LOCKPORT – The Kenan Center’s 100 American Craftsmen show, whose 44th annual edition opens May 30, tries to define itself not only by what it is, but by what it isn’t.
“If you want to party, you go to Allentown. We don’t have the dogs, we don’t have the crowds, we don’t have the fair food,” marketing director Elaine Harrigan said.
And Elvis on velvet has left the building. In fact, he probably couldn’t get in to begin with.
“No junk, no hobby stuff, no what we call ‘craft-on-a-stick,’ no grandma’s doilies,” Harrigan promised.
Instead, the show offers what the management calls “craft art,” such as the guy who sells handmade acoustic jazz guitars for $2,000 and up.
That would be Charles Paddock of Lancaster, who said it takes him 160 hours to make a guitar. Annual sales are in the single digits.
“My customers are professional musicians. This is not something you buy for your junior high kid who wants to take up guitar,” Paddock said. “I use violin-grade maple for the body of the guitar, violin-grade spruce for the top of the guitar, ebony for the fingerboard.”
Paddock, who will be among the jury-selected 100 craftsmen for the first time, also makes banjos by hand, attempting to deviate from the norm by using “materials that I don’t think anybody else in the world uses.”
“This is a show of extremely competent artisans,” Harrigan said. The “100” in the title is always approximate; this year’s lineup totals 103 exhibitors.
Yvonne Stoklosa of East Aurora is one of about 15 members of the Roycrofters at Large Association who will exhibit in Lockport. “It’s mainly artisans. It’s similar to a guild,” Stoklosa said. She said the association aims at the “rebirth” of Roycraft founder Elbert Hubbard’s notion of low-volume, high-quality work.
Stoklosa does stained glass, but not in a typical way.
“I paint glass and put it in a kiln at about 1,500 degrees to fuse the image onto the glass,” she said. “They’re all nature scenes mounted in a piece of multicolored stained glass.”
Harrigan said there are some different offerings this year. There’s always a free art exhibit going on at the Kenan House during the craftsmen show, but this year it features one of the region’s top artists, watercolorist Rita Argen Auerbach.
“For people who are spending over $100 at the show, we’re giving them a little bonus,” Harrigan said. That would be $10 off a pair of tickets to next January’s Niagara Wine and Beer Festival. It’s an effort to draw people from outside Lockport to the wine and beer tasting event, whose crowd is mostly locals.
By contrast, most of the 100 American Craftsmen audience comes from outside Lockport, Harrigan said. Last year’s three-day total was about 4,500, which Harrigan said is typical since the Kenan Center put on a $6 admission charge for the event. Kids 12 and under get in free.
Live, but soft, music will be offered by an all-new lineup of groups, and gourmet food vendors and local wineries will supplement the traditional brownie and lemonade cart.
Hours are 6 to 9 p.m. May 30, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 31 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 1 in the Kenan Arena, 195 Beattie Ave. The Buffalo News is a major sponsor of the event, along with First Niagara Bank Foundation and EnergyMark LLC.