Tag Archives: Festival Fete

Festival Focus: Meet Natalie

23 Jun
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The artist, Natalie Squillante, with her usual smile and some pieces from a recent Anagama firing.

Last Spring, I dropped my then 7-year-old and rather timid daughter off at the Jamestown Arts Center to begin a series of after school pottery classes. By the time the first class was over and I returned, she was hugging her instructor, Natalie, goodbye and smiling widely. With a very real warmth and overall positivity, Natalie, a highly practiced ceramicist, encouraged my daughter — and countless others before and since —  to feel completely at home in her classroom. Though she is dedicated to teaching, lately Natalie has been turning a lot of energy, time and focus towards her own art. She finds the time to paint, draw and make pots at any opportunity of each day. Under a new brand she has created called Nautaleye, her pottery is as distinct and genuine as the artist herself.

Festival Fete: What were you up to this past winter/off-season?

Natalie: I’ve made all sorts of funky connections through the Jamestown Arts Center. And I’ve had the opportunity to work with one of my favorite ceramicists, Chris Gustin, using his amazing hand-built kiln, in South Dartmouth, MA. One of the three chambers is Anagama, a Japanese-style kiln, and is fueled by hand with firewood. I prepare and create work for the kiln throughout the year. Along with a group of talented, dedicated ceramicists, we fired one back in October/November and we’re currently firing another. It’s one of the experiences in my life that I look forward to, build up work for, and put a lot of energy into. Loading the large kiln is truly a communal effort and the firing is about a seven-day process. We continually stoke the fire in eight-hour shifts each. It has really grabbed me by the heart. What happens inside can reflect what’s going on in the atmosphere outside. We fired during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the ash blew just beautifully. I may initially throw the pieces on the wheel — the pots, the cups, the bowls — but I think the true beauty really comes from the kiln itself and in the natural ash glaze that forms on each unique piece.

FF: What’s inspired your most recent work?

N: My inspirations have never really changed; they’ve been staples throughout my life. The things that shine in my mind are nature, plants, the ocean and elephants. I have a deep respect and admiration for elephants: their wisdom, their memory and their spirituality. Love, wonder, beauty, joy and meditation inspire me, too.  Each finds a way onto a canvas, a piece of ceramics, on a piece of paper or a wall on a very regular and daily basis. I’ll be donating a percentage of my sales to Hope Elephants, a small organization in Maine dedicated to the preservation and protection of elephants. It’s a lofty goal but I would love to have an elephant of my own in the future. Since I was a child, I’ve been sort of obsessed with them, but learning of a vet who was able to rescue elephants from harmful environments makes me want to have the space and resources to care for one myself someday.

FF: Does your work with children influence your creations? 

N: Working with kids will always be a part of my life and work because I’m not sure I’ll ever not be a kid myself! It’s a part of who I am. I love every moment of learning, growing, sharing, and creating with them. I share a similar joy, willingness, and enthusiasm to create and learn, with students and children, and that is something that I savor and find inspiring in itself. That energy and process is most influential.

FF: Can you share a bit about your process?

N: One of my favorite and frequently used surface treatments is called Sgraffito. After using this process while I attended Maine College of Art, I found out that it’s Italian for graffiti.  Basically, once I’ve thrown a set  of whatever it is I’m making (a few bowls, planters, cups, serving bowls) I let them dry to a very specific dryness in order to foot them. The foot is at the bottom of a pot and is a sweet, pedestal like feature at the base. Some are ornate and complex, while others are simple or without.  I then apply a stain or underglaze. Here’s where the Sgraffito comes into play.  Using carving tools, I then begin to draw onto the surface carving away the stain or underglaze and some of the clay underneath it. I find Sgraffito creates a playful yet informative and beautiful use of positive/negative, foreground/background, history, and expression. It’s the way I enjoy getting information, a story or image that I may be painting or drawing, onto a ceramic piece.

FF: Have you got a favorite piece?

N: I love each piece for one reason or another. Even if it’s just for whatever phrase or word I’ve written on the bottom, the happy mistake or magic that occurred in the kiln or the memory attached to the carving.  They’re all my favorites; they’re like people to me. Maybe I’ll have a favorite come out of the Anagama soon!

FF: What are your aspirations?

N: I’m attracted to clay, partly, because everything I make is functional. The Anagama kiln was used in the Japanese culture to make pieces to be used by the whole community, since it allows for large amounts of pottery to be loaded and stacked inside. I would love to get people to the point that they can throw their own pottery, so they can start to replace a lot of the junk — for lack of a better word — that we consume and accumulate. I’d like to sort of ‘mass produce’ in a handmade way, making pieces quickly and simply, yet beautifully so that they can be accessible and affordable.

