Saturday, November 27, 1999

Craft fair draws crowd with cash to spend

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Carol Ann Taylor bought the family's first handmade knife from James I. Cottrill years ago at the annual CraftsAffair at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center.

        Then, sisters Kathryn Forsyth, Susanne Russell and Christine Readnour began buying kitchen knives from the Columbus, Ohio, craftsman.

        The Northern Kentucky women and their sisters-in-law also buy them as gifts.

        Friday, Kathryn Forsyth brought back a paring knife for sharpening and polishing — after having left it in the sink. She was embarrassed; she knew that was no way to treat any knife.

        Mr. Cottrill assured Ms. Forsyth that it would polish up nicely.

        No charge, Mr. Cottrill added. “We sharpen them forever.”

        Meanwhile, Mrs. Taylor bought a carving set as a wedding gift and Ms. Russell bought a boning knife.

        They were part of the early crowd at the three-day CraftsAffair, jamming the lobby for tickets, and the aisles among exhibitors selected from hundreds by sponsoring Ohio Designer Craftsmen.

        Nearby, Brenda Schmiedicke was setting out a $410 sheath knife with silver inlay and working on the silver, gold and copper “pique” inlay in a $980 belt knife. “It's a good year,” she said.

        She commands those prices be cause customers “know that I'm not going to reproduce it for anyone else because it's too darn difficult.”

        Mrs. Schmiedicke, of Albuquerque, N.M., was among many exhibitors who say a rising economy is lifting their sales.

        “I'm certainly finding it easier to sell than I did five years ago,” said Carol Clay, of Greensboro, N.C., whose mohair blend throws cost $220 or $300, and scarves cost $45 or $50. “People are a lot looser with their money ... ”

        Gemologist and stone cutter T.J. Potter, of Dearborn, Mich., agreed. “People are spending. The stock market is doing well.”

        He and his jeweler wife, Penny Atkinson-Potter, sell gold and semi-precious stones, including the stunning tanzanite from East Africa, a jewel with the color of sapphire and sparkle of diamond.

        This is Keith Tovey's first Crafts- Affair, drawn south from Sarnia, Ontario, by the “increase in the willingness to spend.”

        Mr. Tovey sculpts and paints leather into lifelike leaf and plant displays. “It does catch people off guard when they realize they're not real,” he said.

        A simple pin costs $12. A huge buckeye leaf and nut, framed, is $450, and a bloodroot display is $3,700.

        Another newcomer was Kim Gaston, from Booneville, Ark., who began making $450 cedar chests and smaller boxes as therapy after she was injured running the family sawmill.

        Almost a third of the more than 300 exhibitors are new this year.

        CraftsAffair continues 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.


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