Picture Perfect: Art OUTSIDE of the Sugarloaf Craft Festival, Too

Twice a year (in October and March) the Sugarloaf Craft Festival comes to central New Jersey. Hundreds of talented artists and craftsman bring their handmade creations to the exhibit center in Somerset.  I go each time with my mom, and each time we find things that we (didn’t know until we saw them) just can’t live without.  My walls and shelves, purse and accessory drawers are adorned with finds from the festival.

To our delight, one of our favorite (and local NJ) artists, John DiAmicis was again in attendance at the festival and we picked up something special from his booth.  (I can’t tell you what it is, because it is a surprise gift for someone who just might be reading this blog.)

Actually, most of the things we picked up this time around were gifts.  Well, gifts and food.  So, I realize after the fact, that I don’t have many photos to share from the festival itself.  (Don’t want to ruin any holiday surprises!)

You’re going to have to take my word that the things there were, once again, pretty cool, and that there truly is something for every age, taste, price range, and interest at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival.

A little bit of winter in the fall.

The photo I do have to share with you on this Picture Perfect Sunday was taken yesterday just outside our visit at the festival, on our way back to the car.  The snow had been falling for a few hours already, and it began to stick in a thick, heavy coat – over everything.  Tree branches were weighed down, and the autumn hues of amber and orange were peaking their way through the thick snow.  This photo is from just outside the exhibit center; inspired by the artists at the festival – where there was art in every direction and from wall to wall – I snapped a photo of art myself.

The festival is in town through today, October 30th.  They’ll be back again in the spring.  You can visit their website or the Notes on the State of New Jersey calendar for more details.

The Jersey Girl

(S)no(w) Kidding!


For a few mornings, I had been hearing on the radio that NY state was expecting or getting snow – north of NYC. But big deal, right? Doesn’t upstate NY always get snow earlier than we do?

This morning, I realize what the big deal actually is…it is snowing right now, here in central NJ. It’s only October 29th…not even Halloween yet!

I know hundreds of years ago, like when George Washington was living right up the street in what is now Kingston, snow was common in October. Has it snowed this early in recent years? Someone told me today that it hasn’t snowed this early in NJ since the Civil War, perhaps that is the case?  (This may be a good question for our friends at NY NJ PA Weather!)

It doesn’t look like it will be good “snowman” snow, but hopefully you will be able to sit back, get comfy and experience the October NJ weather that George Washington once knew.

(I’m headed over to the Sugarloaf Craft Festival today in Somerset, but after that I’m heading back home to enjoy my fireplace!)

The Jersey Girl

A Birthday Gift For My Nephew

Creative Letter Art made especially for my nephew!

It’s lucky for me that my nephew (who will be four next month) isn’t yet reading this blog.  If he was, I wouldn’t be able to show you the gift I purchased for him at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival from Creative Letter Art!

I thought this collage of photographs depicting different style letters would be the perfect gift for him since he’s learned his letters in pre-school and is beginning to recognize words – names especially.  Creative Letter Art has many pre-made portraits available with a wide variety of themes to choose from.  There’s everything from fun and bright neon to subdued black and white nature scenes to the dramatic lines of architecture.

With owner of Creative Letter Art, Ethan Reiss. (photo by Jeffrey Morris)

Owner and photographer, Ethan Reiss, was inspired to begin his Rockaway, NJ business because of his own personal experiences with wanting to show those he loved how much he cared in a unique and meaningful way.  His personal journey of expressing his own feelings through words and images has led to a business which now allows any of us, no matter how much artistic talent or creativity, the opportunity to present our loved ones with a gift that reflects just how much we care about them.  (Sadly though, my photography here doesn’t do the collage for my nephew justice at all!)  In person, the collage is truly breathtaking and I can’t wait to give it to him next month.

You can take my word for it, or you can see the images in better detail on the Creative Letter Art website and facebook page.

My new Simon Xianwen Zeng purchase is the one on the left.

I also picked up a few small things for myself at Sugarloaf this time around.  (It’s hard not to find something – or many things – I want to take home there!)  At a time when so much of what we buy is made in other countries, it felt especially good to know that my purchases were directly supporting people who live and work here in the United States.

The last time I was at the show, I purchased a print from artist Simon Xianwen Zeng.  This time around, I picked up another print to go with it.  I’m thinking though, that these two prints look a little lonely and I might have to make this a grouping of three.  What do you think???  I also picked up another small print from Milltown, NJ resident, John DeAmicis and a beautiful hand sewn bag to use as a camera case.

