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December 21, 2013

Artisans' network puts art to work

The Daily Star

---- — The Artisans’ Guild, at 148 Main St. in Oneonta, is a successful meeting of artists and discerning consumers who want to purchase locally handcrafted items.

“I am real excited about this baggie drier,” said Lisa Miller of Oneonta, who was shopping Thursday at the Artisans’ Guild for Christmas gifts. “My sister is into environmentally conscious things, and she always washing out baggies and they are drying all over the place. This will be perfect for her.”

The Artisans’ Guild has several sections of items that cover many handcrafted categories. Some of the artists create fine art framed for sale; while others create useful and ornamental pottery. There are handmade stained glass items as well as many different types of wooden toys, decorations, platters, bowls and cutting boards. Several artisans sell handmade soaps, lotions and candles. In addition, there are several collections of artisan jewelry and clothing for sale at the Artisans’ Guild.

“We are juried,” said stained glass artist Katherine Somelofski of Margaretville. “We have a panel and every artist is judged before being accepted into the guild. We try to make sure we have a good representation of many different types of art. We have about every kind of art you can think of here.”

Somelofski said that artists who are members of the guild are expected to work about four hours a month. In the summer months and in December, when the shop is also open Sundays to accommodate tourists and holiday shoppers, members are expected to contribute additional time to the shop.

“Each month we sign up for times,” Somelofski said. “We sign up for what we can do. Some artists are full-time artists, but others are part-time artists with another job.”

In addition to working the floor, each artist pays $52 a month and 12 percent of their sales to maintain membership and to pay for expenses associated with the storefront. There also is a paid part-time manager that oversees operations at the guild.

“This has been a really good experience,” Debb Rendo, a woodworking artist from Morris, said of having her items for sale at the shop. “The community has been really supportive. The Main Street organization includes us in everything they do, like this shop-late-Thursday event going on tonight.”

According to Rendo, artists come and go over the years. She has been a member for the past four years and has seen her wooden pieces fly off of the shelves as demand has risen. 

Rendo has been creating wooden figures for 25 years. She makes primitive-style Santa, Uncle Sam, angles and witch figures as well as animals including roosters, hens and cats. Her newest pieces include birdhouses painted to resemble houses and churches, and a complete set of Noah’s Ark with his animals.

Thursday afternoon, a bevy of people were shopping downtown, and the Artisans’ Guild was busy.

“I come in fairly often, more so at Christmas I guess,” said Maureen Decker of Oneonta, who was purchasing pottery Thursday. “Everything in here is very unique. There are a lot of good gifts here. I like to support local artists and I like to support downtown merchants.”

The Artisans’ Guild was founded in 1999. It is a nonprofit cooperative shop that allows artists direct access to customers. It is run and staffed by the artists. According to its website, the purpose of the guild is to bring affordable, high-quality, hand-crafted items to the community while supporting the local economy.