Anxious to ramp up sales and get their juried crafts back in the hands of customers, the Reading-Berks Guild of Craftsmen will present First Saturday's Mega Spring Juried Craft Show on May 1 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Renninger's Farmers Market, 740 Noble St., Kutztown.

Visitors can browse from 33-plus juried fine artisans set up outside, under the pavilion in 15-foot-wide booths (up from the usual 10-foot spaces). There will be social distancing, and masks are required.

A long-awaited return to normalcy, the show will include fresh flowers, antiques, food vendors and a children's event.

"It's been a job, and I appreciate the cooperation of our crafters," said Barry Bennecoff of The Country Carpenter, an accomplished builder of wooden furniture and a longtime president of the Guild.

"Even those artists who pivoted to online sales did one-eighth of a regular year's business," said Lisa Short of North Wales, Montgomery County, in a recent Zoom interview with fellow Guild members.

"Young people understand the DIY world; they want to buy crafts," said Short, whose specialty is Pennsylvania Dutch folk art and Fraktur, which are artistic manuscripts created between 1740-1850 and featuring hearts, tulips and birds.

A Guild member for 14 years, Short serves as the graphic artist for the guild, and noted how much she is looking forward to the May 1 show. 

"I work best under pressure; my production really amps up when I have a show," she said.

"I've always loved the art of the Pennsylvania Germans, and American folk art," Short said. "Fraktur has the best of both worlds. The Fraktur I like to reproduce is mostly from original references. I love the naivety and simple charm of the pieces I create."

Short is self-taught, and also paints in the decorative style of the Pennsylvania Germans, using grain painting and decorative techniques.

Steve Hunter of Hunter Stoneware has been creating stoneware pottery since 1976. His practical, kiln-fired pieces — pitchers, jugs, dishes and mugs — are meant to be used, and are dishwasher and microwave safe.

"I want people to microwave their coffee in my mugs," said Hunter, a Guild member for 12 years who is serving as chairman of the Guild shows. 

Hunter, a retired art teacher, said he used just 600 total pounds of clay this year, a fraction of what he normally goes through. While he did complete some custom work and had an open house, he has "boxes and boxes of unsold items."

Of course, the pandemic shutdown has inspired some artists to do new things, said Kay Bennecoff, secretary of the Guild, who noted the enticing variety of crafters at the Spring show. 

"Everyone's inventory should be good and fresh," Short agreed.

The juried crafts will include: pottery, stoneware, redware pottery, decorative pottery, Fraktur, wheat weaving, turnings, wooden spoons and bowls, live edge benches, hand woven clothing and fibers, calligraphy, fine jewelry, beading, polymer clay, country and primitive furniture, woodworking, baskets, photography, children's books, quilt art, folk art carvings, hooked rugs, star craft, broom making, penny rugs, handwoven rugs, soaps and lotions.

"People have all their shots and feel secure having it in Kutztown," said Kay Bennecoff.

"It fits the bill," Hunter said of Renninger's pavilion, with its socially distanced set-up, solid floor and plenty of parking.

For more information, visit rbcrafts.org.

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