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Under the Big Tent: Arts and crafts show features talents of local artisans

By Staff | Jun 28, 2019

Anna Sokel, of Charles Town, purchases some handmade items from Mary Dubay, center, of Shepherdstown, and Hailey Dockum, right, of Lovettsville, Virginia, at St. Agnes Catholic Church on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Artisans and community members wandered from tent-to-tent on Saturday afternoon, as they checked out the handmade items being sold at the second Big Tent Arts and Crafts Show at St. Agnes Catholic Church.

The show, which featured the work of parishioners and community members alike, was held to raise money to pay off the cost from the construction of the church’s 10-year-old building. According to one of the event’s organizers, some of the handmade items were donated to the event, while others were being sold by their artisans, who agreed to donate 15 percent of their proceeds to the church.

“The congregation has grown so much, and many of the parishioners have donated their time and talents for the cause,” said event organizer Claire Williamson. “This is the second time we’ve held a big tent event outside, with vendors, in the last five or six years. We’re pleased with the turnout.

“There’s great talent here in the Eastern Panhandle — very diverse community. We have woodworking things, we have stained glass items, we have planters,” Williamson said, before adding a number of other items to the list. “There is a lady who is selling icons, who was taught to make them by a professional icon maker.”

According to Williamson, the show also featured live music by parishioners, who performed popular songs from the radio, and raffling off of over 10 handmade quilts.

Band members, from left, are Meghan O'Neill, of Harpers Ferry, Billy Titus, of Lewis County, and Sarah Bloomquist, of Martinsburg. Not pictured performing is Alex Yates, of Shepherdstown. Tabitha Johnston

As the afternoon wore on, some of the artisans stepped away from their tables to check out the wares of their fellow sellers. For Sokel Makeup and Skincare owner Anna Sokel, the event gave her equal opportunities to shop and advertise her business, which has a permanent location in Charles Town.

“I bought a necklace, and I’m going to buy some llama poop for our garden,” Sokel said, with a laugh, before mentioning the latter purchase will help nourish her soil. “I like that some of the items here are recycled.

“It has been awesome,” Sokel said of the show. “Because I’m a parishioner, I decided to be a part of the event. St. Agnes is very community oriented, so it was the right thing to do. Plus, it’s fun to go out and see people you don’t normally see, because they attend a different mass than you do.”

For fellow parishioner and chain mail jewelry designer Michael Ambrose, of Sharpsburg, choosing to sell his Bayowulf Designs at the event had been an obvious “yes.”

“We take chain mail from more goth types of things, to make it more elegant,” Ambrose said about his 10-year-old business. “It’s not costume jewelry — the chain mail is made from German silver, gold and stainless steel. We embed gemstones, onyx, pearls and pendants into the jewelry.

Bayowulf Designs owner Michael Ambrose, of Sharpsburg, watches as Judy Kernek, of Shepherdstown, looks at his chain mail jewelry at St. Agnes Catholic Church on Saturday afternoon. Tabitha Johnston

“Everything you see here is woven together by hand. The raw materials are bought, but from there, everything is handmade,” Ambrose said, mentioning his weaving technique uses two classical designs — Persian and Byzantine.

As Shepherdstown resident Judy Kernek browsed through the artisan tables, she spotted several items she hoped to take home with her.

“I can’t buy anything, until I’ve seen everything,” Kernek said. “I like the fact that everybody is so enthused about their creations — you can tell they’re having fun.”