Visit one of the state’s renowned craft centers.
Peters Valley Craft Center, Layton
Peters Valley is a little known jewel—a world-class craft-education center in northwestern New Jersey whose history demonstrates that out of struggle good things can come.
In the 1960s, the Army Corps of Engineers developed a grand plan to stop the flooding of the Delaware River. They’d build a dam, create an enormous man-made lake, and build a power plant. In the face of unexpectedly strong opposition, the project was halted, although not before some 15,000 people had already been forced to evacuate.
Eventually the acreage was turned over to the National Park Service, but the question remained—what to do with it. The answer was an exciting plan of cooperation between the Service and craftsmen, spearheaded by the superintendent of the Delaware Valley National Recreation Area, Peter DeGelleke, who with his wife shared a passionate interest in history and traditional crafts. In 1970, in a small valley that was to be part of the buffer zone around the lake, miles north of the proposed Tock’s Island Dam, Peters Valley rose out of the ashes of the town that had been Bevans, whose population is now less than 100.
Today, from spring to fall, some 700 to 800 students between the ages of 18 and 80 journey to Peters Valley each year. Some study a craft for the first time, others perfect one, and all learn from master craftsmen renowned in their field. More than 140 two- to ten-day courses are offered, from woodworking to ceramics, fine metals, fiber arts, photography, and blacksmithing. Many students choose to stay in onsite accommodations, many of which are in Historic Register buildings.
Don’t miss the Peters Valley Crafts Fair from September 29 to October 1, held each year at the Sussex County Fair Grounds.
Peters Valley Craft Center, 19 Kuhn Road, Layton, NJ 07851, 973-948-5200; petersvalley.org
Wheaton Village, Millville
Situated halfway between Atlantic City and Philadelphia, Wheaton Village, with its emphasis on fine art glass, is another New Jersey gem with a unique history.
In 1888, a pharmacist named Theodore Corson Wheaton began making his own prescription bottles in a glass factory in Millville. Eighty years later, his grandson discovered glassmaking and dedicated himself to creating Wheaton Village. Today, more than 70 glass artists from around the world compete each year for the village’s dozen fellowships. The winners spend from six weeks to three months working, without distraction, on projects of their choice.
In addition to offering fellowships, the village allows artists in glass, ceramics, and woodcarving to rent studio space. The general public can watch artists blowing glass and participate in a “Make Your Own” program.
Today, its 60-acre campus is home to one of America’s largest glass collections, with some 6,500 pieces, including more than 300 paperweights. It also features a general store and a gallery and shop which display and sell work done both inside and outside the village. Call or visit the Web site for more information on hours and such special events as its Quilt Show, Paperweight Fest, and Marble Weekend.
Wheaton Village, 1501 Glasstown Road, Millville, NJ 08332, 800-998-4552; wheatonvillage.org.Click here to leave a comment