My new camera case!

The second piece in my John DeAmicis collection.

I might just have to add the new print by Simon Xianwen Zeng to a long list because I’ve already got my eye on other items (like a hand-woven basket from Wanda Summers of Wood Weaving) that I’m planning to get in the fall when the Sugarloaf Craft Festival is back here in Somerset.

They’ll be here October 28, 29, & 30th.

And I’ll be sure to remind you about it when it gets closer!

Shopping for some art at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival in the far left of this pic... (photo by Jeffrey Morris)

The Jersey Girl

Back in the Swing of Things…

I hate to start a post with, “Sorry I haven’t written in a while.”  So I’m not going to.  😉

Instead, I’ll just inform you that the most persistent cold virus has decided to keep me company for the last few weeks, making exploring NJ (and pretty much anything that has required me to be awake) difficult.  I am (finally!!!) starting to feel better and becoming super excited about all of the fun things coming up here in NJ!

This weekend, the Sugarloaf Craft Festival is back in Somerset.  I can’t wait to go check out all the talent artists who will be displaying their work.  Each time I’m there, I pick up something fabulous for my house.  Even if you’ve been there before, you are going to want to go again this weekend; they promise that this show is going to be the best one yet!

The Arts Guild New Jersey up in Rahway has held some pretty fun events lately (which I was luckily able to go see) like an animation night featuring 21 short animation films by artists all around the country, including NJ, and a special listening event for Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds, which is set in none other than Grover’s Mill and Princeton, NJ!  If you missed those events at the Arts Guild, rest assured that there are more good things to come; next on the Arts Guild calendar is a fun new exhibit called Bling to check out.

And, my mouth is already watering just knowing that Jersey Shore Restaurant Week is just around the corner.  Beginning on April 1st, for just $20.11, you can enjoy a delicious, three course meal from a number of amazing restaurants along the Jersey Shore.  There are several new participating restaurants that I can’t wait to try!

Hope to see you soon at some of these awesome events!

The Jersey Shore

Fall Foliage at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival

Melissa Morris Sugarloaf Festival 2010

A painting? A drawing? A photograph? No, this is hand-embroidered art by Nguyen's Chi Art at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival.

Right now in New Jersey, though plenty of leaves have fallen to blanket the ground, you can still see leaves of bright orange, deep amber and rust colors on many of our trees.  Walking through my neighborhood, or driving around, (or exploring parks while Geocaching), I’ve been compelled to stop and take pictures in order to capture some of these vibrant colors before the season changes.

Recently, when the Sugarloaf Craft Festival was back in Somerset, NJ, I also found plenty of beautiful fall foliage in the hand-crafted artwork on display.

Lee and Christina Nguyen, from Northwales, PA, brought their hand stitched artwork to the festival.  The texture and vibrant colors of the embroidery work drew me in to each scene. You can visit their website for an online gallery of their work.

Melissa Morris Sugarloaf Craft Festival 2010

Framed, hand stitched art by Lee & Christina Nguyen, of Nguyen's Chi Art, at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival in Somerset, NJ

Other artists at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival not only brought leaves into their art, but brought the art to actual leaves.  Mary Anna Barratt and Dennis Ray, of Nature’s Creations, displayed natural leaves and blossoms that had been covered in copper and finished with patina or precious metals for a variety of finishes and effects.  Just like when the leaves were once found in nature, no two pieces from Nature’s Creations are the same. For orders, or information on custom pieces, you can visit their website.

Melissa Morris Sugarloaf Craft Festival Leaves

A few of Nature's Creations leaves that had "fallen" onto their display table at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival in Somerset, NJ

Plenty of my other favorite artists and vendors from the last festival returned for this show, including Terry Lo with her beautiful, hand-made scarves.

The Sugarloaf Craft Festival will be back again in March of 2011.  Visit their website or check back to www.notesonnj.com for more information.  You won’t want to miss it!

The Jersey Girl

Sugarloaf Craft Festival is back in New Jersey!

Just in time for the holidays, the Sugarloaf Craft Festival is back in New Jersey.  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (October 29-31) local and national artists and vendors will be showing and selling a variety of crafts.

You never know what treasures you may find at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival

Information about artists and purchasing tickets can be found on the Sugarloaf Craft Festival website, and if you want to see a little bit of what my experience was like the last time I visited the festival, just click this link.

Happy shopping!

