Corrections or additions?
This article by Helen Schwartz was prepared for the September 24,
2003 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
High Ground for Crafts: Peters Valley
by Helen Schwartz
When the doors open at the Peters Valley Craft Fair
on Saturday, September 27, the show and sale of handmade objects by
some of the finest artisans on the eastern seaboard will also draw
attention to the northwest corner of New Jersey as the place to go
if you want to get away from it all without going very far. In the
process, the two-day event at the Sussex County Fair Grounds in
will also highlight a major creative project that has been thriving
for decades in a remote village in the heart of the Kittatinny
The annual Peters Valley fair, in business for more than 25 years,
is an event that reflects the rhythms of life and work in the Peters
Valley. The nationally noted craft community came into being as a
by-product of the controversial and ultimately ill-fated Tocks Island
Organized by the National Park Service in 1969 to make use of one
of the abandoned villages that had been condemned for the project,
it became a residential center for the study of fine crafts including
pottery, weaving, blacksmithing, fine metals, and woodworking.
century buildings that otherwise would have been buried under water
by the dam were transformed into well-equipped studios and other
were adapted for student residences, meeting halls, and a dining hall.
Every summer, some 700 studentscome from all over the country to
live and work with nationally known artists at workshops that last
from three to five days.
But the lavish show and sale of first-rate pottery, jewelry, weaving,
basketry, and works in leather, glass, iron, and wood, and the
artisan village in Bevan are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes
to attractions in Sussex and Warren counties. People who make the
trip to the exposition complex in Augusta, just north of Newton off
Route 206, will also be rewarded by a wide choice of nearby
The area is laced a with variety of attractions that, if time an
allow, could keep a tourist happily occupied for days.
In this corner of New Jersey a visitor can picnic, camp, and hike
in national and state parks that are dotted with lakes and waterfalls,
criss-crossed by miles of trails with breathtaking mountain and river
vistas, and filled with hundreds of wooded campsites. The popular
Appalachian Trail cuts though the area on its way from Maine to
The scenic Delaware River is dotted with liveries that rent canoes
and kayaks. Quiet riverbanks serve as access for a swim. And tiny
country towns offer opportunities to shop for antiques, tour historic
villages, and dine in restaurants that are gaining attention for
Even getting to the fair can be a special event if you chose to travel
along scenic byways that meander past farms, sleepy crossroads,
and mountains. Back roads, like routes 521 and 519, offer appealing
rural vistas that come as a surprise in the most populous state. En
route you will pass farm stands, wineries, and specimen architecture
that — in some cases — has been standing for centuries. The
cluster of ancient stone houses and a picturesque mill cum inn in
the village of Hope, for example, were built by Moravian settlers
in the 18th century. And a stroll down Blairstown’s main street is
a serious trip back in time.
The craft fair alone, however, is well worth the trip. The annual
event draws some 10,000 connoisseurs, collectors, and folks who just
like to look and is regarded as a major national venue for fine
Staged against a background of day-long live musical entertainment,
including bluegrass, folk, and jazz, artist demonstrations, and an
array of foods ranging from souvlakia to funnel cakes, a trip to the
Peters Valley Craft Fair makes for a full and entertaining family
The work of more than 160 artists on view at the fair represents some
of the best contemporary and traditional craft to be found. Whether
it is useful goods like hand-woven clothing, hand-blown glassware,
finely crafted leather handbags, pottery and jewelry, or objects meant
only to please the eye, the tempting array of works functions as a
lesson on how to introduce good design into everyday life.
Artisans, who will demonstrate their work throughout both days, offer
insights into the complexity and richness of making fine craft. On
both days, ongoing demonstrations will include jewelry making,
wood turning, pottery, and metal work. Featured artists include Tom
Neugebauer who will demonstrate raku, an elegant form of low-fired
pottery; John and Elizabeth Best who will be working in glass; and
Mark and Victoria Caluneo who make baskets out of metal.
And if the works on view do not suffice, more fine crafts can be found
a few miles to the north in the Peters Valley Shop on the Old Mine
Road in Bevan. The shop and its exhibition gallery offer a wide
of hand-made objects and are open year round. The nearby town of
Pennsylvania, is also home to several galleries featuring craft and
In recent years programs at Peters Valley have expanded to encompass
the community at large. Popular events this year include an American
vernacular music series featuring home-grown bluegrass, blues, and
Dixieland jazz. There is also a four-part story telling series held
in the 19th-century meeting house. A living cultural treasures program
in early September was organized to celebrate the distinguished
of several men and women who have made a difference in the world of
"Peters Valley shares the experience of the American Craft
through interactive workshop learning," says executive director
Ken Pierson. "We nurture both those who learn and those who
— Helen Schwartz
Augusta, 973-948-5200. Peters Valley’s 33rd annual craft fair moves
to an indoor location. Over 160 artists, plus artist demonstrations,
food vendors, and live music all day long. $6 adult; children under
12 are free. Www.pvcrafts.org. Saturday, September 27, 10 a.m.
to 6 p.m., and Sunday, September 28, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
past Newton and Ross’ Corner (intersection of Route 15 and Route 206
makes a left) to Augusta. Turn right at the light for Plains Road
and the Sussex County Fairgrounds will be on the right one mile down
For schedule of craft workshops, visit www.pvcrafts.org.
turn left onto Route 560 West, through the blinking light in the
of Layton, onto Route 640; go about 2 miles and turn right onto Route
615. Go approximately one mile to the Peters Valley Craft Center sign
on your right.
Area, 570-588-2451. Swartswood State Park, Swartswood, 973-383-5230.
Stokes State Forest, Branchville, 973-948-3820. Worthington Forest,
Columbia,908-841-9575. High Point State Park, Sussex, 973-875-4800.
Kittatinny Canoes, Dingmans Falls, 800-356-2852.
Mineral Museum, Franklin, 973-827-3481. Sterling Hill Mining Museum,
Ogdensburg, 973-209-7212. Waterloo Village Stanhope, 973-347-0900.
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