A Visit to the Sugarloaf Craft Festival in Oaks, PA

Sugarloaf Crafts produces several festivals every year in the Northeast.  This November I attended the show at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center.   When arriving with my Friday ticket, I received another ticket for entrance on Saturday or Sunday, which I thought was nice.  The show is huge, and one might not see everything on the first visit.   There are over 260 booths, so you might want to economize your energy by seeking out your favorite booths first and then doing your general browsing.    The event was wheelchair accessible.   If walking, wear comfortable shoes for the cement floors are hard on feet.  I’m including a few highlights here, and the photos should become larger with clicking.

Susan Wechsler Designs, Chester, NJ

Susan creates hand built, high fired, sculpted porcelain and stoneware.   Her works have dimension, texture, and use a rich palette of colors.  Much of her work is inspired by nature, as you can see with the shapes of leaves on many pieces.   Her red maple leaf line really picks up the actual colors of autumn.   She has an extensive line of cheese plates with coordinating knives, which would make a pleasing gift for just about anyone.

JMN Creations, Pittsburgh, PA

Joseph Lavrich was an experienced cabinet maker before directing his talents to wood turning.  He uses domestic woods to make his lovely creations.  He knows the characteristics of each type of wood, and uses this knowledge to make pieces of varying smoothness, color, and pattern.  He told me that although he might start off with a certain design in mind, he allows the wood itself to tell him how the design will actually “turn” out.

Simon Xianwen Zeng, Flushing, NY

Simon paints in acrylics and oils, and also has giclee prints of his originals for sale.  His works show lively colors in landscapes and nature, among other subjects.   In addition to brilliant, popping colors, his paintings’ subjects are clear and artfully succinct.   I especially enjoyed the painting of the autumn red tree, perfectly colored for fall, the leaves represented by even swirls.

Light Painter Photography, Stroudsburg, PA

Dan Mohr’s specialty is fine art nature photography.  He showed many works of the beautiful countryside of the Poconos.   He explained to me the high quality of the inks that are used in his giclee prints, and that they can last for 50 years or longer, depending on display and storage.   His works are printed on canvas wrapped frames, making an actual frame unnecessary if so desired.  The image detail and colors can have you reliving your last trip to the Poconos, or wishing you were planning such a visit.

Olevano, Wilmington  DE

Olevano gets its olives from their family farms in southern Italy, and produces their oils, cosmetics, and soaps in Wilmington.  I can attest to the tastiness of their lemon infused olive oil, and there are many other flavors such as red pepper and white truffle.  Their soaps are lovely and are made in a variety of fragrances.  They seem to be able to do anything and everything that one can do with olive oil.  I thought the design of their honeycomb olive oil soap was just darling.

Add the above mentioned artists to another 255, and you have yourself a very full day, and perhaps a very full weekend.   The next Sugarloaf show will be in Gaithersburg, Maryland, the weekend of  November 18th.  They will be back in Philadelphia on the weekend of March 16, 2012.

—  Written by Diane Olivia

Melt and Pour Soap-Making: the perfect DIY Holiday project

glycerin soap Looking for a really easy, inexpensive project that will produce a gift nearly everyone loves? Try your hand at melt & pour glycerin soap making. This is distinct from ‘true’ hot process and natural cold process soap-making, which is much more involved and more time consuming. In M&P soaps, you can work on a simple project that will take you a short amount of time. Take advantage of the relative ease and get creative! There are lots of really interesting M&P soapers on Etsy from whom to get some inspiration.  A lot of the fun comes from the molds you choose to use, the scents you add, the addition of botanicals in a clear glaze top, or the creation of fun and interesting designs such as this bacon and egg soap set.

One of the best parts of soap making is the inclusion of natural fragrance. My preference is always to use pure essential oils, which are the natural product of extracting (via steam distillation) the volatile oils from plants. I find synthetic fragrance oils to be cloying and irritating, and often unhealthy because of the addition of chemical fragrance fixatives such as “pthalates”, which have shown endocrine disruption in laboratory testing with mice.

The first step is finding Melt and Pour soap base. And then it’s as simple as that…you melt it and pour it into molds! I prefer to use organic soap base, such as Stephenson’s, as many bases are weighed down with more questionable ingredients such as sulfates, or often irritating chemical foaming agents.

organic melt and pour soap base

organic melt and pour soap base from KandleKaz.com

You will want to use a stainless steel (not aluminum) or enamel coated pot. Put on a double boiler for best results, but I’ve also done fine melting the base over the lowest possible stove-top setting. Just be sure not to walk away too long, as you don’t want the soap to come to a boil.

Stirring melt and pour soap base

Stirring melt and pour soap base

DIY Directions:
1. Melt 2 lb block over low heat. (Stir with a utensil designated for soap making.)
2. Once melted, remove from heat.

