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Handy work: Artists preview 6th Annual Sullivan Street Craft Festival

Posted at 6:29 AM, Mar 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 14:00:52-05

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — For the sixth year running, the Sullivan Street Craft Festival will be taking over Punta Gorda.

On Saturday, Sullivan Street will come to life with the arts and crafts of the most talented craft artisans in Southwest Florida.

"It’s all about a feeling," says Julie Beal, an artist originally from Excelsior, Minnesota. "It’s all about having fun. It’s not like, ‘Oh I have to go to work. I have to make 18 candles today.’ It’s like, I’m going to make some candles!”

On the shores of Punta Gorda, artists from all walks of life are gathering. Artists— like Beal— who flock to the sunny city for its various charms.

"The more we engage in this, the more people we meet, the more places we go just in this little community- you just feel like you’re drawn into this family," she says. "Like, ‘Hey come hang out.’ We’re drawn here.”

Beal is the owner of ‘Earth, Wick and Fire.’ Crafting candles made from slabs of slate. But for Beal, it’s not so much crafting her pieces as it is the people who are drawn by it.

“We have a connection with almost every single person that we meet and, whether they buy a candle or not is not the important thing," said Beal. "The important thing is the connection. We’ve got people who will come back and say, ‘Oh I bought three candles for my kids last Christmas and I want to do two more.’ We’ve made that connection so that’s a friend approaching our table. Selling a candle is really awesome but the friend connection is more important.”

And Beal isn’t the only one making connections…

"With this I love because I get out every weekend," said Jennifer Danitz, an artist from North Port. "I get to do things, meet people. When I was in sales I was in inside sales so I sat on the phone. It wasn’t so much cold calls but it wasn’t very much fun- I don’t like sitting behind a desk. So that’s basically what started it.”

Jennifer Danitz is an artist from North Port. Danitz’s artwork is more of the wearable variety… but for four-legged friends.

"Now that I’ve been here three years, I have regular customers that it’s so fun when they come by," she says. "They say, ‘I’ve been waiting to see you! I’ve been waiting to come back. My dog loved the collar’ or whatever. It’s amazing how many people bought from me, keep coming back and buying from me like I’m their go-to person which is kind of cool.”

And Ellen Robinson— from Punta Gorda. Whose work has more of an educational history.

"This is called slab work. All of my work is slab work and it’s done by rolling out a rolling pin. I taught ceramics, like I said, for 33 years in public school and then 10 years at a private school for emotionally disturbed kids. The clay helped the kids with their emotional problems. So we did a lot of clay work with them.”

But despite their creative differences, there’s something about the area that keeps all three coming back year after year.

"There’s all kinds of stuff here, you just have to look for it," says Robinson. "They have lots of arts and they have a couple of galleries in town. And it’s small- you don’t want it too big. That’s what’s nice about Punta Gorda, it’s still small.”

"You get to enjoy this area, the feeling that I talked about," said Beal. "You get to experience that feeling and that’s worth it. That’s worth a day in Punta Gorda. If you want to feel good, come to Punta Gorda.”

The Sullivan Street Craft Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free and the festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.