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Nineteen and counting: Paradise City Arts Festival readies for 3-day run at Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL<br/>Whately artist Carol Gobin's realist paintings depict her travels throughout New England and abroad. Shown here: "Weathered Vane," oil on canvas.<br/>

    PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL
    Whately artist Carol Gobin's realist paintings depict her travels throughout New England and abroad. Shown here: "Weathered Vane," oil on canvas.

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL<br/>Old dolls and puppets with their enigmatic spirits and hidden past lives have always fascinated Valerie Bunnell of Florence. Her mixed-media sculpture explores the spirit between make-believe and reality.

    PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL
    Old dolls and puppets with their enigmatic spirits and hidden past lives have always fascinated Valerie Bunnell of Florence. Her mixed-media sculpture explores the spirit between make-believe and reality.

  • Sharon Mehrman's one-woman workshop in Florence produces heirloom quality home furnishings from sustainably harvested wood. This grandfather clock is made of Tiger Maple, with hand-cut mortise and tenon joinery and a hand-painted dial face.

    Sharon Mehrman's one-woman workshop in Florence produces heirloom quality home furnishings from sustainably harvested wood. This grandfather clock is made of Tiger Maple, with hand-cut mortise and tenon joinery and a hand-painted dial face.

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL<br/>Eva Camacho-Sanchez of Florence makes felted clothing and bags. New to the festival, she says being invited to display her work thisweekend was akin to receiving an acceptance letter to college.

    PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL
    Eva Camacho-Sanchez of Florence makes felted clothing and bags. New to the festival, she says being invited to display her work thisweekend was akin to receiving an acceptance letter to college.

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL<br/>Ceramic mugs made by Alexandra Geller of Easthampton<br/>

    PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL
    Ceramic mugs made by Alexandra Geller of Easthampton

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL<br/>Emily Rosenfeld of Florence began making Judaica and jewelry 20 years ago, and has exhibited at the festival since its first year. Shown here: "Tree of Life Menorah," cast pewter details and spalted maple

    PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL
    Emily Rosenfeld of Florence began making Judaica and jewelry 20 years ago, and has exhibited at the festival since its first year. Shown here: "Tree of Life Menorah," cast pewter details and spalted maple

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL<br/>Takashi Ichihara of Granby studied the art of making pottery in his native Japan. He fires his ceramic teapots, serving pieces and dinnerware using wood ash. Shown here: "Two Teapots," wheel thrown and hand built stoneware.

    PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL
    Takashi Ichihara of Granby studied the art of making pottery in his native Japan. He fires his ceramic teapots, serving pieces and dinnerware using wood ash. Shown here: "Two Teapots," wheel thrown and hand built stoneware.

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL<br/>Ananda Khalsa of Florence draws inspiration from Asian art, natural forms and the cool sleekness of metal. Each piece of her work contains an original painting on paper, which is set behind hand ground glass in fine and sterling silver.

    PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL
    Ananda Khalsa of Florence draws inspiration from Asian art, natural forms and the cool sleekness of metal. Each piece of her work contains an original painting on paper, which is set behind hand ground glass in fine and sterling silver.

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL<br/>"Serena's Repose," a cherry chaise crafted by John Darby of Shutesbury, who is new to the festival this year.

    PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL
    "Serena's Repose," a cherry chaise crafted by John Darby of Shutesbury, who is new to the festival this year.

  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL<br/>Whately artist Carol Gobin's realist paintings depict her travels throughout New England and abroad. Shown here: "Weathered Vane," oil on canvas.<br/>
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL<br/>Old dolls and puppets with their enigmatic spirits and hidden past lives have always fascinated Valerie Bunnell of Florence. Her mixed-media sculpture explores the spirit between make-believe and reality.
  • Sharon Mehrman's one-woman workshop in Florence produces heirloom quality home furnishings from sustainably harvested wood. This grandfather clock is made of Tiger Maple, with hand-cut mortise and tenon joinery and a hand-painted dial face.
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL<br/>Eva Camacho-Sanchez of Florence makes felted clothing and bags. New to the festival, she says being invited to display her work thisweekend was akin to receiving an acceptance letter to college.
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL<br/>Ceramic mugs made by Alexandra Geller of Easthampton<br/>
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL<br/>Emily Rosenfeld of Florence began making Judaica and jewelry 20 years ago, and has exhibited at the festival since its first year. Shown here: "Tree of Life Menorah," cast pewter details and spalted maple
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL<br/>Takashi Ichihara of Granby studied the art of making pottery in his native Japan. He fires his ceramic teapots, serving pieces and dinnerware using wood ash. Shown here: "Two Teapots," wheel thrown and hand built stoneware.
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL<br/>Ananda Khalsa of Florence draws inspiration from Asian art, natural forms and the cool sleekness of metal. Each piece of her work contains an original painting on paper, which is set behind hand ground glass in fine and sterling silver.
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PARADISE CITY ARTS FESTIVAL<br/>"Serena's Repose," a cherry chaise crafted by John Darby of Shutesbury, who is new to the festival this year.

Nineteen years after the first Paradise City Arts Festival opened in Northampton, it continues to thrive, attracting new and returning artists, as well as thousands of customers who crowd the Three County Fairgrounds to shop from the artists themselves.

Nineteen years ago, the festival opened with about 160 artists, and fit in one building. Today, it has grown to include 275 artists and craftspeople showing their work in four large buildings. There’s also a dining tent that holds nine restaurants, a soundstage where three bands will perform and an outdoor sculpture garden and courtyard that holds 35 to 40 works of art. The event attracts in the neighborhood of 10,000 and 14,000 people.

There are now two Northampton festivals annually, and planning and executing the event is a year-round job for founder Linda Post and her staff. This fall’s event will be held Saturday through Monday at the fairgrounds.

