by Leslie Linsley
“Crafts Are Hot!” is the headline in my current trade decorating magazine. The forecast for trends in interior design promote the idea of handmade accessories in well designed residential as well as commercial spaces. While we have always appreciated handmade things, right now craft items are more coveted than ever. When women made quilts and hooked rugs a hundred years ago it was for practical purposes. Today we can simply buy what we need and it is often more practical and inexpensive to buy something that is manufactured. However, as we become more enlightened, and perhaps a bit more discerning, we have come to appreciate that which is made by hand. We recognize its uniqueness and the care with which a handcrafted item is designed and created. And buying something that is handmade from the place you are visiting makes the purchase more meaningful when you return home.
Nantucket has a long tradition of handcrafters. We foster creativity and the natural beauty of the island inspires the local artists and artisans to create and sell their wares. Making a living from crafting has never been easy, but it offers a lifestyle that is quite compelling and satisfying. Those who have succeeded, and on Nantucket there are many, are the very best in their fields. Their work has proven to be commercially viable because it is well designed, well crafted and priced right. It is also unique in a world that has become increasingly cookie-cutter.
I have made my living in the creative arts for more than thirty-five years. My mother taught me the art of decoupage when I was in college and I have been selling my handmade plates and boxes ever since. I have written many books on American crafts as well as architecture and interior design and am most proud of “Nantucket Island Living” with photographs by another islander, Terry Pommett. I write a weekly newspaper column called Home Style about making things that are easy, creative and not too expensive. I have found that not only do people appreciate that which is handmade, but they often have a desire to make something themselves.
Several years ago The Farmers and Artisans Market was born and from June until October visitors and islanders can come into town to buy directly from local vendors at Cambridge and Union Streets. From card tables and more elaborate set-ups we all can sample a variety of Nantucket made wares. You’ll find a wide variety of jewelry makers, knitters and weavers, sitting alongside of gardeners with potted plants and farmers with their fresh produce.
Many of the local artists display small works for easy packing if you are traveling beyond the island. Every week brings a new group of participants. A sampling of what you might find are Nantucket made baskets, marine artifacts, floorcloths, silk-screened scarves, journals, handpainted t-shirts, knit baby caps and sweaters, pottery, woven cotton rugs and much more with island-inspired motifs.
Many of the craftspeople own shops on the island or sell through other shops like Nantucket Looms on Main St. and my shop, Leslie Linsley Nantucket at Zero India Street, where everything is made on the island. Most of the items my husband, Jon Aron, and I design have a Nantucket theme and are reasonably priced. This year we have partnered with Marine Home Center and we are designing several lines of home furnishings products exclusively for them. Hand-screened fabrics for draperies, upholstery and outdoor cushions and an exclusive limited edition market umbrella, all with our signature Nantucket names and Compass Rose patterns will be offered only through their interior design showroom.
Whether your home is decorated in a traditional Nantucket style, filled with antiques or country collectibles, or it’s contemporary and leaning toward minimalism, there is nothing like a handmade object to give the room character. So plan to visit the shops, galleries, wharf shanties and our very unique home center during your Nantucket visit and pick up something handmade. Remember that anything that is beautifully made today will surely become tomorrow’s treasure. Handmade objects are timeless, they never go out of style and they are usually unique. Best of all you can create a Nantucket room in your off-island home.