Friday, August 19, 2016

2016 League of NH Craftsmen Fair- Guest Blog post by Mikael Pluhar

Out of all 83 years the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Fair has been running, I have witnessed exactly one day. 

One day of a nine-day event, the oldest craft fair in the country boasting over 200 booths of fine craft goods, over 350 artists, workshops demonstrations, and exhibits. I was just one of thousands of people coming to see the fair, many of whom have been coming for decades, and some who, like me, had just stepped on the fairgrounds for the first time.

My first day at the League Fair was phenomenal. The second I walked in I was a lost in a sea of beautiful things, and even though I spent most of my day trying to find my parents, who were equally lost, I enjoyed every second of the fair. As I wandered into the booths I was pleased to discover that all of the craftsmen were eager and happy to talk about their work. I met some of the most funny and interesting people and learned about a range of crafts from leather stitching to silk screening. To top it all off I turned a corner and discovered a long lost friend of mine manning one of the booths! There couldn’t have been a more perfect reunion, plus I went home with a lovely ring made out of an 1890’s spoon.

When I finally found my father he was still by the entrance, having walked directly into the blacksmithing tent and become captivated with the demonstration. Master blacksmith Garry Kalajian had been slowly replacing the safety rope around his exhibit with a chain he was fastening on site. All day long people wandered through his tent and pumped his bellows via a converted bicycle. What I didn’t personally witness I learned secondhand from my father, who had become so enamored with the traditional art of blacksmithing he was thinking about taking classes.

The League Fair has a wealth of traditional and contemporary arts on display. There were demonstrations on pottery, traditional woodworking without power tools, beading, and much more. I spent a while learning about painted canvas floor cloths, a traditionally colonial mat. The painted cloths shed water and protect your floors from grease, and can be easily made at home. My family and I were encouraged to try and design our own cloth for our home.

Because that’s what the fair does: it encourages the love of crafts. There wasn’t one booth I didn’t want to buy something from, and there wasn’t one workshop I didn’t want to take. I tried craft cheese and wool coats. My dad learned about steam engines, and my mom won tickets to ride the Mount Washington Cog Railway. All I can say is that I can’t wait for the Fair to come back next year!


The League of NH Craftsmen is a 2016/2017 recipient of a Public Value Partnership grant from the NH State Council on the Arts.

Mikael Pluhar is an intern at the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts. He is currently a student at Vassar College where he studies Studio Art and Architecture.