Padanaram Fest brings artisans and crafty kids to Dartmouth

Jul 31, 2022

Purses made from traditional Vietnamese fabrics. Nicknacks and vases made from smooth cement. Lemonade for the children’s hospital.

Padanaram Fest returned to Elm Street on Saturday, July 30 featuring dozens of artisan booths lining the street and a dedicated kids’ section where young entrepreneurs and philanthropists raised money for their chosen causes.

One of the artists was Sally Strasser, the owner of Taleo Handmade.

Strasser sold fabric purses, pillows, and other fabric items made from hand-stitched and woven textiles that she sources directly from rural Laos and Vietnam.

She said she discovered the fabric while visiting her daughter in Laos where she was doing public health work.

Strasser, who said she has a background in historic textiles, was amazed by the intricate stitching that the women of those rural communities used to decorate their clothing.

She began buying textiles from them, she said, to support their way of life, which has been threatened by the lure of higher-paying jobs in the city.

“We do this for fun and to support the women that I work with,” she said, adding that she wants to support “the people who want to stay and keep up that rural life.”

Strasser said she started by buying fabric from them for herself, and then to sell to her friends and family. Finally, she said, she realized that to truly support them, she would need to sell her products commercially.

Keeping in line with that spirit of support, Strasser said she prices her items more affordably than she could “so I have a steadier stream of revenue to get back to them.”

At another booth, David Gregory and his wife Maria displayed flower arrangements from their business David Gregory Flowers, which has its studio in Padanaram.

As part of the display, David showed off his “floral boxes” which featured flower buds arranged in small gift boxes at identical heights so that they created a flat surface at the top of the boxes.

He said he decided to experiment with the technique after seeing it done by another florist.

“It’s fun to work two-dimensionally with flowers,” he said, explaining that he likes to try new things in his work. “I like everything, I want to try everything.”

David said his business caters mostly to events, but added that he also offers delivered arrangements.

Farther down the road, another artist, Nikki Kovalsky, sold her hand-poured cement creations.

The items, which were much smoother than typical concrete and featured marbled pastel coloring, included vases and other small homegoods as well as nicknacks like owl and cactus figurines.

Kovalsky said she discovered the medium while traveling in London and decided to give it a try at home in her New York City apartment.

After some experimenting, she said, she realized she enjoyed the craft and had a talent for it.

“I’m also into the desert for some reason so I’m super into the cactuses,” she said.

She said that eventually she’d like to make it her full-time job, though at the moment she is keeping her day job as a design director for an accessories company in New York.

In the kids section, young vendors sold a variety of wares, from friendship bracelets to old Pokemon cards.

One group of charitable children, Dainty Painty’s, sold lemonade, hand-decorated mugs, flowers, and rocks painted in the colors of the Ukrainian flag to raise money for Shriners and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The two brother-sister pairs had raised about $80 for the hospitals after only a couple hours thanks to their insightful understanding of local market dynamics.

“We figured a lot of people would be selling bracelets, so we wanted to do a lot of
different stuff,” said Olivia Rosas.

“We’re also selling lemonade because it’s hot,” added Juliet Tavares.

And the kids’ contributions would go even farther thanks to their generous mothers, who promised to match the money they raised dollar-for-dollar.

At another kids booth, siblings Wyatt and Georgia Underwood shared a booth where they sold linocut prints and dog biscuits, respectively.

The two Woodstock, Vermont natives were in town visiting their grandparents when they decided to hang a shingle at the festival.

Wyatt said he had learned to make the prints — which are made by carving negative space out of a sheet of linoleum before applying ink to it and pressing it against a sheet of paper — while at camp last fall.

His sister, meanwhile, decided to make dog biscuits after her mom, who works for King Arthur Flour, brought home samples of the company’s new dog biscuit mix.

After selling them at her local farmers’ market (and conducting some market research with the family’s Australian shepard) she decided to make some to sell in Padanaram.