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FF: What do you look forward to most about participating in the Newport Art Festival? 

N: This is my first Festival Fete selling work.  I was working with Art Is Smart creating and working with kids at the Creation Stations for past Festivals and I’ll be facilitating crafts at the next Festival Fete (at Emerald Square), which I’m totally looking forward to! I’m stoked to see how my work is received by the public. I love the energy of Festival Fete so I’m also looking forward to the overall feeling that it brings and seeing all the beautiful work that will be there. I hope it’s a huge success for everyone and for Newport.

With artists like this one, how can it not be? Natalie can be contacted through the Jamestown Arts Center for group and private lessons and for arts and crafts based birthday parties. She can be found at the Newport Art Festival this weekend as well as future Festival Fete shows. She can be reached on Facebook, as well. Natalie’s work is displayed at the Art Market at the JAC and she currently has beautiful soap dishes and mixing bowls for sale at Farmaesthetics flagship apothecary on Bellevue Ave. in Newport.

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Mother’s Day is Every Day. Especially Tomorrow.

10 May

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The first cool thing about our mother’s and grandmother’s generations – well, my mom’s and hers, at least – is that they still do the same things they always did: They shop daily on their local main street, they talk everyday (on a real telephone) and they eat – well. They don’t diet. So if you listen to yours, she has probably already told you what she’d love to have (or do) for Mother’s Day. She won’t deliberately drop a hint because she doesn’t expect anything. That’s the other cool part. But if you’ve made time to talk to her recently, you will know all about that little lamp she saw at the corner antique store that’s too much for her to spend on herself. Or you’ll remember those fancy pastries she gets every now and again from her favorite baker. A simple surprise is all it will take to make your mom smile. Which is all I ever really want from mine.

She won’t deliberately drop a hint

because she doesn’t expect anything.

So do consider the local shops in your mom’s neighborhood when buying today and tomorrow, if you haven’t already. If you’re near, make a reservation somewhere she wouldn’t splurge on herself. And if you can’t do either – which is fine, by the way – just give her a call. She would love to chat.

Ideas and more Ideas:

  • Because we avoid pounding the pavement and prefer to shop online, it’s often easy enough to find mom’s favorite shop there, too. We love Etsy for this. And, remember she may have seen something at one of our shows. Almost all of our artists, craftsmen and vendors alike offer online retail, too.
  • Get the good stuff delivered. Check out one of our favorite vendors, Delectable Edibles by Renee for not just amazing edible and artful fruit arrangements, but sweet tooth satisfying goodies, too. Lots of bakers offer local, same day delivery but still order even if it can’t be delivered right away. Mother’s Day is every day and mom won’t mind whenever their treat arrives.

  • Take Mom (Grandma and Great Grandma, too) out. Just about everywhere is offering a Mother’s Day Prix Fixe option. The ProJo has begun a weekly list of restaurant openings. It includes links to current menus, as well as reopening info for those seasonal spots that closed over the winter. It’s helpful to know your favorite is back open and always fun to be turned on to new endeavors, too. Eat Drink, RI has a comprehensive list of statewide offerings, as well.

Thanks for reading, as always, and for giving thanks, however you choose, to the motherly figures in your life. And remember to share this post via Facebook. Festival Fete will be offering giveaways to regulars on our countdown to the start of the 2014 season in beautiful Newport, RI. Stay tuned!

Festival Focus: Meet Jen Black

29 Apr

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Connected by bridges yet somehow quite wonderfully disconnected sits Conanicut Island and the town of Jamestown, Rhode Island. Perfectly pastoral and coastal at the same time, Jamestown manages to miss the throngs of summer traffic some of it’s neighbors contend with and so remains a peaceful community of folks dedicated to their myriad crafts. Jennifer Weeden-Black is one such islander. Anchored in her family’s rich history here, the artist has grown Islandesign for over ten years bringing the strong simplicity of the island to life in her bold, original stained glass canvases. Browsing her pieces feels like flipping through an old photo album of our beloved, local landscapes and seascapes we here at Festival Fete covet. We can’t wait to see what she brings to Newport.

Festival Fete: What were you up to this past winter?

Jen Black: Farming is a perpetual part of my life and inspiration. Though I don’t live on a farm, I worked at Simmons Farm in Middletown, RI to fill the need.

FF: What has inspired your most recent work?

JB: My latest projects have been a series of goats as panels of glass or paintings, inspired by the goats on the farm. Islandesign and stained glass as an art form to me is a large part of an ideal lifestyle.

