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

Augusta

will also highlight a major creative project that has been thriving

for decades in a remote village in the heart of the Kittatinny

Mountains.

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

Dam.

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.

Nineteenth

century buildings that otherwise would have been buried under water

by the dam were transformed into well-equipped studios and other

dwellings

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

picturesque

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

activities.

The area is laced a with variety of attractions that, if time an

energy

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

Georgia.

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

interesting

cuisine.

Even getting to the fair can be a special event if you chose to travel

along scenic byways that meander past farms, sleepy crossroads,

forests,

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

handcraft.

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

afternoon.

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,

ceramics,

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

selection

of hand-made objects and are open year round. The nearby town of

Milford,

Pennsylvania, is also home to several galleries featuring craft and

fine art.

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

careers

of several men and women who have made a difference in the world of

craft.

"Peters Valley shares the experience of the American Craft

Movement

through interactive workshop learning," says executive director

Ken Pierson. "We nurture both those who learn and those who

teach."

— Helen Schwartz

Peters Valley Craft Fair, Sussex County Fair Grounds,

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.

Directions to Sussex Country Fair Grounds: Take Route 206 North

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

the road.

Peters Valley Craft Center, 19 Kuhn Road, Layton,

973-948-5200.

For schedule of craft workshops, visit www.pvcrafts.org.

Directions to Peters Valley Craft Center: Take Route 206 North;

turn left onto Route 560 West, through the blinking light in the

center

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.

Other area attractions: Delaware Water Gap National

Recreation

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.

Boat Liveries: Indian Head Canoes, Newton, 800-874-2628.

Kittatinny Canoes, Dingmans Falls, 800-356-2852.

Space Farm Zoo and Museum, Sussex, 973-875-5800. Franklin

Mineral Museum, Franklin, 973-827-3481. Sterling Hill Mining Museum,

Ogdensburg, 973-209-7212. Waterloo Village Stanhope, 973-347-0900.


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