Photos by Sue Ann Rybak

by Sue Ann Rybak

Despite threats of Hurricane Joaquin slamming the East Coast last week, thousands of visitors flocked to Chestnut Hill’s 31st Annual Fall for the Arts Festival on Sunday, Oct. 4. Martha Sharkey, executive director of the Chestnut Hill Business Association said attendees who braved Sunday morning’s damp and dreary weather were “treated to the warmth of the late afternoon sun.”

“While many artists participate year after year in the Fall for the Arts Festival, over 20 new artists joined us this year,” Sharkey said. “The Best of Show honor was awarded to Bob Richey Pastels.”

This year’s Fall for the Arts Craft Show winners include Ellen Gavin, Green Boots Studio, first prize for oil painting, and Maura Matthews, Pigs Alley Gallery, second prize for oil painting.

First prize in photography went to Gene Pembroke, and second prize, to Regina Miller, Origin Photography.

First prize for drawing and illustrations went to Spirit & Kitsch, and second prize, to Clarissa Shanahan and Joyce Leipert. First prize winner for crafts was Ken Beidler, Beidler Pottery, and second prize winner was Isabelle Ecker. First prize in sculpture went to Madeline Rile, Lampwork, and second prize, to Kalen Erion, Glass Routes.

In addition to this years new artists, the festival also featured a Makers Village, where artisans demonstrated the process of creating unique pieces of art.

“We typically see art as a finished piece of work, but how does the artist develop an idea and create that piece of work,” Sharkey said. “We were thrilled to host our first-ever Makers Village.”

She added that the Makers Village allowed attendees “to actually experience the artist’s dedication, passion, and creativity as they create their work is inspiring.”

Bruce Hoffman, director of Gravers Lane Gallery, 8405 Germantown Ave. in Chestnut Hill, said this year’s committee decided it wanted to include a Makers Village so people could see how different pieces of artwork are made and allow people to experience that process.

He said thanks to Lindsay Gates, director of development at Peters Valley School of Craft, 19 Kuhn Road in Layton, N.J., and Ennis Carter, founding director of Social Impact Studios, a creative hub where organizations and creative artists collaborate, learn and create art work, the committee was able to organize the Makers Village.

Gates, a master craftsperson, whose art is displayed in Hoffman’s gallery, said in an article on “Fiber Art Now,” that she hopes to use her administrative skills “to help the school vision the future, nurture emerging and professional artists and opportunities and stay immersed in a culture of creativity.”

Peters Valley School of Craft has eight teaching studios: blacksmithing, ceramics, fine metals, photography, fibers/surface design and weaving, glass and woodworking.

Carter said that Peters Valley School of Crafts has teamed up with four other craft schools – Arrow School of Arts and Crafts, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Penland School of Crafts, and Pilchuck Glass School – to promote the craft school experience.

She said through their combined efforts, they are exploring the values, communities and opportunities that join them as a movement, while maintaining the individuality and distinction of each organization.

“They are promoting their same set of values and experience because it is a really specific, wonderful and magical experience that is hard to describe,” Carter said. “Finding a school where you can do hands-on learning is rare in this world. And a lot of people learn differently, so being able to make something with your hands – that might be the way somebody finds their career or finds their passion.”

Besides students and artisans from the school, Hoffman reached out to several artisans and connections in the craft community including Carter, Eva Shelley, Madeline Rile Smith and Carol Jones, who was one of the original founders of the Philadelphia Craft Show.

Chestnut Hill resident Madeline Rile Smith was just one of the many skilled glass artisans at the festival.

Smith, who attended Crefeld School, 8836 Crefeld St. in Chestnut Hill, said she got into the glass work by accident.

“I just took it as an elective and fell in love with it instantly,” she said.

Smith, whose glass work can be bought at Gravers Lane Gallery, said she works with borosilicate glass, which is the same glass that Pyrex is made of.

“It’s very sturdy,” she said. “I like to manipulate the glass and see how I can push it. I like making it into non-traditional forms – not kitchenware. A lot of the shaping is influenced by movement and the way I hold the glass, so it’s a very intimate act of creation.”

She said simple things like the way you are standing will effect the way the glass will melt.

“Heat and gravity are the main things that shape the glass, so really your body is sort of a vehicle,” she said.

Glassblower Kalen Erion’s mobile glass studio, Glass Routes, was a huge favorite of the festival goers.

For about a year and a half, Erion, who started glassblowing as a teenager, has been traveling to festivals and fairs with his business partner Maggie Gallen in the recently converted 1967 fire company utility truck that took him four years to transform into a mobile glass studio.

“It’s a 1967 GMC chassis,” he said.

The driver’s side paneling of the truck contains a “glory hole” (as glassmakers call it), the opening to an active furnace, which is attached to a forced air apparatus that provides the heated space required to keep the glass pliable. Besides the furnace, the truck contains a kiln for cooling and drying, two tables for working the glass and storage areas for tools and materials. (The truck meets all fire codes and, as an additional protection, has gas cutoff switches all over the place and several fire extinguishers stored throughout the truck.)

Erion, who has been doing glass work for about 16 years, decided to create a mobile studio after growing tired of working in old garages, warehouses or barns that were converted into studios.

Throughout the day, he created several glass pieces including a light blue mug with a handle. As several spectators browsed goods, Erion offered to make one customer a piece, when she couldn’t find a similar piece another woman bought.

He can custom-make just about anything including vases, drinking glasses and holiday ornaments.

Erion loves introducing people of all ages to the art of glassblowing. And he’s no longer stuck working eight hours a day in a dark mill or studio in a warehouse or garage. So, what’s next for Erion?

He dreams of transforming shards of glass into a work of art outside of the city surrounded by grass, trees and sky.

“One of the things I would like to do with the truck is installation sculpture work,” he said. “I could do it in the middle of nowhere and create what the space is telling me.”