Months before each festival, Post says, she receives between 700 and 1,000 applications from 29 states and Canada. From those, she chooses the artists who will be invited to display and sell their work. This year’s exhibitors represent 23 states; 40 live in western Massachusetts.

Two-thirds of the show features functional art (furniture, fashion, jewelry etc), and the other third is made up of fine arts (paintings, sculpture, etc).

“You want the show to be balanced in a certain way,” Post said. The festival has to display a wide variety of work and price ranges, and repetition is undesirable.

The layout

After choosing the artists, Post and her team plan the physical layout for the festival grounds. First on their list: transform four large barns on the fairgrounds into what Post calls “elegant exhibition halls,” created by adding details such as carpeting and custom lighting. Planning the layout takes about a week, Post says. In addition to the 275 artist’s booths, there is an information tent, a courtyard, six or seven outdoor booths spread throughout the courtyard for large-scale work such as sculpture, and a 240-foot dining tent which holds eight restaurants and a soundstage where three bands will perform.

Two days before the festival begins, the artists arrive to build their booths. In some ways, Post says, the artistry of the festival begins with those booths, which she describes as “mini-boutiques.”

“Most of the artists build booths that are just as artistic as their work,” Post said.

Though the festival is just about to begin, Post says she’s already begun the process all over again, preparing for the next festival.

“A lot of Paradise City is invisible, “Post said.” But the work is well worth it.”

The artists

At this year’s festival, 18 artists will exhibit mixed-media art; 23 will show ceramics; and 16 are glass artists. There are 15 painters, 28 sculptors, 12 metal workers, 72 jewelers and 23 furniture makers.

Among those showing wearable felt art is Eva Camacho-Sanchez — one of the 42 artists who are new to the festival this year.

Three years ago, when Camacho-Sanchez, a fiber artist who works out of her home in Florence, began crafting from felt, she showed her pieces at small local craft fairs. Uncertain back then if her work was up to par, she says, she was hesitant to apply to Paradise City.

“I’m the kind of person who is a perfectionist,” she said.

But this year she gave it a try, and recalls the relief she felt when she received the thick acceptance packet from the festival in the mail.

“It reminded me of a college acceptance letter,” she said.

Camacho-Sanchez says she began crafting for the festival right away.

“Immediately I felt that I had to work,” she said. To create the inventory that she will present, Camacho-Sanchez has put in hundreds of hours of work. She says she hopes to soften negative preconceived notions about felt. When many hear about art made from felt, she says, they think of the lower-quality, polyester felt that is available at many craft stores.

Camacho-Sanchez crafts her work from a fine, delicate form of felt made from freshly shorn wool. She begins the felt-crafting process by laying pieces of wool on a large table then wetting it with water and soap. She then performs a process she calls “giving the wool some education” — rolling the wool in a piece of bubble wrap about 1,000 times, which is how the felt is formed.

It takes six or seven hours to make a garment like a dress; smaller items such as hats and scarves take two to three hours to make, she says.

At the festival, at booth 417, Camacho-Sanchez will have on hand some 120 items, including 40 to 45 scarves, 20 bags, 10 garments (tunics, dresses, etc) and 10 hats.

Several other local artists are participating in the festival this year, including jeweler Tobi Sznajerman, sculptor Michael Shally-Jensen and digital artist Perry Conley, all of Amherst; fashion designers Teresa Crowninshield and Gary Temple, ceramic artist Alexandra Geller, visual artist Stacy Geryk, and furniture designers Matthew Evald Johnson, Bennie Johnson and Jo R. Roessler, all of Easthampton.

Ceramics artist Valerie Bunnell, glass artist Rajesh Kommineni, jewelry designer Ananda Khalsa, furniture designer Sharon C. Meherman and metal artist Sam Ostroff will be on hand from Florence, as will painter Kate Childs and furniture designer Ken Salem, both from Northampton; furniture designer John Darby and painter Edith L. Hunsberger from Shutesbury; stone artist Takashi Ichihara and digital photographers and artists Jeffrey Waldron and Cherry Lemon, all of Granby; found-material sculptor James Kitchen of Chesterfield; and pottery artist Roxanne Parent of Conway.

One-on-one

There will be 233 returning artists this year, including Emily Rosenfeld, who’s been with the festival since year-one. Rosenfeld, a self-taught jeweler and metal worker who lives and works in Florence, says she treasures the face-to-face contact she has with customers at the festival. Once hesitant to show her creations in person, she used to sell her work exclusively on the wholesale market. But after meeting Post and others involved in the festival, Rosenfeld says, she felt comfortable enough to apply.

These days, Rosenfeld brings 500 pieces of jewelry to the Paradise City Festival, much of it from her wholesale line, including spiritual Judaic pieces and necklaces that can be personalized using the 120 or so charms she makes in representational shapes, such as initials. She also has a line of hammered metal hoops, necklaces and earrings she crafts especially for retail shows like Paradise City. For this year’s festival, she’s bringing along 20 new items that can be combined to create different pieces.

“My booth (#209) is packed with things,” she said.

In her 19th Columbus Day weekends showing at the Paradise City Festival, Rosenfeld says, she’s interacted with tens of thousands of customers, and has sold nearly 4,000 pieces of jewelry. Helping customers put together personalized necklaces using her charms can be an emotional experience, Rosenfeld said.

“I want people to be able to express themselves,” she said. “It’s truly meaningful for me.”

Related

The particulars

Friday, October 11, 2013

WHEN: AND WHERE: The Paradise City Arts Festival will be held on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton. ADMISSION: $13 for adults, $11 for seniors, $8 for students. Children under 12 are free. A three-day pass is available for $16. Parking is …

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