a tale: yellow, for instance, means wisdom

and happiness; purple, patience and trust; orange, power and

endurance.

She might use up to six different colors on one egg. That fact, plus

the built-in design symbolism, helps explain why prospective customers

often study the decorated eggs for some time before purchase:

"Read

my eggs."

Completed eggs sell for $5 to $50, require no maintenance, and can

be displayed on egg stands, under glass domes, or even in brandy

snifters.

Cluff will also sell display accessories to those who buy her eggs.

Another crafter whose finished product is painstaking

and time-consuming is carver John Knight of Pennington. Working in

southern tupelo wood, his favorite because it doesn’t splinter or

chip, or in linden wood — called basswood, for reasons he can’t

explain — Knight makes birds that range from the chickadee

(typically

the work of 12 or more hours) through barn swallows and red-tailed

hawks. Most of his birds are life size, he says, except for the hawk,

whose 26-inch length warrants a two-thirds size replica. All are

"anatomically

correct" because Knight works from life-as-a-birdwatcher or from

books, though not from Audubon: "His color’s good; his form

isn’t,"

Knight observes.

A long-time wood carver, Knight has found more time to pursue his

craft since he retired from his job in the industrial insulation

trade.

Each carving includes a bit of "habitat" for each bird,

whether

sand for a plover, or a tree branch, and he uses acrylic paints to

color them. Noting that the raptors he carves have more distinctive

feathers, and therefore take longer to make, he utters the words all

dedicated crafters will recognize: "There’s no charge for

labor!"

Prices for Knight’s birds start at $100 for a chickadee and go to

about $800 for a hawk.

Craftspeople like Olga Cluff and John Knight, popular veterans of

the YWCA Crafters’ Marketplace, help the organization realize the

approximately $55,000 it earns from the event that goes into its Pearl

Bates Scholarship Fund. Admission and crafters’ fees, and food and

souvenir sales, together with more than 200 volunteers have combined

to make the weekend a win-win experience for all involved.

The YWCA Pearl Bates Scholarship Fund makes YWCA

programs

available to community members who could not otherwise afford to

participate.

The fund was created as a memorial to Bates, an association activist,

who died at a young age in the 1960s.

In addition to the 131 crafters who will set up their wares in the

gym, the cafeteria, the hallways, the weekend also features

demonstrations.

Every half-hour, in the D-wing of Witherspoon Middle School, members

of the Y’s artisans guild will show how they do what they do. For

instance, both days at 2:30 p.m., Peter Smith will demonstrate wood

turning; at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Ulrike Schafer will show bead-making,

and at the same time on Sunday, she will work with jewelry wire.

On Saturday at 3 p.m., the Crafters’ Marketplace will celebrate its

25th birthday with cake and an appearance by its founding director.

Volunteers will sell soup, chile, and homemade baked goods, and a

biscotti bar and cappuccino bar will be open both days. The

"Y"

will also sell T-shirts and bears.

Crafters’ Marketplace is open to any crafter who meets the July 1

application deadline. Entries are juried from slides, and crafters

can request space size and ideal location. This year’s 131

participants

were selected from more than 200 applicants.

It’s convenient, it’s varied, and it’s timed for holiday giving and

enjoying. Going this year? "Y not?"

— Pat Summers

Crafters’ Marketplace, Princeton YWCA, John

Witherspoon

Middle School, 217 Walnut Lane, 609-497-2100. The 25th annual juried

craft show. $5 adult; $4 seniors and youth. Saturday and Sunday,

November 21 and 22, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


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