Philadelphia Folk Festival crafters enjoy busy weekend
Thousands of campers, musicians and fans of having fun descended on Old Pool Farm last weekend for the 51st annual Philadelphia Folk Festival.
And in addition to good music, good food and plenty of good weather, dozens of local crafters set up shop at the Folk Fest, each with something unique to sell and a story to tell.
“I started doing this back in 1969, so quite a few years ago. I drive a tractor-trailer professionally full time, and I’m just starting to do festivals again, and waiting to retire from the full-time job to enjoy myself doing this,” said crafter John Seller of Jarrettown Leatherworks.
Last Friday afternoon, Seller demonstrated how to hand-braid a leather belt in just a few minutes, as he spoke about the different products he crafts out of allAmerican leather, including lamp shades and seats shaped like saddles — and showed off his metal stamps ZLWK VKDSHV RI D flRZHR DNG of insects that he uses to imprint those shapes in the leather.
Seller’s company is based in Jarrettown and uses leather from Pennsylvania combined with belt buckles, studs and other components, such as stained glass, for the lamp shades from all across the country.
“I can cut [belts] down to size, if someone needs a FuVWRP fiW RR LI WKHy’RH IRR another person. I do plain leather and hand-tooled leather. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also relaxing,” he said.
Just a few stalls away in the Folk Fest’s vendor area, Katie Pietrak showed off her Vintage Vinyl Journals, which are paper notebooks of more than 200 pages sewn between 8-by-8-inch square pieces of authentic vinyl records — journals encased in albums by artists from Dylan to Zeppelin were on sale at the Folk Fest, and she has plenty more in her Telford headquarters.
“We do a lot of special orders, I just sold someone a New Kids on the Block journal, and we get a lot of international orders. We’re actually really big in Australia, I’m kind of debating moving there because we sell so many,” she said.
Each journal can take between 40 to 60 hours to shape and sew, and more than 30 stores across the country — plus one new one in Canada — carry her journals. Major record labels have taken note: Sony Music just commissioned Pietrak to create special vinyl journals of a re-released greatest hits album by rock band Journey, which released most of its albums on compact disc rather than on records.
“I can also do CDs and kind of spread them out on the cover, and then usually take some of the album art and put that on the back cover. I’ve only been doing this for about a year since I quit my corporate job, and everybody said ‘You have to do the Folk Festival,’ so here I am,” she said.
For those more interested in making music that can go on those vinyl records, just across the way crafters Wade Costenbader and Brian Tallerico were showing off instruments with an old school blues sound — Victory Cigar Box instruments, to be precise.
“They just have an amazing, primitive sound that you can’t get from a store-bought guitar, and it goes all the way back to the Mississippi Delta where black musicians couldn’t afford a Gibson guitar, so they learned to make do with what they had,” said Costenbader.
In addition to cigar boxes as the body of the guitar, each one has a unique look, feel, and sound — the guitar Costenbader played last FRLGDy uVHG D flRRRERDRG DV its neck and weedwhacker strings as guitar strings — and others have used hinges, keys and various other parts WKHy fiNG KHRH DNG WKHRH.
“:H’RH MuNNHRV, ZH fiNG DOO VRRWV RI VWuII DNG WKHN fiJuRH out ways to use it,” Tallerico said.
As he spoke, guitarist Buck Reed tested out a three-string slide guitar, with a slide made from the top of an old glass bottle, and said he was inspired by Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, whom he had seen perform at the Folk Fest.
“This is my 25th year coming, but I didn’t see these guys here last year because it was rainy. This is awesome, I just need to learn how to play it,” Reed said.
And just one tent away, Richard Birkett wound, placed and showed off his fantasy clocks — each consists of a conventional clock face, but is surrounded with springs, gears, dials and the occasional toy or slide showLNJ D SLFWuRH RR fiOP LPDJH.
“This one is of Godzilla playing bass for his girlfriend. Did you even know he could play bass, or had a girlfriend? It must be real, because this is the proof,” Birkett said kiddingly, as Hunter and Heather Harris checked out his clocks.
Each is powered by standard batteries and most of the slides are photos that Birkett took himself. He’s built a big audience in near- ly three decades of selling clocks from his headquarters in Otego, N.Y.
“I’ve put two boys through college doing this, but I don’t do alarms anymore. I did those about 25 years ago, but people kept hurting WKHPVHOYHV WRyLNJ WR fiNG WKH alarm,” he said.
Owner of Vintage Vinyl Journals Katie Pietrak talks to a customer during the 2012 Philadelphia Folk Festival.
John Seller of Jarrettown Leatherworks braids a leather belt at his store’s tent during the Philadelphia Folk Festival.