Made in America: Artists and Craftsmen Show Off Their Handiwork

first_imgCustomers browse through the array of hand-made items at the Spring Festival of Fine Arts and Crafts. By Donald WittkowskiAs little girls growing up in Delaware, sisters Cheryl Eashum and Sue Lemmons would scour the beaches for shells, sea glass and old wood washed up by the surf.Their shell-hunting days along the Delaware Bay continued into their adulthood, a habit that eventually led to Lemmons’ garage filling up with all of their beachcombing keepsakes.Tired of the clutter gathering in the garage, Lemmons’ husband gave them an ultimatum: “Do something with it or get rid of it,” Eashum recalled, laughing.Those words were the inspiration for SeaGals Gallery of Delaware, a business owned by Eashum and Lemmons that transforms shells and sea glass collected on the beaches into jewelry, art and trinkets.Eashum and Lemmons were among 62 vendors who sold an array of handcrafted items Saturday and Sunday at the 15th annual Spring Festival of Fine Arts and Crafts at the Music Pier in Ocean City. Everything was American-made.“There are no items from China,” said JoAnne Schaut, the show producer. “All of these people put their heart and soul into making their own crafts.”Among other items, Cheryl Eashum and her sister, Sue Lemmons, sold colorfully decorated seashell ornaments and jewelry.The estimated 1,500 show attendees who strolled through the Music Pier over the weekend were treated to rows of handcrafted jewelry, glassware, cups, plates, toys, artwork, household items and much, much more.Eashum, of Wyoming, Del., and Lemmons, of Magnolia, Del., showed off their colorfully designed jewelry made from old oyster, clam, scallop and conch shells found along the Delaware Bay, the Jersey Shore and Sanibel Island in Florida.“It’s whatever we find at low tide,” Eashum explained. “Sometimes, we find a lot. Other times, we don’t find anything. We go as often as we can.”While Eashum and Lemmons comb the beaches for the raw materials needed for their business, sisters Vicki Craw and Susan Marshall hit the garage sales, estate sales and thrift stores in search of the odds and ends that they turn into handcrafted bird feeders and bird houses.“We use things that were old, unused and unwanted,” said Marshall, of Langhorne, Pa. “Our biggest thing is giving life to something old.”Craw and Marshall call their business Chirpin’ China. Their multilevel and colorful bird feeders are made from such things as tea cups, coffee mugs, glass dinner plates, saucers and China bowls. The plates and saucers serve as a landing spot for birds, while the tea cups, mugs and bowls hold the food.Vicki Craw, left, and her sister, Susan Marshall, specialize in handcrafted bird feeders and bird houses.“People will usually say to us, ‘What a creative idea. How do you make this?’” said Craw, of Mount Laurel, N.J.Flying J Metal Art & Fabrication is another example of how a creative mind can turn unwanted items into artwork. It was started three years ago by John Eckbold, a 28-year-old Egg Harbor Township man who was born with spina bifida, a spine disorder.Eckbold has endured numerous surgeries and hospitalizations over the years. His mother, Connie Eckbold, explained that her son’s creative side surfaced unexpectedly after he lost his job three years ago.“One day, we ran into John’s art teacher from high school. The teacher said, ‘I always knew he had something in him. He just needed the right medium,’” Connie Eckbold said.A welder, John Eckbold taught himself to make whimsically designed metal artwork using, among other things, old horseshoes that come from the farms and blacksmiths near the Eckbolds’ home in Egg Harbor Township.His creations include garden art, flags, peace signs, welcome signs, surf boards and a series of comical, wide-eyed animals made out of horseshoes.“People will ask him, ‘Can you make it?’ He’ll tell them, ‘I’ll try.’ From there, it has really multiplied,” Connie Eckbold said of the public’s interest in her son’s creations.Connie Eckbold waits on customers buying one of the whimsical art pieces created by her son, John Eckbold.last_img

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