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Art and craft festival marks 30th year

A couple from Greensboro, N.C., have made an art of a three-decade-long family tradition in Myrtle Beach.

Clyde and Tami Gilmore, who have a second home in North Myrtle Beach, talked about the milestone of this 30th anniversary of their Craftsmen’s Summer Classic Art & Craft Festival. It opens Friday for three days at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

The Gilmores said they each grew up with family Grand Strand vacations.

Clyde Gilmore remembered that when the show first started, “We had no idea of the masses ... who would plan trips to Myrtle Beach for our event.”

With three other annual shows across the Southeast, including Columbia, he said those fetch more of “a regional audience,” whereas Myrtle Beach has “blossomed into a yearly trek for a lot of families.”

“This is more of a national show,” Gilmore said, counting 25 to 30 states represented among its vendors and patrons.

He even with many returning artists each year, one rule never gets old at the Summer Classic: “There’s always something new.”

“One of our key phrases,” he said, “is something for every style, taste and budget.”

The Gilmores’ publicist, Anita Meyer, said admission to the show – $8 ages 13 and older, $1 ages 6-12 – lasts three days, with a return pass, making it affordable “to people who don’t have as much money as they used to.”

At customers’ requests

Clyde Gilmore said officials might know each participating artist’s specialty, “but we’re surprised at every show” at new themes and works that emerge.

“A lot of the artists get their ideas from the patrons,” Gilmore said.

His wife has observed how what’s hot has changed through the years, such as 25 years ago, when teddy bears and pineapples “were the style,” then a “kind of duck phase” ensued.

“As time goes on,” Tami Gilmore said, “there are always trends, whether in events like ours or in mass markets.”

She said attendees not only shop for gift giving, but for adding new bright sights for their own homes, especially for a “relaxed feeling or trend,” as seen in “a lot of things that relate to the beach or summertime. Things with umbrellas on them ... or signs that say ‘Sit down and chill’ or ‘Leave your flip-flops at the door.’ ”

So many people bear busy lifestyles, so “you want the vacation mindset even when you are home,” Tami Gilmore said.

Clyde Gilmore said the Craftsmen’s show presents artists selling their own wares, customers might “come in Friday and have something custom made,” such as a specific artwork, piece of furniture or kitchen island “to fit the environment of your house.”

So, that’s where such as show differs from a gift shop or a catalog, with “that personalization” from the artists, including folks who turned their hobby of woodworking into a second career.

“Plus just knowing who made it,” Tami Gilmore said. “Everything ... you talked with that person and know how it was created.”

“It’s the story,” her husband said. “These artisans are here selling their work and also telling their story.”

Herons and egrets

Teri Whitner of Wadmalaw Island, between Charleston and Edisto Island, took part in the Gilmores’ Columbia Spring Classic, and will make her debut at the Summer Classic in Myrtle Beach.

The maker of platters and sculpture by hand, who also leads nature tours in her hometown basin of rivers, said she first immersed herself in art by “weaving baskets out of all different strange things and real sculpture-looking baskets.”

Then having attended some shows and galleries with her young children, Whitner said she encountered a guy with a wheel, “playing with mud,” so after the youngsters began classes with him, “I started playing with clay.”

That led to going “all clay,” she said, and making platters and glazing them. Meeting a customer who asked for a piece with three horses running, inspired her to try new motifs.

Great blue herons remain the most popular subjects on her works, with “open-wing egrets” as runners-up, Whitner said.

“I’ve done a bunch of those,” she said, declaring she does not use a pattern.

“I purposely don’t look at one I’ve done before,” she said, “so no artwork is exactly the same.”

With pieces sharing a “real coastal” look in the fowl, fish and other Lowcountry fauna, Whitner said she’s pleased with everywhere she exhibits on the coast.

She said she had shown in some galleries and museums before joining the Columbia event.

“It’s nice to get out and be able to talk with people,” Whitner said, “instead of just being located in my studio.”