Adding essential oil blend to melted soap base

Adding essential oil blend

3. Add fragrance to desired strength. I prefer about 60 – 100 drops essential oil to 2 lbs soap. If you add too much fragrance it will affect the quality of the soap.

Added colorant to soap base

Add colorant to soap base

4. Add some colorant if desired. You can buy soap chips from suppliers or use natural powdered herbs such as turmeric, which creates a lovely butter to deep orange color, depending on how much you use. You can also try regular old food coloring.  Stir well until blended.
4. Pour into molds and allow to cool completely before popping out (an hour or two).
5. Wrap in cellophane to protect the glycerin, which is prone to “sweating” when exposed to humidity. I prefer to shrink wrap soaps, as they are best protected this way!

Variation:
1. Melt clear base in one pot and an opaque base in another. Add fragrance to both when removed from heat.

soap poured into molds

2. Pour a thin, clear layer into your molds and sprinkle some herbs or blossoms on top (lotus, chamomile, calendula, and rose, or lemongrass are all nice choices)
3. Once that is somewhat cooled down, pour the opaque base into the mold.

white base being poured into mold

white base being poured into mold

4. Cool, pop out of molds, and wrap in cellophane.

soap wrapped in celophane

Resources:
From Nature with Love (melt and pour soap, essential oils, fragrance oils)
Essential Wholesale (essential oils)
Bramble Berry Soap Soap Making Supplies (everything, including molds)
Sun Feather Natural Soap Company (everything, including molds)
organic orange soap scented with cardamom and other spices

Post written by Sarah Powell, proprietor of natural bath, body, and herbal product business, Lilith’s Apothecary.

Spring Flowering

Just a wee bit of color pushing through the wintry landscape…perhaps a tinge of gold at peel of a birch, a glimmer of purple-hued crocus sparkling on the forest floor, dewy moss casting a brilliant green to the edge of a creek, or the whisper of a snow drop petal’s sweet welcome. All of these things bring a feeling of renewal, revitalization, and quiet awakening as we emerge from our wintry dens to feel the balmy new breezes of springtime. In perusing the artistic coffers of Philadelphia artisans, I found the following gold-tinged blossoming gems. That delicate eruption of color from the milky whites and frothy cream is enough to remind me that warmth is nigh, even if I still have to pull my hood up over my head for a few more weeks.

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These absolutely stunning fairy wings are the exquisite, careful work of Rebecca Dixon, proprietor of etsy shop, Up from the Ashes I just hope that one day I can become the owner of one of these accessories to fantasy delight!

Grace Christie's lovely 'Rain' earrings

Grace Christie's lovely 'Rain' earrings

No one can deny the striking beauty of Grace Christie’s bejeweled creations. Like the afternoon sunlight filtering through a light spring drizzle, these earrings sparkle with a many hued light. You can find Grace Christie at her etsy site of the same name.

Sew Fragrant's Little Birdie

Sew Fragrant's Little Birdie

A delightful touch of whimsy for the Easter Basket, the Baby Shower, or any other event that delivers – in hushed tones, perhaps – spring growth, new growth, little birdie growth and happily, the arrival of little ones. Philly artisan, Patti, gives us all the chance to offer such sweet gifts at her shop Sew Fragrant.

SayHiBeth's adorable vintage magnets

SayHiBeth's adorable vintage magnets

What says ‘spring’ more than the hurry of little girls to begin skipping rope outside. I might not be little, but it seems pretty appealing to me! And I will say that for the two and a half year olds like my daughter, nothing is more appealing than getting out of doors at long last. And for such joyous weather! Say Hi Beth’s etsy shop is full of all kinds of wonderful vintage magnet sets. It won’t be long before some of these adorn my own fridge.

Harvest Sky Ring

Harvest Sky Ring

I know, I know, the name of this ring is “Harvest Sky” but who can mistake that clear blue of springtime, the golden branches merely a hold over from winter bareness, their silhouettes bathed in the hazy light following a light shower? Well, I can pretend. Isn’t that the glory of art? We see what we want to see. My stepmother already wears one of Dierdre Ryan’s photo rings, and many more can be found at her etsy shop, blackbird72.

Jen McCleary's picture postcard

Jen McCleary's picture postcard

For someone who delights in collage, Jen McCleary seems to have no end to the creative expanses of her imagination. Her artwork jewelry pieces are completely original and beautiful to behold, especially in person. And what’s this? Wonderful postcard prints of her collaged art pieces. And for a dollar? Astounding. Sign me up! And you, too, dear reader, should visit her shop for more. Find her at etsy under the name JenMcCleary

New springtime creations are all around us! Look for us locally area events, including the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival and the Fishtown Shad Fest for new, interesting, and endlessly creative creations.

Lilith's Apothecary glycerin soaps

Lilith's Apothecary glycerin soaps

Sarah Powell, is a medical anthropologist, herbalist, crafter, and the sole proprietor of the natural bath, body & herbal tea business, Lilith’s Apothecary.