by Gracie Pratt/ May 2016

With spring blooms in abundance and white tents as far as the eye can see, the Tennessee Craft Fair is a sight to behold, a mark of the special community in Nashville that appreciates and invests in regional art. Though it has become increasingly easy to purchase art—one only has to click a button, thanks to the Internet—the Tennessee Craft Fair taps into the rarer experience of personal connection between artist and buyer.

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Shadow May creates wheel-thrown and hand-built porcelain and stoneware ceramics; Photograph by Tammy Gentuso

Jewelry-master Katie Sasser calls it “one of the most stunning shows in the country,” and this will be her seventh year to bring pieces. The accessibility of the artists does make for an unforgettable experience. Watch Roger Smith carve peach pits at a demonstration tent. Cradle Merissa Tobler’s stoneware pieces in your hands, and hear from Lester Jones about the creation of intricately detailed sculptures. As an artist stands with his or her work, answering questions, showing off pieces, sometimes even conducting live demonstrations of the artistic process, a new realm of vulnerability and immediacy is offered: one that is in many ways medieval and in others, magical.

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Coppersmith Ben Caldwell; Photograph by John Jackson

In order to have the opportunity to present work at the fair, artists must go through a strategic three-part selection process. Out of all the applicants, only 200 can be chosen due to the capacity of the fair’s iconic Nashville location at Centennial Park. From Tom Rice’s carved limestone to Katie’s Sasser’s hand-wired jewelry, the pieces are as diverse from tent to tent as the artists themselves.

It seems incredible that a nonprofit organization puts on such a large-scale event. Tennessee Craft relies on donations and nearly 50 volunteers to produce two craft fairs every year—one in the spring dedicated to regional artists and one in the fall for national artists. It is a true community effort, one that brings art lovers from all over the region to the heart of Nashville. That kind of energy attracts artists like Ansley Larsson, for whom this will be the fourth year to present work. Her favorite part is seeing “the regulars— the loyal art lovers that come year after year no matter the weather.”

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Photograph by John Jackson

Nashville has a loyal and engaged art community, and events like the Tennessee Craft Fair are proof that appreciation of arts and crafts is only growing. For artists, the camaraderie of the vibrant community makes it a highly-anticipated weekend, and for buyers, the ability to see work of 200 artists and shake their hands and hear their stories holds a special appeal. As artist Katie Sasser says, “Old friends and soon-to-be friends make this show an undeniably good time.”

The 46th annual Tennessee Craft Fair is completely free to the public and will be held at Centennial Park from May 6 through May 8. For specific hours and more information, visit www.tennesseecraft.org.

 

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