This Labor Day weekend marks the 41st fall show for the Woodstock-New Paltz Art & Crafts Fair. The fair will take place on September 2 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., September 3 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and September 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ulster County Fairgrounds in New Paltz.
The end-of-summer handmade festival has been produced by Quail Hollow Events for more than four decades and, for the first time this year, visitors have a homework assignment. Featured first-time exhibitor Gerald Croteau of American Stonecraft asks fairgoers to come to the event with a large rock in tow. But why bring a rock — an object deemed by many to be unexceptional and mundane — to a festival centered around rare, one-of-a-kind works of art?
Using common boulders found on farmlands in New York and New England, Croteau creates distinctive housewares and personal artifacts. Says Croteau, “Hidden in the soil of ordinary farmers’ fields, now lie magical metamorphic rocks, like granite and marble, naturally melted by heat and pressure.” His stone offerings range from charcuterie boards, grilling stones, food slabs and trivets, to engravings and custom carvings. Croteau’s process reveals enchanting patterns and colors that would otherwise be forever concealed. An “author of physical poems,” Croteau demonstrates the very sentiment that Michelangelo knew to be true a half a millennium ago: a work of art already exists inside an uncut stone, and it is the artist’s job to release it.
Those willing to do a little (literal) digging before the festival can bring their own rocks and commission a personal piece by the artist. To find an appropriate stone for grinding and cutting, you may need to look no further than the earth beneath your feet. But if you’re up for an adventure, trek to your favorite hiking area, or return to a mountaintop where a special memory was made. This is the opportunity to gift your family member a serving platter that is also a part of the land they grew up on, or surprise your spouse with a sculptural bowl, cut and carved from the ground you stood upon when exchanging vows.
Croteau explains that each spring, the ground freezes and thaws many times, forcing a new crop of boulders to rise to the surface of the earth. “Despite a seeming abundance of stone, some are quite special and rare, making them worthy of a special gift to be collected. A journey to your hands that took millions of years to bear fruit.” Croteau will be demonstrating his craft throughout the weekend in the demonstration, furniture and architectural design tent at fair.
The festival also boasts live entertainment, a variety of small-batch artisanal and prepared-on-site foods, beer, wine and spirits and a supervised children’s craft tent. For additional information, visit quailhollow.com.