CraftWestport showcases the hidden gems of the art world

Serena Ye '20, Web A&E Editor

A low buzz of ambient chatter and the soft shuffling of shoes fill the spacious gymnasium. Leaving the crisp, chilling November wind outside, visitors were welcomed by a whirlwind of bright colors and prints. The warm golden glow of string lights connected each booth to the next, from unique trinkets to plaid wool coats to organic sun-dried necklaces. 

The annual CraftWestport had no shortage of hidden gems. Taking place on Nov. 9 and 10 at Staples High School, this flea-market-styled shopping fair featured booths by over 200 American artists and bakers. Presented by the Westport Young Woman’s League, the art booths showcased unique designs and original art in forms of pottery, ceramics, prints, photography and jewelry. Meanwhile, in the Staples cafeteria, attendees were free to walk around and sample a wide variety of foods ranging from gourmet pastries to spicy horseradish. 

Starting from childhood, these artists view the world in a creative lense. For Mary-Lynne Moffatt, she always loved playing with toys and trinkets when she was younger. Now, Moffatt makes a living selling contemporary folk art collections. She hand-assembles her pieces with white polymer clay. Once the clay hardens, she then illustrates her intricate designs with acrylic paint. Later, she combines recyclable items such as paintbrushes, clothespins, funnels, bedposts and even furniture legs to add the finishing touches. 

“I think the things that I make will remind people of what they liked as kids, because they do have a sort of whimsical, child-like nostalgia to them,” Moffatt said. 

Similarly, self-taught artist Shenna Shepard found her biggest inspiration from her childhood memories. Growing up in California where recycling was highly valued.

“I think my inspiration comes from the heads of objects that I find,” Shepard said. “I use repurposed goods like salt shakers, tea pot headers, liquor decanter heads, silver butter dishes and pitchers.”

However, many of these curators didn’t discover their passion for their particular skills until later in life. Artist Jay Palefsky started out as an art teacher for 25 years at Boston College. It wasn’t until the hippie movement of the ’60s and ’70s when he began to invent a new form of artwork he branded as “morphicism.” 

“I’m a believer of illusion; your mind goes to where things are not,” he said. “I try to break the rules.” 

Palefsky illustrates pictures that flow from one page to the other in the form of notecards, books and framed prints. For instance, a bright orange lion can change shape into the broad, twirling wings of a fairy in the next frame. Palefsky currently teaches unique courses on his website on utilizing light and dark shading in markers. 

While a metal sculptor, ceramic bowl artist and cloth weaver may not have much in common, these artists share a deep love of nature that is incorporated in the work that they create. 

Sculptor Robert Hyde creates intricate, ashy gray designs from using welding rods made of steel brass, copper and bronze. He practices his craft every day in the studio, teaching his left hand to bend and shape in freeform one rod at a time, while simultaneously feeding the metal with a hot welding torch in his right hand. Hyde’s creations spring from the moose, bears, coyotes, foxes and other woodland animals he sees on a daily basis right outside in his 10-acre property in the forest. 

“And I still fantasize a lot,” Hyde said. “I dream of dragons and mythical type things as well as a wide variety of realistic animals and people.” 

Speaking through metal, Hyde infuses both dreams and reality in the making of his creations. 

Beginning just as a side-hustle for a stay-at-home mom, “Sherwood Forest Designs” has grown to a successful business with over half a million bowls sold. Over the past 25 years, Soli Pierce’s bowls and dishware have traveled all over the world from Tokyo to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. 

Pierce’s lavish bowls are hand-turned, hand-painted and sealed eight times for a lifetime of use. In addition to using muted earthy tones like red and green, Pierce paints life-like fruits, vegetables and flowers on to her bowls. 

“I like the idea that people can come around the table and find a bowl that they can enjoy and celebrate life with,” Pierce said. 

By mixing art and home, Pierce has found a special way to spread her art all around the world. 

Weaver Kathleen Litchfield was eight years old when she discovered her lifelong passion for color and fabric. On a field trip to the Old Sturbridge Village with her girl scout troop, she witnessed clothes being made from scratch in old looms. Fascinated by the process, she took her first few classes in her twenties and soon fell in love with making scarves, ponchos and vests. 

“I love the designing aspect, and so I think with me you’ll find that color is my main form,” Litchfield said. “I love combining colors together you might not think would go together, but in the finished piece they really do come together in a nice unit.” 

She draws her unique color combinations through her travels around the world. While taking walks in everyday nature, Litchfield is inspired by the sky, the trees, and transitioning colors during the seasons. 

Litchfield’s business continues to grow as she participates in more and more higher-end shows such as CraftWestport. 

“It’s great to have people really embrace your work,” she said. “There’s nothing that feels better, it’s amazing.”