Last fall, like numerous events across ILM, American Craft Week Walk was pushed due to the landfall of Hurricane Florence. It was the first time the walk had a downturn in arts vendors, from 80 to 62. Since having been founded by Joan and Mike Loch in 2016, it has grown steadily from 32 vendors along Front Street in its first year to double that in year two. 2019 has ACWW coming back strong Saturday, September 21, showcasing 95 artists over seven blocks.
“We added the side block of Orange Street from Front to 2nd to accommodate the number of artists looking to participate,” Joan says. Artists are selected by a two-person jury, with Joan being the tie-breaker. Once an application has been accepted, the artist is welcomed back annually; 2019 will see many regulars and welcome newbies too. Forge and Foundry is among them, overseen by creator Jeff Bridgers.
“[Bridgers] is a local forger—metal forger, that is—and makes incredible functional (not weaponry) knives,” Joan tells. “Late in the application process we gained a leather artist, [Marvel Koury from MKoury Company]. And we are always excited to see what all the artists have created since the last year.”
Joan says jewelers are the number-one applicants. Jenn Stone of Jellyfish Tide is one of 10 who will have her accessories for sale at the 2019 street fair. Up and running for seven years now, Stone’s bracelets and necklaces are hand-stamped with words of empowerment, phrases of enlightenment, and even monogrammed. She works in aluminum and pewter but has begun including colored suede bracelets and colored patina. She will be adding new fonts to quotes, as well as new design stamps, to her beach-inspired jewelry.
“Each piece is hand-stamped so it ends up not only being one-of-a-kind, but it also carries so much meaning because the buyer is the one that gets to create their own quote or design for their piece of jewelry,” Stone explains.
Woodcraft By Scott, which makes specialized puzzles in various animal shapes, is returning to ACWW in 2019 as well. Scott Seifer’s 3-year-old business began when he started woodcarving puzzles for his 3-year-old granddaughter. It evolved into making more and giving them away to local elementary school kids.
“Then I stumbled across the artist whose animals I cut to this day,” Seifer reflects. After vending at Carolina Beach Farmers Market first, his demand grew and so he expanded to larger fests. “I now only do specific higher-end events, such as American Craft Walk, where I know the other vendors are offering quality product to a discerning customer base. I love doing events, meeting people, sharing about my product.”
Even with a full-time day job, Seifer stays busy with his side hustle. He does upward of 30 markets a year now, always stunning buyers with his detailed cuts. “I love the looks on people’s faces when they walk up and start looking closely at my items. I then get to tell the story of how I make them by hand, no lasers, no computers . . . My Amish artist deserves much of the credit, as his artwork is amazing and he captures each breed of dog and animal wonderfully.”
Seifer features more than 200 dog breeds, his most popular item. Yet, he has over 700 hand-carved animals, which he says is a therapeutic outlet of creation. “I recently began making key/leash holders using the dogs or any other animal as a solid piece to be wall-mounted and utilized as a functional item,” Seifer adds. He also customizes certain ones, like the turtles found at various beaches.
Wood-carving demonstrations will be held throughout the day from the Wilmington Area Woodturners Association at Front and Market in front of Finkelstein Music. Also, at the base of Orange and Front streets, a chainsaw demonstrator, Corey Lancaster from Raleigh, will create three separate pieces of art from three stumps throughout the day.
The new website is mobile friendly and includes GPS functionality so attendees can pull up the participants and find out where all the seven blocks the arts vendors are located.
American Craft Walk Week always has included “handmade” in their branding, showcasing the best of jewelers, painters, photographers, ceramicists, fashion designers, glass blowers and more. For 2019 they’ve added “homemade” to the mix. “This year we have a spice maker, an elderberry syrup vendor, essential oil and soap makers, and a few who make other accessories,” says Joan.