Festival Craftsmen Are The Best In America!
Reputation means a lot and it has to be earned. It happens over a period of years when a high standard of quality has been maintained, and respect and admiration have followed. This is certainly true for the Kutztown Folk Festival and for the 200 craftsmen who contribute so much to the success of the Festival.
The list of Pennsylvania German and other American traditional crafts at the Festival includes a wide variety of specialties: clothing, furniture, wood carving, pottery, art, sculpture, baskets, black smithing, metal work, florals, fiber, food, hex painting, glass blowing, jewelry, leather, and many, many more.
As you walk around the fairgrounds you will notice several things about our craftsmen. They are busy - that is, they are actually making the products that are displayed at their booths. They are proud, which means that they take a great deal of professional satisfaction in the quality of their crafts and they are eager to talk about their products. That is to explain the process involved in developing their hand-made wares. Finally, after observing and talking to these artisans, you will understand that they are truly experts in their particular crafts.
The history of our crafts and folk art is fascinating. Wood carving, as an example, is a folk art that is almost as old as civilization itself. Like so many crafts at the Kutztown Folk Festival, it dates from early colonial times where it reflected both the practical and beautiful aspects of daily living.
Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign painting represents a traditional craft that has become very popular with our visitors. Hex sign painters at the Festival represent the very best in America - in fact they are among a handful of artisans who still produce this colorful art.
Follow folk art back far enough and often you will find their origins in those parts of Germany and Switzerland from which the immigrants came in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Although crafts almost always had practical applications, the craftsmen were skilled designers and their creations were truly exquisite. All folk art and crafts have their own distinctive qualities, with subjects as diverse as family life, religion, popular myths, and the rural landscape.
These unique skills were passed on through generations of families. Very often artisans at the Festival are using techniques that they learned from their parents and grandparents. Some techniques are over 200 years old. Thus, our Festival craftsmen are keepers of revered traditions in Pennsylvania Dutch and early American culture. They represent a large part of the living history that can be found at the Festival.
Craftsmen in the festival faithfully recreate the essence of this art. As a result, their works have become collector’s items.
For decades visitors have returned to the Festival each year to seek out craftsmen who work in various specialties. Since all of our craftsmen demonstrate their work, visitors can view the entire process of creating a product. Artisans explain what they are doing and gladly answer all questions. Many of these artisans are acknowledged as the most accomplished in their particular areas, and they have been demonstrating and selling their wares at the Folk Festival for many years.
But it is not by chance that they are here. They have been chosen through a juried process from hundreds of craftsmen who applied to participate in this year’s Festival. And the excellence of their work has been recognized nationally. For example, Sourcebook, a widely respected publication that annually evaluates hundreds of craft shows nationally, ranks the Kutztown Folk Festival as 9th in the entire country!
We’re proud of all of the Festival’s artisans - they are the best!