When we first considered the idea of running the gift shop at the Museum of the Albemarle, we already knew that there was a niche that needed to be filled in Elizabeth City – that of souvenirs and post cards as well as items that “said” Elizabeth City and the Albemarle region. And so began the journey to customize our gift shop with what we thought shoppers would enjoy.
As long time members of the Albemarle Craftsman’s Guild, our first love is handcrafts. Visitors to the area are very interested in the beautiful handcrafts made by local artisans and are excited to take home a unique handmade gift. Although many wonderful pieces go home to other states/countries, many local shoppers have found the museum shop to be a fun and satisfying shopping experience as well.
It’s pleasing to hear the excitement of men, women and children as they find interesting and unique items. You have to smile when something (especially toys) will spark a memory of earlier times in their lives such as a sock monkey, a wooden truck or a Jacob’s ladder.
I would say that 90 percent of the artisans represented in our shop are Albemarle Craftsman’s Guild members.
The Albemarle Craftsman’s Guild/Fair originated in the 1950s as a way for crafters and especially homemakers to provide additional income to the household. The early crafts were beautiful but functional items such as brooms, decoys, woodwork, pottery, quilts and linens, cloth dolls and doll house furniture plus many others.
As it helped families with extra income, it would also be the beginning of high expectations for a quality craft that would endure time and be handed down to generations to come so that the craft itself would not become extinct. The Albemarle Craftsman’s Fair continues to be a “demonstrating” show, where craftsmen share their knowledge with fair goers, always encouraging people to try a craft, just as they were encouraged in the beginning.
As you attend this year, you will see many new faces, as well as those whose parent or grandparent taught them the craft or the great-grandmother/daughter/granddaughter quilters who share a booth. From jewelry, pottery, fiber art to soap, candles, woodwork, decoys, glass work to so much more, all is original, unique and interesting just as their makers are.
The 54th Albemarle Craftsman’s Fair will be held October 26 and 28 at Knobbs Creek Recreation Center.
The Museum of the Albemarle also keeps history alive by hosting programs for children and adults throughout the year. I’ll be teaching a workshop on Nov. 17 on felting soap and coloring silk scarves. Call the Museum to reserve your spot at 335-1453.
Visit the Museum soon to learn about this region’s history through beautiful and interesting exhibits. Make sure you visit the gift shop before you leave. You may find a unique gift that celebrates northeast North Carolina’s rich crafting history.