RIPLEY — Under a hot July sun, more than 100 artisans displayed, and many demonstrated, their work at the 57th annual Mountain State Art & Craft Fair at Cedar Lakes, in Ripley, Saturday.
Appalachian Glass artisan Todd Turner said he’s thankful for the opportunity to share the art of glass blowing with people first-hand at the event each year.
“We’ve been coming to this [festival] for at least 15 years,” he said. “I’ve kind of grown up coming to this thing. I love coming to this because you get to actually meet the artisans that make these things and sadly that’s becoming a thing that’s really something we don’t see much of anymore.”
Todd Turner, his father, Chip Turner, and grandfather, Matt Turner, have been in the glass manufacturing business for 19 years. At their shop, in Weston, they do daily glass-blowing demonstrations and sell their creations.
“My grandfather started in 1959 making molds and blow pipes and things of that nature on the machine side of it,” Todd Turner said. “My father actually started in 1982, and he built glass furnaces for a living. In short, I’ve been blessed beyond measure that my two best friends are my father and my grandfather, and they’ve been able to share and relate these things with me and hopefully I can share and relate to other folks at places like this and also at our shop on a daily basis.”
As folk music lifted into the hot summer air, the roar of a chainsaw began to drown out the musicians playing violins just behind the Appalachian Glass tent.
Kirby Stanforth, a professional chainsaw carver with the Mason Dixon Boys, from Beaver, was demonstrating how to carve a bear out of a stump of wood to a group of people gathered in front of his tent.
“Anybody who knows how to run a chainsaw can do this,” he said. “I am not an artist. I can’t draw, but I’ve learned dimensions and 3D, so this is all kind of paint-by-numbers. You block it and round it.”
Stanforth has been carving for 20 years, and said he learned just by practice and repetition.
“I had a couple guys show me a few things, [but] you pretty much get self-taught,” he said. “When I started, I was just at a point that I did it every day for six months. An hour or two hours, whatever I could afford. [I had] a lot of bonfires at night and my stuff looked like crap, but finally you kind of get it and either you do or you don’t.”
In one day, Stanforth can make six wood carvings. Particularly, bear wood carvings.
“I’ve made thousands of those bears,” he said. “I could make that bear in 40 minutes. I don’t even think about carving the bear. I’m listening to the radio. You just think of everything else and then, ‘OK, I’m done.’ ”
Stanforth admitted that bears are not his favorite thing to make, but they are usually the most popular. He said his favorite piece he’s ever made was a big angel for his grandmother.
The Mason Dixon Boys do retail sales, shows, seminars, carnivals and special occasions. They can also carve onsite and take special orders.
The Art & Craft Fair also gave people the opportunity to watch a sheep shearing demonstration.
Ed Smolder, assisted by Colin Cummings and Noah Cummings, demonstrated sheep shearing on a 5-year-old sheep they called No. 9. Smolder assured the small crowd gathered that the sheep wasn’t stressed, and that she’d be a lot cooler now while she’s running around outside.
Smolder then explained what happens to the sheep when they reach their maximum age of 10 years.
“What happens in 8 to 10 years? What do we do with her,” Smolder asked the audience. “They go to pepperoni. Y’all like pepperoni?”
The audience laughed, then went up to pet No. 9.
Cummings Farm, owned by the Cummings brothers, has about 20 sheep. They shear all of their own sheep first, then, upon request, will shear other people’s sheep, as well.
Each summer, they shear about 250 sheep in total. The wool from the sheep goes to a processor in South Carolina, where each pelt is worth 50 cents.
From sheep shearing to wood carving to glass blowing, the Mountain State Art and Craft Fair offers a variety of opportunities to learn more about West Virginia artisans and their craft.
“If only I had $1,000, I would’ve bought everything I like,” Sally Sterm, of Milton, said. “I love everything. The emphasis on West Virginia is one thing I really like.”