“My family and I live a pretty simple life in Jamestown.

Family, art, and a love of farming inspire me every day.”

FF: Tell us about your process.

JB: My mother Donna is my partner in a lot of the stained glass preparation process. What people may not realize is how very time consuming the whole task is. Each piece, no matter how large or small, has at least a 13-step process. From picking out the perfect colors to polishing the finished product, it is a lot of work. I design my own templates and never copy from books. Stained Glass is a medium that you really have to love the whole process of.  Most people who take classes, don’t continue. They don’t realize how much time is put into each piece until they make their own.

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Local goats as recent inspiration: From painting to stained glass.

FF: Does any piece stand out as your favorite? 

JB: My favorite pieces are often the most challenging.  My mother and I made a very large Beavertail Lighthouse panel as a commission last year. It was a tedious process because it had to fit in a very specific space exactly.

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Clockwise: Conanicut Island, The Pell Bridge, Beavertail Lighthouse

FF: Which are you most proud of?

JB:  I am most proud of a piece we made for a couple in Connecticut. It was a large Poppy Garden. It was very time consuming, but satisfying to see it hung in it’s space. The look on the customer’s face said it all.

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Sea glass “Web,” repurposes sea glass from local shores.

FF: Where do you source your glass?

JB:  The glass that I use for the work mostly comes from a supplier in Old Saybrook, CT. It’s always a pleasant trip to go and visit with Vinny and Carol. I also love to repurpose glass like old bottles or sea glass from our beautiful beaches here.

And beautiful they certainly are, as interpreted by Jen. You’ll find the artist in person at our first show in Newport on June 28th and 29th. Browse her pieces at her online shop on Etsy and like Islandesign on Facebook.

Thanks for reading our latest in artist interviews on the road to Newport. Stay tuned!

 

Designs on this Month: April Affairs to Remember

4 Apr

On the heels of last week’s surprise storm that opened the new season, we are still feeling timid about saying seemingly taboo words like ‘spring’ and ‘mild’ too soon. But we do prefer to stay positive here at Festival Fete so, with that, let us exclaim with some confidence, ‘Happy Spring!’ If not as lamb-like as we would, well, like, we are still that much closer to the opening of our season. In the meantime, check out some upcoming events we can all sink our artsy, craftsy teeth into until then. And, remember, we love to know what you, our loyal artists and followers, are up to – where you’re showing, going and what you’re making…so stay in touch and stay tuned.

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  • Friday, April 4-6: For nothing less than haute handmade, make your way to CraftBoston Spring, a discriminatingly juried exhibition of ‘fine craft.’ Beginning today through Sunday at The Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts.
  • Throughout April: Locally, our favorite so-much-more-than a garden store, The Farmer’s Daughter, is positively blooming with beautiful things to do and learn throughout the month. Go to the the website to plan your day in their gardens.
  • Image Sunday, April 6th: Who is better than the tireless foragers at Whole Foods to find original, locally inspired ideas for your upcoming event? Joining forces with Craftland of Providence, who brings an array of ‘locally made wedding wares,’ this talented team  promises novel wedding offerings from the flowers to the catering, the cakes and pastries as well as gifts of beauty and body care, too!
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A teapot by Adero Willard, one of 22 exclusive potters showing at the Worcester Pottery Invitational.

 

  • Friday, April 11-14: Nationally recognized potters will exhibit at the finely curated Worcester Pottery Invitational next week. Go to the Worcester Center for Crafts’ site to learn about their tradition of and commitment to community-based art and for a full list this show’s superb artists and their work.

Stay near to us as we continue to add to this list as we find more events of interest in our area. And feel free to contact us with any local happenings that you find worthy. Thanks for reading!

Still Walking in a Winter Wonderland

28 Feb
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Doug Hockman’s print entitled ‘Alone,’ given away to a lucky Festival Fete follower last year, inspired this week’s post.
hockmanphotography.com

There’s nothing quite like a lone walk in the woods this time of year. There’s no better way to tune into the crunching sound of leftover snow under your (overly) worn boots. Nothing prettier than a monochrome backdrop for a family portrait of cardinals. And the ocean against all the gray, if you’re near enough, is that pale turquoise in the shoals – almost caribbean like if you face the sun and just imagine….

But then you realize you’re still here in New England and so is winter. Lingering. And while all may seem a bit bleak, there is a silver lining. Because this season, however long and drawn out, affords Festival Fete artists the time they need to create. Without the solitude, there wouldn’t be the space needed to produce the bounty we find at our shows. Those seemingly effortless displays at our artists’ booths come from the thoughts, the inspiration and the toil that happens now.