The Jersey Girl

A sweet time at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival!

Admiring the work of photographer, Jon Mullen, at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival.

When I think of crafts, I think of things along the lines of what my late grandmother used to make and hang on her Christmas tree.  You know what I mean, lots of multi-colored yarn, puffy pom poms, glitter, and those three-sided beads (that were always so much fun to stack).  I think of crocheted tissue box covers decorated with dried flowers.  I think of hot glue and tiny dolls made of clothespins and fabric rosettes.

These were the sorts of things I imagined I would see when I visited the Sugarloaf Craft Festival at the Garden State Exhibit Center on Saturday, March 13th.  To my delight, what I found instead was an abundance of accomplished jury-selected artisans showcasing collections of art ranging from sculpture to wearables (like scarves, jewelry, and handbags) to paintings and drawings to photography and so much more. The Sugarloaf Craft Festival, travels through the New England and Mid-Atlantic areas, and is one of the nation’s best shows of its kind.

Marty Silverman demonstrating his work at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival.

Once inside, I shook the rain off of my coat and immediately began to search for the many NJ artists in the show.  The first I came across was Marty Silverman as he was sharing the magic of his work with a sculpture demonstration.  Silverman, a retired art teacher from Jackson, NJ, uses a hammer and chisel to sculpt alabaster, lava, and Rhyolite-Farrago (a stone found in Colorado) and from these raw rocks, manages to capture emotions of daily life as well as the graceful fluidity of nature.  Silverman says of his work, “I let my feelings and the natural forms in each stone lead me on the journey to a finished work of art.”  It is a journey well worth taking.

Continuing on my journey through the festival, I came across a great weakness of mine, accessories (scarves in particular).  When I saw a booth full of vibrant handmade scarves of a variety of designs, I had to stop and (at least) try them on.  Terry Lo, a Manalapan, NJ resident, makes all of the scarves herself, including “string” scarves, shawls, and hybrid scarf necklaces (what I ultimately purchased).  Lo has been crafting her scarves, through her home-based business, for about six years and travels to local craft shows with her daughter, Jimay, who helps her with sales.  Besides keeping busy selling her scarves at local crafts shows, Lo is also available for hostess parties in private homes.  You can reach her by email at terrylo@optonline.net and find out how you can update your look for spring with a beautiful new scarf.

Terry Lo demonstrates for Joan Morris the many ways to tie her beautiful scarves.

After a few attempts to get his attention, I was finally able to speak with a talented artist who lives in my hometown of Milltown, NJ, John DeAmicis.  DeAmicis’ work has appeared in galleries all over the world and includes whimsical and inspirational, limited edition pencil and ink prints.  Some owners of DeAmicis’ work whom you may recognize are Elton John, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Henry Kissinger, Pepsi, and the Dr. Seuss estate.  And very recently added to the list, yours truly.  I purchased a print with an encouraging Tennyson quote, “That which we are, we are, and if we are ever to be any better now is the time to begin.” You can view an image of this meaningful and delicate print here.  DeAmicis will be appearing in a show in Verona Park, NJ in May and a show in Haddonfield, NJ in July.  A full list of upcoming shows is available on his website.

John DeAmicis standing with his work at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival. (If you look closely, you can see the print I purchased.)

Though my focus at the festival was with New Jersey artists, I was also hypnotized by the breathtaking photography of Colorado photographer, Jon Mullen.  Mullen is an accomplished photographer, having published his work over 200 times, and was recently awarded the prize of “Best in Show” at the Boulder Creek Festival’s juried competition.  With his work capturing both the serenity and complexity of nature, it was hard for me to choose just one print to purchase at this show.  I ended up choosing a print called “Yellow Pond Lily” for my office.  (I’m hoping that the next print I purchase from Mullen will be one he takes of our beautiful state, New Jersey.)

Christina Rudczynski and photographer, Jon Mullen at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival.

Aside from the 275 artisans at the show, there was also live music, craft demonstrations, shows for children, and plenty of specialty food to purchase (and sample).  I couldn’t possibly experience it all in one day, so I’m looking forward to the festival coming back to NJ in October!

Tickets for the Sugarloaf Crafts Festival are $7 if purchased online, $8 for adults if purchased at the door, and free for children under 12.  (Be sure to visit the website before purchasing tickets to see if any coupons are available.) Tickets are good for all three days. Free parking is available.  http://www.sugarloafcrafts.com/index.html

The Jersey Girl