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UPPER DELAWARE RIVER VALLEY — The Catskills and Upper Delaware River Valley have long been a Mecca for artistic expression. Painters, sculptors, photographers and writers have flocked to the region for decades, drawing inspiration from the clean air, stunning vistas and peaceful countryside that inspires. Visitors and tourists continue to explore the area and often seek unique gifts for themselves and loved ones as they scour the galleries, shops and studios of the artists who have settled here to practice their craft.
Among those who have chosen to make the mountains their home are potters Jill Weiner (www.earthgirlpottery.com) and Carolyn Duke, (www.dukepottery.com) who put their heads together almost 10 years a go and created “Handmade for the Holidays,” a group effort that now encompasses more than 30 local artists and businesses that create one-of-a-kind items and gather at Duke’s studio in Roscoe, NY to display their wares and mingle with the community for a few weekends each holiday season, where visitors can share a cup of warm cheer, some convivial conversation and holiday shopping.
Duke explains that “In an ongoing effort to connect with the community,” the seasonal show selects “a different not-for-profit organization every year [to promote], and a portion of the proceeds goes to that deserving group. This year, a percentage of every sale will benefit [NPR affiliate] WJFF.” Interspersed with the watercolors, jewelry (www.mcflashpants.com) and Duke’s pinch-pots, local businesses from New York and Pennsylvania are also represented.
Holiday cards produced in Jeffersonville, NY (www.echoletterpress.com) are displayed alongside honey, dipping sauces and pancake mix (www.catskillprovisions.com), while organic coffee (www.javaloveroasters.com) and Jane Roth’s hand-knit hats and scarves occupy some space in Duke’s beautiful showroom nestled in the mountains. Jill Weiner’s whimsical creations can be purchased as well, and many of the beautiful objects are available throughout the year, although select items are added each winter for those seeking a special gift.
An active member of the Sullivan County Visitors Association (www.scva.net), Duke reflects on what the yearly event means to her by saying that “a lot of folks who visit don’t realize how many shops and artists are scattered about the area, on both sides of the Delaware River” and that “if they [the tourists] have a good time in the county, then we all win. ‘Buy local/shop local’ is what we’re all about.”
While some may be under the impression that handmade gifts are out of their price range, there is a wide variety of items and price tags at this annual show. “Where else can one purchase individually crafted silver earrings for seven dollars and fifty cents?” Duke asks while touring the showroom. On closer inspection, Jane Blake’s colorful, hand painted silk scarves are reasonably priced and many items are “inexpensive and easy to ship” anywhere in the world, she concludes.
The variety of gifts is expansive and diverse. Valerie Taggart’s hand-crafted ornaments are each created from dried gourds and Donna Greenthal, who teaches second grade in the Roscoe school district, has watercolors on hand for purchase. “People love her work” Duke enthuses, while explaining that Kathie Fitsgerald’s lampshades, Jack Yelle’s paintings and Weiner’s pottery are all perennial favorites as well.
Authors and musicians are represented, too, at Handmade for the Holidays in the form of books by local authors Marcia Nehemiah, Mary Greene, Barbara Winfield, Wendy Townsend, Joe Freda and Stacy Wakefield and Jazz pianist Kazzrie Jaxen’s new CD, “A Million Shimmering Fish,” debuts alongside recordings from “A Weekend of Chamber Music” and more. Furniture, soaps, handbags and greeting cards line the walls at Duke Pottery, as well as hand-spun wool, Claire Coleman’s tutus for the kids and sheepskin rugs produced by Apple Pond Farm.
A dizzying array of gifts await, all destined to become family heirlooms in homes around the world as visitors shop, schmooze and (in some cases) meet with the artists, during the three weekends that Handmade for the Holidays welcomes guests, beginning on November 30 and running through December 15 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. While these dates are specific to the seasonal display of gifts, Duke points out that hundreds of items are available all year long and that visitors can stop by the showroom most days. For more information on Handmade for the Holidays, Duke Pottery, and a complete list of artists represented, visit the website (www.dukepottery.com), check out the Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/Duke-Pottery), or call 607/498-5207.
HERE IS A FULL LIST OF VENDORS WHO WILL OFFER THEIR WORKS FOR SALE AT DUKE POTTERY:
ARTS AND ARTISAN CRAFTS
Carolyn Duke, pottery, Facebook/Duke Pottery, www.dukepottery.com
Jill Wiener, pottery, Facebook/Earthgirl Pottery, www.earthgirlpottery.com
Kathie Fitzgerald, lampshades, Facebook/Light Touch
Valerie Taggart, hand-painted ornaments, watercolors (matted and framed), cards
Donna Greenthal, watercolors, framed
Jack Yelle, watercolors
Phyllis Bilick, framed artwork
Ramona Jan, oil paintings, Facebook/Vintage Bling
Ann Manby, holiday flower arrangements, www.sugarblossomflowers.com, Facebook/Sugar Blossom Flowers
Katharina Lichtman, quilt, Facebook/Art Quilts by Mietzi, www.artquiltsbymietzi.com
Jane Blake, hand-painted silk scarves, www.janeblake.com
Jen McGlashan, vintage fabric market bags, jewelry, www.channeryhillcrafts.com, Facebook/McFlashpants
Hedy Kuntsmann, beaded jewelry
Helena Claire Pittman, oil paintings, pastels (matted and framed), children’s books, handmade cards
Marion Kaselle, photographic greeting cards
Echo Letterpress, holiday cards, greeting cards, Facebook/Echo Letterpress, www.echoletterpress.com
Claire Coleman, Plunk, tutus, handmade handbags, Facebook/Plunk, www.plunk.com
Jamie Helper, Heirloom Botanicals, creams, lotions, www.heirloombotanicals.com
Jane Roth, hand knit hats, scarves, silver jewelry
Roy Tedoff, handcrafted wooden benches
Dan Brinkerhoff, wooden side table, www.
Zeke Boyle, children’s table from barn wood, www.bechwoodbarns.com
Gail Carbone, Will-o-Wool, dryer balls, lanolin creams, lotions, soaps, Facebook/Will O Wool Sheep Farm, www.willowillsheepfarm
Sonja Hedlund, Apple Pond Farm, hand-spun wool, sheepskin rug, Facebook/Applepond Farm
Java Love, coffee, Facebook/JavaLove, www.javalove.com
Catskill Provisions, honey,pancake mix, dipping sauces, www.catskillprovisions.com, Facebook/Catskill Provisions,
Jim Wilcox, maple syrup, Wilcox Farm, Fremont Center, NY
Marcia Nehemiah, “Crone’s Age”
Mary Greene, “Women Outside,” “River Rocks Anthology”
Wendy Townsend, “Lizard Love”
Barbara Winfield, “Dream Log Homes”
Joe Freda, “Patience of Rivers,” “Suburban Guerillas”
Cathy Russo, “What’s for Dinner”
Stacy Wakefield, “Show Dogs
Paul Vazquez, “From Irony to Laughter”
Kazzrie Jaxen, Book “Love’s Ways” + CD, “A Million Shimmering Fish”
Jane Johnson, book + CD, “Tangerine”, www.greycheekpress.com
Weekend of Chamber Music, CD