Philadel­phia Folk Fes­ti­val crafters en­joy busy week­end

Souderton Independent - - FRONT PAGE - By Dan Sokil

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.

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