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Arts & Crafts Festival spreads paint, good cheer

PORT GAMBLE — It’s the ambiance that seems to bring people back every year to support the arts and have a good time at the annual North Kitsap Arts & Crafts Festival.

The word about the festival spread, as 40,000 people showed up for the three-day event last weekend, said festival committee member Alex Welsh. Last year’s attendance was around 30,000.

The event on the hills of Port Gamble this year featured artists from Peru and Iraq, as well as attracting festival-goers from as far as Connecticut and Ireland.

Katie Larrson, an artist from Gig Harbor, who had a booth set up with her bold and bright watercolors, didn’t let the festival stop her from painting in the relaxed atmosphere.

“I don’t like to go a day without painting,” she said as she carefully applied multiple layers of green watercolors to her canvas.

While she participates in other festivals around the area, Larrson said she enjoys the NKA&CF because of the easy environment.

“People are just having a good time, looking around,” she explained. “I love it when you can just come down and chat with people.”

Linda Helmer of Port Orchard and Jo Hilmo of California were carefully watching jeweler Lori Coulter wrap a piece of dichroic glass with wire for a necklace.

“They have lovely crafts and a variety of things,” Helmer said about the crafters. “It’s been real pleasant. It’s even cool by the water.”

Coulter, who has been participating in the festival for 15 years said she comes back for the same reasons every year.

“I like the location and the ambiance,” she said.

The Edmonson sisters, Amanda, 9 and Brittany, 11, of California, were hitting the festival for the second year in a row with their Poulsbo and Port Gamble relatives.

Brittany paid to have her younger sister’s face painted, “because I was broke,” Amanda said.

“This is like, the best time,” Brittany said, noting she and her sister were

looking forward to the Marionette puppet show down the street. “We didn’t get to see it last time.”

Artist Aliza Albornoz, who created the colorful stripes on Amanda’s face, has been painting faces for 10 years in Seattle.

“I just work with every face,” Albornoz said in her thick Peruvian accent. This was her first time to Port Gamble and she was quite impressed by it.

“I think it’s wonderful, it’s just so beautiful, so beautiful,” she said. “I just love festivals. It’s just so fun. It’s not so commercial. There are goods to buy but (customers are) not so overwhelmed by vendors.”

The Edmonson girls joined a large crowd of other young festival-goers for the 1:30 p.m. showing of the Puppets Please Marionettes, next to the Port Gamble General Store on Saturday.

Brian O’Kennedy and his family, who just recently moved to Bellevue from Ireland, was just as entertained as his boys, Rory and Micheal, by the marionette show.

“This is fantastic,” he said about the show. “This is fabulous, they are absolutely thrilled with it.”

At the Walker-Ames House, where the juried and open art shows were displayed, one particular piece had visitors staring, pointing, and scratching their heads. Poulsbo artist and festival co-chair Phyllis Evans entered a piece called “Passeggiata Mattina (Morning Walk).”

At first glance, the piece looks like a painting of an Italian waterfront, with row boats, pedestrians and colorful multi-story buildings.

But a closer look reveals that each color is made from a different piece of fabric — aged Japanese silk kimonos, to be exact.

Using various sizes, from slivers to large square pieces, Evans has been creating such works for 15 years. One piece will involve about 200-300 colors and take about one to two months to complete, she said.

“It worked well because old buildings needed old fabric,” she said about using the kimonos.

She recreates scenes from pictures she takes or other photographs, mainly of Italy. “Passeggiata Mattina (Morning Walk)” was of PortoFino, located along the southern coast of Italy.

“I couldn’t believe anyone would do that intricate work,” said Lora Clemenson of Portland, Ore., after observing it closely.

Sabah Al-Dhaher, one of the guests artists for the juried show at the Walker-Ames House, said he was impressed by the town and the quality of art displayed.

A painter and sculptor who came to Seattle as a political refugee in 1993, Al-Dhaher was invited by Evans to display his work and be a judge for the juried show. While he has lived in Seattle for about eight years, Al-Dhaher had never been to the Kitsap Peninsula.

“I love it, the town is just incredible,” he said. “I’ve never been here before. I live in downtown Seattle, you know how noisy and crowded it is.”

He admits he was kind of nervous about coming to Port Gamble, thinking it was just another city.

“I thought, ‘It can’t be this.’” he said about when he first arrived in town. “I’m really honored to be a part of it and take a break from the crowded city.”

Al-Dhaher said he was impressed by the work of the artists, especially by the student art.

But Al-Dhaher said he was pleased to see that he and the other guest artists, photographer Michael Gessinger and painter Joseph Lesser, had a chance to display their own work. The guest artists corner gave visitors a chance to see who exactly chose the winners of the juried and open art shows and also for both the artists and visitors to talk.

“That’s a good thing (the festival organizers) did that,” Al-Dhaher said. “That usually doesn’t happen.”

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