Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Showcase at the 80th Annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Fair, Newbury, NH

Fred Dolan would tell you the League Fair is all about connecting with people- sharing stories of your craft with new listeners or seeing old friends and fellow craftsmen. Dolan, an accomplished decoy carver and painter from Strafford, NH, knows a thing or two about what to expect at the League Fair, and what it means to share the beauty and knowledge of a craft form with others. For many years Fred demonstrated at the League Fair for the entire nine-day run, mainly to see other fine craftsmen in New Hampshire. Of course, he was also there to share with new appreciating audiences a skill he has  honed over the years.

Fred Dolan (right) & David Horan demonstrating sharpening 
tools at the 80th annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen

This year, as part of the NH State Council on the Arts Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Showcase tent, Fred demonstrated decoy carving and displayed many examples of his birds alongside his current apprentice, David Horan. The recently crafted decoy by Horan, completed during their apprenticeship, was remarkable for a newcomer to the craft, and he attributes the progression of his skill all to Fred. The decoy was carved of Northern White Cedar and painted with acrylics. The painting process incorporated traditional combing techniques on the side pockets and scapulars, all skills that Fred passed on to David, but took him many years to perfect.  Many participants in the apprenticeship program seek to work with master artists that are not only known for their individual skill in the art form, but also 
Fred Dolan (left) & David Horan showing off their decoys.
for their skills as teachers. 

There was a steady flow of traffic into the Apprenticeship Showcase tent, with fair-goers stopping along the way to talk with and watch demonstrations by the other featured master and apprentice teams.

Pam Bartlett

Lynda Hadlock, apprentice to master rug hooker and White Mountain Woolen Magic president Pam Bartlett, switched multiple projects on and off her stand throughout the day. Some areas were difficult and required concentration, and she wanted Pam’s undistracted attention to help her figure out the best way to tackle the rug hooking project. Lynda said, “It’s too distracting here. All I want to do is talk with people.” Pam and Lynda set up a public rug hooking project and had many visitors try their hand at rug hooking. The artists had many examples of hooked rugs on display, from rugs illustrating family stories, sections of rugs that were created for collaborative community projects, and rugs that celebrated Celtic design patterns. A quote from Pam was displayed on the table, “The wool is stronger than your problems.”

Pam Bartlett helping a visitor practice hooking.
Lynda Hadlock, hooking a rug.

Debbie Dostie, a master Native American bead weaver from BristolNH, had a tension loom set up with examples of moccasins, bead weavings, and other projects that she and apprentice Vicki Blanchard worked on during their past apprenticeship together. If you spent time with Debbie, she would tell you that bringing beauty to an object through beading, for some Native Americans, is a spiritual process that reflects the artisan’s appreciation for the gift of beauty in the natural world. Patterns including flowers, vegetation, animals, geometric and curved designs all help the artist weave a story of community, tradition, and a connection to place. In a recent interview with Lynn Martin Graton, Acting Director of the NH State Council on the Arts, Debbie discussed passing on the tradition of Native American beadwork through the apprenticeship program, “There are some people who learn to bead, and there others who bead to learn.”

The Apprenticeship showcase was right at home among the many other demonstrations, workshops, and fine crafts at the League Fair, which holds the distinction of being the oldest fine craft fair in the country. The NH State Council on the Arts Traditional Arts Apprenticeship program helps to preserve traditional crafts, music and dance so that future generations can continue to benefit from them. Apprenticeship grants fund a master traditional artist to teach an experienced apprentice in one-to-one sessions over a period of six to ten months. As a complementary venue to the program, the 80th annual League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Fair was filled with inspiring examples of traditional arts and music being celebrated and preserved across the state.

Debbie Dostie, weaving on the loom.
Vicki Blanchard, weaving with seed beads.