Every year when big seasonal festivals come to downtown ILM, they’re met with trepidation and excitement. They help bring a lot of foot traffic and money into our economy; however, some downtown businesses often complain they aren’t as “downtown friendly” and in fact deter from the business’ bottom line.
Joan and Mike Loch know the scenario well, as former owners of downtown art gallery Crescent Moon. In 2014 the Lochs had the opportunity to take over downtown’s famed Art Walk! and jumped at the occasion, after having also sold Crescent Moon for new ventures.
“Our intent was to make it a goal to promote handmade goods, showcase our great downtown, and bring ‘feet to the street’ for downtown businesses,” Joan tells. They rebranded it after the American Craft Week, which takes place October 5-14, 2018. The American Craft Week Walk will be held Saturday, October 6.
Eighty-four artists will situate their craft goods in 20 x 10 booths along six blocks downtown: Front Street from Dock Street in the south end of downtown up to Walnut. They’re spaced out appropriately to welcome people into downtown shops and eateries throughout their stroll. “We don’t block off the businesses visually and we alternate booths east and west in each block,” Loch tells.
As well the ACWW is juried, so artists are accepted based on quality of work. “[The work] must have at least one hand-made component that was made by the artist,” Loch assures.
Artisans will sell high-end paintings, fiber art, glass work, woodwork, and the like. Local ceramist Lauren Rogers participates in upward of 30 festivals a year. The ECU grad—who initially wanted to be a photographer before falling in love with clay—run Lauren Rogers Ceramics and will be selling functional pottery, like mugs, bowls, serving dishes, platters, and vases.
“I draw a lot of my inspiration from the ocean,” she tells, “so my pots tend to have a little visual movement in them. I work with asymmetrical forms and fluid glazes.”
Trinket dishes and shot glasses ring in around $10, with larger platters and vases going for up to $200. “My most popular item tends to be mugs-they go for $2,” she says.
Wilmington jewelry-maker Sara Westermark will be selling her traditional silver, gemstone and colorful enamel jewelry, which range from $12 for earrings to $400 for larger pieces. Westermark always has been a creator, from childhood when she would make her own reeds for her oboe. It wasn’t until her husband signed her up for bead making that her love for metal began.
Self-taught, Westermark did attend Pocosin Arts to learn more in enameling and tool-making.
“This past year I’ve been making my own banking dies and design stamps,” she adds. “It adds a touch of individuality [when I] make [my] own tools.”
Bitsy Crawford’s Crystal Soy Candles will make an appearance at the walk, too. Crawford also attends 30 or more festivals and markets a year, out of town and locally. Her candles are handmade in upcycled containers (beer bottles, vintage tea cups, local pottery) and run anywhere from $18 to $55. “We also have a selection of organic body products, like healing salves, body butter, sugar scrubs and all-natural tooth polish,” she tells, ranging from $3 to $25.
After a fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, Crawford began experimenting with candlemaking six years ago, and first tested them for herself and family and friends. “Kara Rider started helping me three years ago because of her fascination with essential oils and all-natural products,” Crawford says. “She quit her waitressing job to come on full time.”
Aside from the bevy of artists on hand (many of whom accept cash and credit), ACWW highlights five local nonprofits of Wilmington, which are allowed to set up booths, free of charge, in order to spread their mission to the masses and raise funds. Featured will be Kids Making It, which will sell handmade wood products made by its students (all of whom get 100 percent of profits).
Wilmington Area Woodworking Association will be on hand to do outreach on their classes and products. Freedom Fidos also will be set up to explain their mission of helping veterans and the disabled with service dogs.
Since taking over the event, the Lochs more than doubled participants at ACWW. In five years, they hope to expand without losing the grassroots feeling of the event, and include more dance, theatre and music demonstrations. The end goal is to become a “must visit” art event around the region. But for 2018, they’re just happy to be able to host it, as it originally was scheduled in September but was pushed from the hurricane.
“The last few weeks since Florence have been difficult for a lot of our neighbors and surrounding communities,” Loch says. “It is not cliché to say, art heals—plus bringing people together for a day of celebration in a wonderful environment, we hope, will offer a little diversion and brightness to their life.”
The ACWW info booth (Front and Market streets) will have a selection of art being raffled and all proceeds will go to a local nonprofit aiding in the recovery. They also welcome non-perishable items.