So while I wait to see a single snowdrop peek through the ground, I can’t wait to see what all our thoroughly inspired creatives unveil at the very first show in Garden City this June. Stay tuned and stay warm!

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Embracing the palette of the season while adorning yourself and your home in their understated hues can manifest a certain tranquility. Past Festival Fete artists easily find inspiration in the wintry landscape. From upper left, clockwise: Nancy Van Tassel’s ‘big little ring’ in hammered sterling silver; A continuous piece of birch makes this simple necklace by Joyo; Howland Studio’s pin out of finds from a beach walk; Ombre infinity scarf by Nicole Lebreux; Erica Cioe’s simple ceramic plates. 

 

The ring: http://www.drapedinjewelry.com/index.html

The necklace: http://www.shopjoyo.us/collections/necklaces/products/loop-and-chain

That pin: http://www.etsy.com/shop/howlandstudio

The scarf: http://www.etsy.com/people/nicolelebreux

And those plates: http://ericacioe.weebly.com/index.html

Links to the online shops and websites of festival artists past and present can be found in every blogpost. Check them out!

Thanks for reading!

Please share your inspirations and creations

with us in a comment below or on Facebook. 

Soak up the ‘Snow’ Shine

14 Feb

Image    One cool thing about Valentine’s Day falling on a Friday is that you’ve got the whole weekend. A long weekend. And while it does seem silly to suggest heading out at all – ever – as this never ending storm endlessly drops either snow, ice or rain, we must hold out hope….I’ll admit I kind of like/slash/love walking to the neighborhood pub that stays open – even in this. Romantic is certainly not expensive.

And Valentine’s Day is not always ‘romantic.’ It’s finding yourself outside, during that eventual break in the clouds, on your favorite snowy trail with your favorite people. Or holding your kid’s hand really tight as you make your way up over the rocks along your special piece of our perfect coastline. It’s sledding and it’s ice skating.

Back at home later, it’s the do-it-yourself-and-make-the-most-of-it holiday that fires up sweet romance. So get the groceries and make that meaningful meal for one or make it for many. Then light the candles, cue the music and enjoy it. Because soon, yes soon, the weather will be too good.

And while we steep in the kind of warmth that only this season brings, we are still looking ahead to milder days. In that anticipation, we wrongly announced the start of our 2014 Festival schedule. We correct that Garden City will host our first festival of 2014 on June 7-8 and Newport will follow soon after. We sorta skipped right over it in our last post! So keep it simple this weekend, stay warm and stay with us as we update Festival Fete news and scheduling regularly.

Love is in the Air

13 Feb

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As I sit by the wood stove crafting valentines under deadline with my kids, I can’t help but feel the warmth and joy this whole month brings still in the midst of frost and snowstorms. It is a time to share our feelings and to show them off, really. And in that spirit of giving (and receiving!) I’m reminded of the endless beauty in the handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces I’ve found at the artisans’ booths at our shows. Crafted with care, gifts like the kind you happen upon at Festival Fete are a unique way to express your love, gratitude, admiration or desire. 

So while we patiently await our first event of 2014 at the end of June in downtown Newport, RI on scenic, historic Bowen’s Wharf, remember that many of our vendors can be found in the off-season at their online storefronts. And quite a few can be conveniently perused at once on Etsy.com, our favorite one-stop shop online for handmade, vintage and authentic finds.

We are still talking about the last show at Rhodes and how we ogled the uber earthy creations of Sasha Walsh, how we just lingered at Maji Jewelry and stood amazed by the delicate beauty of Mermaid’s Baubles newest pieces. I’m sure I added something to my wish list with every pass by!

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Cherry Valley Herb Farm Assorted Teas

Wishing something sweet for my mother, I called Dina just today at To The Queen’s Taste. Her whoopee pies at the last show were outrageously good. She is happily still taking orders and recommends shipping her coconut macaroons or her classic Eccles cakes, made so decadent with cinnamon, raisins, brown sugar and a honey glaze. Any of her creations would be a welcome treat to come home to. Pair with a loose tea from Cherry Valley Herb Farm and you’ve just warmed the heart, home (and belly!) of a loved one even if you can’t be near.

The list of awesome festival followers goes on… and on….Any ideas handmade from your heart this year? Let us know, we’d love to hear back. For now, stay tuned and stay warm!

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Maji Jewelry’s Fossilized Gold Dipped Shark Tooth

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Sasha Walsh