Artisan show celebrates handwork

Fine American handwork — as presented by 40 artisans — will be the star of the Wilton Historical Society’s 32nd annual American Artisan Show next weekend.

The artisans will display their work throughout the society’s museum complex at 224 Danbury Road on Saturday, Nov. 4, from 10 to 5, and Sunday, Nov. 5, from 10 to 4. Admission is $10. Lunch and snacks will be available on-site from the Melt Mobile.

A festive preview and silent auction on Friday, Nov. 3, from 6 to 9, will give guests a sneak peek at the Shaker-style furniture, pottery, kitchenware, Nantucket-style baskets, hand-woven scarves, quilts, rugs, floorcloths, art, tavern signs, soap, jewelry, and cutting boards that are among the items that will be offered.

While viewing the arts, crafts and designs on display, guests at the preview party may enjoy hors d’oeuvres provided by the Schoolhouse restaurant and a signature Prosecco cocktail. The silent auction will feature pieces contributed by the artisans and friends of the society. Tickets are $100 for members and $125 for non-members.

This year’s show includes a fair number of new artisans, said Kim Mellin, co-director of the historical society. She co-chaired the artisan committee with volunteers and trustees Lynda Campbell and Catherine Romer, who are also participating in the show, and Moira Craw.

“We’re always looking for artisans that are high-quality,” she said. “We don’t want too many of one type.”

There probably aren’t many artists who can claim to have their work not only in the National Portrait Gallery but also on the set of the soap opera All My Children, but Kristin Helberg of Maryland can. She practices a style of art called vinegar graining in which she mixes vinegar paint to create boxes with faux grains and artistic designs with nautical and animal themes. She will bring boxes ideal for keepsakes, small chests, Early American tavern signs, paintings, and giclée prints.

Mellin described the work of Geoffrey Davis of 50 Little Birds folk art as “whimsical and beautiful.” He started out as a ukulele maker and then branched out to make pull toys, birds, fish, and chickens — work born out of his Pennsylvania Dutch heritage.

Cathy Reeve of Greystone Bookworks, who will show her handmade books and boxes, is a first-timer at the artisan show, as is Philip Marc Sons of Liberty, who specializes in hand-painted signs with historic designs, such as the “Don’t Tread on Me” segmented snake.

In addition to artisans new to the show are some returning from last year and others who have taken a hiatus. William Morrison is not only returning to the show, he is returning to the town where he grew up. A 1971 graduate of Wilton High School, Morrison has a special connection to the historical society. A pair of the Windsor chairs he handcrafted is now part of the society’s collection, thanks to a gift made by the late Tom Adams, who had commissioned them. Morrison knew Adams while he lived in Wilton and the two stayed in touch after Morrison moved away.

Morrison, who lives in Vermont, returned to Wilton last year for a high school reunion and visited the chairs at the society. He introduced himself as their maker and learned about last year’s artisan show and signed on to participate with his wife, Jayne Marie Ollin, who paints shells, birds and landscapes and also paints on wooden bowls. She will return this year as well.

During the show, Morrison will demonstrate the handwork that goes into making the chairs that have found homes across the country. The wood, he said, “is split and quartered and drawn and carved away.” When the wood is split, he said, “it’s very strong because the grain runs from top to bottom.”

Morrison uses pine for the seats “because there really is a difference sitting in a pine seat and an oak seat,” and other woods such as ash or oak for other parts of the chair that either need to bend or be strong and straight.

Of the selection of wares being offered in the show, Mellin said, “You can find small gifts to large pieces for your home and anywhere in between.”

Artisans will be set up throughout the museum complex, with many in the period rooms, lending an extra layer of authenticity to their work. Morrison and Ollin will be on the Fitch porch.

The artisan show is co-chaired by Moira Craw and trustees Meaghan Donovan and Nancy Perez. Sponsors include Fairfield County Bank, Granite Group Advisors, Gregory and Adams, Historical Christmas Barn, Orem’s Diner, Stamford Tent and Event Services, TD Bank, and Wilson Properties.

A full list of artisans and complete show information may be found at