The Unison Holiday Craft Fair marked its 25th anniversary this year over the weekend of December 5 and 6. Nearly 50 local artists and artisans offered their wares in the fair’s usual location at the New Paltz Middle School, bringing the Unison Arts Center headquartered on Mountain Rest Road into the village for a few days.
The event brought out a steady stream of holiday shoppers, said Unison’s Helene Bigley, who has organized the annual fair every year since its inception. The “warm and cozy” aspects to the event that she said were always a part of it were evidenced at every booth, where lots of hugging and greetings were going on. “We have a lot of people who come back every year,” Bigley said. “It’s a great place to run into old friends.”
The curated fair contained a great variety of art and artisanship with every vendor offering a noticeably high quality product. There was fine art in the form of original paintings, sculpture and photographs, and fine artisanship in a range of fiber arts, ceramics, glassware, jewelry, leather goods, handcrafted furniture and wearables.
The heirloom-seed-savers of the Hudson Valley Seed Library offered gift-able products including their “Art Packs” of seeds with packaging designed by local artists, and Gardiner’s Michele Tomasicchio brought her Made With Love Natural Skin Care line, handcrafted from scratch with plant-based pure essential oils.
Gardiner was well represented at the fair, actually, with Annie O’Neill’s low-fire Southwestern-inspired earthenware, Flowers by Elissa’s handcrafted holiday wreaths made of natural materials, Leonie Lacouette’s rustic-contemporary wall clocks of copper, steel and wood, and Alexa Ginsburg, who makes charming felted wool animals that appeal to the whimsy in adults just as much as kids respond to them, she says, with her sales to each about 50/50. Ginsburg also offered beautiful handmade silk scarves with wool felting designs embedded in the silk.
Grey Mouse Farm of Saugerties offered a farmstand-like selection of healthy snack chips and jarred goods including preserves, pickles and sauces, and hungry holiday shoppers could stop for a bite at tables manned by New Paltz-based Hudson Coffee Traders and Gomen Kudasai noodle shop.
One of the nice things about attending a craft fair is the opportunity to meet the artist and chat with them about their process. Clock artisan Leonie Lacouette said she pays attention to what the public has to say about her work when she meets them, finding it valuable feedback. “Everyone has an opinion, and their opinion is valid,” she said.
And while the Holiday Craft Fair is over now, another opportunity to peruse a selection of the wares and meet the artists can be had this Sunday, December 13 from 4-6 p.m. at the opening of the Unison Holiday Showcase at Unison Arts Center, 68 Mountain Rest Road. The showcase will feature the work of 21 of the local participants of the craft fair with a variety of ceramics, fiber arts, wearables, fused glass, sculpture, framed watercolors, oils and photographs available. Admission is free and hot cider and donuts will be provided at the opening. The first-time event is meant to highlight the talent sometimes overlooked in the midst of a busy craft show by providing a relaxed gallery setting to see what was missed, or revisit a favorite. The artwork will remain on display at Unison until January 18, available for purchase each day until then by visiting or calling Unison during business hours (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday). Once an item is sold, artists will replace sold pieces with new ones.
The Unison Holiday Craft Fair and the upcoming Holiday Showcase both serve as fundraisers for the nonprofit arts organization. Founded in New Paltz in 1975, Unison Arts Center offers ongoing workshops in visual arts, performance and personal growth and presents performances and gallery exhibitions throughout the year.
Howard Sachar is the new president of Unison’s board. After a period of transition this past year, the organization is stable now, he said, with membership increasing and a good response from donors, which the center needs to remain viable. “The thing about nonprofits, is that they depend upon their relationship with the community. The community has to want them to succeed and want to support them; to feel like it would be a loss if they were no longer there. We hope that people locally think about ‘What makes up the fabric of New Paltz?’ when they think of us.”
Unison is working on broadening its base of interests, he added, with more programming for children planned and events like the Sunday String Series of concerts and Wednesday evening tango lessons ongoing. More information is available by calling (845) 255-1559 or visiting www.unisonarts.org.