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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
varied foods to fuel flagging shoppers, and, best of all, crafts
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
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
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
At that point, she blows the egg out; and fortunately, she says,
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
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:
Completed eggs sell for $5 to $50, require no maintenance, and can
be displayed on egg stands, under glass domes, or even in brandy
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
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
correct" because Knight works from life-as-a-birdwatcher or from
books, though not from Audubon: "His color’s good; his form
A long-time wood carver, Knight has found more time to pursue his
craft since he retired from his job in the industrial insulation
Each carving includes a bit of "habitat" for each bird,
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
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
available to community members who could not otherwise afford to
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
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
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
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
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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