Albemarle Craftsman's Fair: Popular fall event celebrates 60th year

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Kristen Anderson and her grandmother Faytie Johnston are preparing for this year's Albemarle Craftsman's Fair. Anderson, who was trained by her grandparents, will display an array of her copper enamel pieces at the fair at Knobbs Creek Recreation Center, Friday through Sunday, Oct. 26-28.

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By Kesha Williams

Sunday, October 21, 2018

For many area residents, the search for unique holiday gifts begins the minute doors open for the 60th annual Albemarle Craftsman’s Fair.

From Oct. 26 through Oct. 28 crafters will display quilts, glass jewelry, hand-painted scarves, woodwork, leather belts and more. The Knobbs Creek Recreation Center is the site for the event that includes work by 60 vendors.

Faytie Johnston has been involved in the organization of the event since 1976. She and her colleagues are proud to present a selection of handmade merchandise that drastically differs from much of the merchandise available at retail outlets. Best of all, she noted, these crafts are made by people who are functioning at the highest of standards of craft excellence.

“This year’s event includes 11 new members of the Albemarle Craftsman’s Guild, “Johnston said. “They have to be screened by a committee of experienced guild members before they become members. They will join over 30 vendors who are returning to the event.” 

Since 1959, this event has drawn numerous regional crafters who are not only here to sell goods, but to share their knowledge. This year’s event will include up to 30 returning vendors who cherish the knowledge and skills represented at the fair.

“It’s like a family reunion. Everybody helps with setting up,” Johnston said.

They are outgoing, all inclusive types so it’s a friendly event for customers,” Johnston said. “Some customers buy Christmas gifts here. Some buy for their own use, or for their collections.”

Crafters come from Virginia, Winston Salem, and various towns near Elizabeth City. Johnston said the event is a unique event where you can buy it from the person who created the item displayed in the booth. It’s an opportunity for family members to not only share the day, but secrets to their trade.

Among this year’s vendors is Kristen Anderson, Johnston’s granddaughter who has been participating in the event since childhood and looks forward to the 2018 show.

“It is inter-generational. My grandparents passed the craft to me,” Anderson said. “They used to have a booth just for copper enameling. If these crafts don’t get taken up, they will die.”

“From a sustainability perspective, if all we bought high-quality, hand-made items and less of the fast fashion items, there would be less in the landfill,” Anderson said.

New to the show, Mary Ayers, a Bear Grass resident, is arriving for the first time as an Albemarle Craftsman’s Fair vendor after participating in the Roanoke Arts and Crafts fair for last 37 years. In the past, she thought the fall dates of the two events were too close for her to prepare a sufficient amount of merchandise for both events. But she is ready this year.

Ayers said she admires the Elizabeth City fair because instruction is part of the event. She plans to demonstrate for customers how she makes her tobacco twine angels.

“My booth will have different types of angels. I do them in different sizes and styles. I work on them all year round, off and on,” Ayers said.

“You will find items you won’t find at retail stores. Each has its own quality, its own personality. This fair keeps old, traditional crafts alive and the skill is something you can pass on to someone else.”

Fair entry fee for the fair is $5, general admission; and $4 for senior citizens, students, military and groups of 10 or more.

Hours of operation: Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 28, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.