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

Interview with Gigglepotamus

1. Would you introduce yourself, your background and how Gigglepotamus came to be.

My name is Lauren Meakim, and I am lucky enough to stay at home with my 3 little boys, Maxfield (6), Wyatt (3½), and Jackson (1). They are really the reason & the inspiration behind Gigglepotamus. I graduated from the Tyler School of Art with a degree in Graphic Design & Illustration. I always saw myself going into children’s book illustration, but I don’t think I was really prepared right out of school to tackle the competitiveness of the freelance world. I still have no idea how one goes about getting a book deal!

Anyway, art always remained in my life in one form or another, but it wasn’t until I was expecting my first son that I started noticing an interest in fabric. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was making simple quilts and baby items. That was over six years ago, and its amazing how much I’ve learned and grown in that time. I’ve since returned to my roots and added prints and paintings to the collection of items I sell.

2. I want to ask you about your collection on Etsy but first tell me about your avatar.


Well, my husband was working on a post for his own blog (http://www.poopandboogies.com) one day. I can’t remember specifics, but he was gluing googly eyes onto his chin with peanut butter & filming himself upside down doing some silly act. Of course, the kids wanted in on it, so we let them have a go & I snapped that picture of my oldest. I guess it depicts how I want Gigglepotamus to be perceived- lighthearted and fun, so I decided to use it as my avatar.

3. And the humble houses on Etsy are adorable. Tell me how they got into your collection and how you create them.

humble house

The houses came about after what seems like years of trying to find a way to merge my art & craft.  When we were planning my youngest son’s nursery, I got the idea to hang a set of colorful little houses in a row above his window.  I started playing around with some scrap wood and paint, and liked what was happening.  The first ones were a bit different than what they’ve evolved into. Now I use more muted colors and although I think they’re just as whimsical, I also think they now reflect more of my personality.  I guess I sort of had a breakthrough moment when I started adding text to them, and from there, it was only a matter of time before they took on their own little stories.  All of the decoupaged images are reproductions of my paintings.  Several layers of paint and sanding are worked over repurposed wood to give them a weathered patina. Finally, some details are finished off with a woodburning tool for added dimension.  I’ve always been a fan of small format art, so they seem to be a good fit for me. 

4. What other items have you sold on Etsy?

I sell a lot of hats in the fall & winter, so I probably won’t list any for a while, although I do have bunny hats, like the one in this photo, that are available for spring/Easter.

bunny hat

 The prints are mixed media: acrylic paint, fabric, and text from storybooks.  Both the prints pictured use excerpts from The Velveteen Rabbit, a story which I also use quite often for my houses. 



 5. If you could pick one thing you do best, what would that be?

The one thing would be that I have a good eye for color and design. It’s just something that comes naturally to me. I rely a lot on my drawing background, and lately I’ve been incorporating it more with other elements, such as text, fabric, found objects, etc.  I like to think my work is different, because it comes from me, plain and simple. 

6. Tell me about your workspace.


I am very fortunate to have an extra bedroom in our house which is dedicated to all of my crafty endeavors. The photo shows my sewing desk & cutting table. What it doesn’t show is the horrible mess that doesn’t really ever go away! I like to think of it as organized chaos. Other than that, I have another work table, a LOT of fabric, and an ironing board that stays out. As of late, even though I said I would never do this, I have also taken over my dining room table as an area to produce my paintings and humble houses.

7. How has the popularity of the internet affected your business?

I think at this point, I would be crippled without the internet. I use it for everything from doing my taxes, to connecting with other artists, researching what shows and competitions to do, and finding inspiration. Even though it’s been around for a while, so many of us artists are just starting to scratch the surface of the possibilities for networking, marketing, and exposure. I can’t say that I do a lot of internet sales, but I’m so grateful to have my little blog address so customers that I meet at shows can follow me and see what I’m up to, and where I’ll be next. And of course, the Handmade Philly group has provided tons of valuable feedback, information, and advice to myself and others like me.

8. So, what are your plans for the rest of 2010?

I always joke that I have way more ideas than I do time, but this year I would like to focus even more on my paintings and drawings. I also would like to develop some wholesale accounts and/or more consignment relationships, so that I can spend more time making stuff, and less time out at shows. I love getting out and meeting customers and other artists, but it is incredibly difficult being away from my family on weekends.

You can see more of Lauren’s creations and read her blog at these links

Etsy: www.gigglepotamus.etsy.com

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gigglepotamus/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Gigglepotamus/173094083894

WordPress: http://www.gigglepotamus.wordpress.com

This is third in a continuing series of interviews, let me know what you think. 

Jan Cohen, http://www.thejmccollection.com