Unison Crafts Fair this weekend spotlights Gardiner artists

Pictured (clockwise from top left) are Gardiner artists selling work at next weekend’s Unison Craft Fair: Amy LeFevre with greeting cards and prints, Leonie Lacouette with handmade clocks, Annie O’Neill with hand-painted earthenware, Laura Watson with fiber art, Elissa Rinaldo Cimino with floral art and Alexa Ginsburg with fiber art. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

There is an artistic hot spot right in the small town of Gardiner, where six craftswomen will shed light on their art at the upcoming Unison Holiday Crafts Fair at the New Paltz Middle School on Dec. 3 and 4. No need to go to Soho or Chelsea to find that perfect piece of art for a loved one; instead, right on the doorstep of the middle school in the Village of New Paltz will be 50 artisans representing every imaginable medium from the traditional glassblower to the modern sculptor.

Six of these featured artists live within a short distance of each other and have become new friends or have nurtured their friendships over the decades. They include Leonie Lacouette, Laura Watson, Alexa Ginsburg, Elissa Cimino, Annie O’Neill and Amy LeFevre. Each one has a unique talent and personality that is reflected in her work.

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“It’s such a small community, and yet there’s this conglomeration of artistic women who work with fiber, steel, clay, flowers and greens,” said fiber artist Laura Watson. She shears her own sheep and then spins her own yarn, as well as running Full Moon Farm, which features organic, grass-fed beef, pork, chickens and goats: www.fullmoonfarmny.com. “I grew up on a sheep farm in Maine, so this is what I know; and the fiber art I’ve been doing for the past 20 years,” she says, displaying various felted bags, scarves, vases…her work is like eye candy to fiber-lovers.

“And we’re just the tip of the artistic iceberg in Gardiner sticking out at the Unison Arts Crafts Fair,” said Leonie Lacouette, who designs contemporary clocks made out of wood, steel and copper: www.leonietime.com. “I think they’re popular because they have simple, clean lines, the wood is beautiful and the clocks can go with any style of home — it doesn’t have to be modern, because the wood and copper tie in with older homes as well.” Her work is available online, at the Unison Arts and Crafts center and year-round at the Marc Gruber Gallery in New Paltz.

Yet another talented Gardiner-based artist is Elissa Cimino. She is a floral artist working with fresh cut flowers, field-grown flowers, greens and herbs including artemisia, rosemary and sage. Her business, Flowers by Elissa (Elissacimino@yahoo.com) has taken off, and she is asked to do many unique floral arrangements for weddings, as well as teach workshops at Mohonk Mountain House. Now she is preparing for the Unison Arts and Crafts Fair, where she will have herbal wreaths, kissing balls made with pinecones, a touch of poinsettias, cinnamon sticks and “a bunch of bing-bling,” she says, referring to the glitter that makes the handcrafted kissing ball sparkle. She grows many of her own greens, herbs and flowers, and when she can’t find that exact thing that she needs, she’ll go forage on friends’ property for Queen Anne’s lace or milkweed or other bits of Nature’s gifts that she weaves into her arrangements.

Then there is Annie O’Neill, who has worked with various media over the past 25 years, but has focused on earthenware for the past several years. She makes dishes and platters with underglazes that often feature animals and creatures and a sense of folk whimsy that is sophisticated enough to be hung on a wall, but hardy enough to be used as table settings for a luscious meal. “The nature of underglazes is that you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get; so my tipping point is often my first mistake, and I let that guide me to what the piece is going to become.”

She has been friends for years with both Lacouette and Amy LeFevre. “We have collections of each other’s artwork over the years,” says O’Neill.

LeFevre, who works at Handmade and More on North Front Street in downtown New Paltz, is an illustrator who specializes in greeting cards, but who for years worked with clay, making animals and figures that, she says, over time “became flats.” Her greeting cards are one-of-a-kind, mostly featuring animals, a wash of warm colors and funny sayings, and are always remarkable in their uniqueness. She has one with a deer browsing in a garden that says “Eat Local,” and a holiday card that has cats curled up deep in sleep with the saying, “While Visions of Sugar Mice Danced in Their Heads.”

“Amy is totally inspiring, and we all feed off each other,” says O’Neill.

More recent to the quarter is Alexa Ginsburg, originally from Pennsylvania, who, like Watson, works with fiber, wool and felt. “When I started felting, I was most intrigued by the range of colors and how malleable the material is, how much texture it has. There’s no end to the things you can create and the colors that you can find.”

She has many wearables, which include neck wraps, scarves, capes, bags, flamboyant hats that make you smile from their color and design, and then fun, playful dolls. “I make whatever I feel like making on a given day, and I’m never short of ideas because the material is so vibrant.”

“I think we’re so fortunate to have the support of Unison Arts, and to be able to showcase our work at their wonderful annual Holiday Fair,” said O’Neill. Come take a look for yourself at the Gardiner-based artists and the other 45+ talented craftspeople and artisans at the Unison Crafts Fair at the New Paltz Middle School on Dec. 3 and 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ++

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