April 3, 2005 – Hundreds of people came out to see what is new and beautiful in the field of arts and crafts. And they weren't disappointed. More than 60 arts and crafts booths dotted the grounds of the Whim Plantation in Frederiksted for the tri-annual Starving Artists Day sponsored by the St. Croix Landmarks Society. There was also local food, drinks and live music throughout the day.
Jeanne Hughes sat with a calabash between her knees and continued to paint another tropical scene while talking to potential buyers and curious onlookers. Calabash purses strung between two trees swung gently in the breeze, enticing spectators to take a closer look. "I've been doing this for about 10 years," Hughes said, noting that some of the purses are trimmed with leather and have Velcro fasteners. "People love them. They say they are beautiful and unusual."
Under the cool shade of a tree, "Junie" Bomba contentedly polished the pale pink inner shell of a queen conch. "These are conch shell sculptures," he said, pointing to his display. "That's what I call them." Bomba explained how the queen conch shells are cleaned and cut with a skill saw, then polished and mounted on a mahogany base. Bomba said he "sees" sculptures within the chambers of the conch and cuts and polishes them to bring it out. "I call this 'the rose,'" he said pointing to one, "and this is a sail boat," he said of another.
Next to Bomba, Sarah Lee Haynes had her handcrafted pottery on display. As beautiful as they are functional, the pieces feature tropical motifs of palm trees, lizards and fish. "They are made from raw clay, worked on a wheel and fire glazed," Haynes said as she turned to answer a question from a potential customer.
Under the shade of a blue tent, Therese Donarski displayed her Caribbean sea glass jewelry. Delicate pieces of sea green, coco brown, sky blue and pale pink glass hung on gold or silver chains to make pendants, earrings and bracelets. "I used to wrap the pieces in gold or silver, and then we got a rock tumbler," Donarski said, explaining that a rock tumbler helps smooth out the rough edges of stones and glass. Donarski said she has been making sea glass jewelry for about four or five years. You can't find Donarski's pieces just anywhere on island: "I mostly come out to craft fairs," she said.
Sharon and Randy Woodman of the Chicago area were enjoying the afternoon. They just purchased a landscape print from a local artist. "We have rental property here. We come down a couple of times a year," Sharon said. "It's like a working vacation."
Items made of sea shells are plentiful at the crafts fair, but they're never common. One beachcombing family made some unusual wreaths from shells they found on the beach. "That one is made of 900 sea urchins and 100 shells. It took 22 hours to make," said Lucy Lindquist as she stood in front of a 20-inch wreath. She and her husband, Rick, and their two children have been collecting sea shells for two years. "I had all these shells, so I thought, why not do something with them?" she said, adding that sea urchins are not easy to work with. "They are very brittle; they break easily, especially the pink ones. You have to have a lot of patience."
Susan Wall, Whim events coordinator, is the driving force behind the Starving Artists Day at Whim Plantation. The event has been going for 17 years, three times a year, she said. Wall is proud of the tradition the Whim has created, showcasing the artists.
"We were the first to showcase artists this way," Wall said. She recalled the days when the craftspeople did not have tents. "They would vie for the shade of a tree or just endure the heat of the sun," she said. No matter what the weather, Wall said the shows were never cancelled.
Many vendors who come out to Starving Artists Day don't sell their products anywhere else. "If you want really unique gifts, this is the place to be," she said.
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