Designs in Wood at HarborFest Crafts Fair

A table designed by Ron Grzybowski.

A table designed by Ron Grzybowski.

By Rachel Bosworth

With the end of summer looming, there are just a few East End events left that celebrate local maritime culture. Only one, however, brings together an eclectic mix of artisans and craftsmen showcasing their various and uniquely crafted wares on the waterfront. HarborFest returns the weekend of September 10 in Sag Harbor, and will feature a number of new and returning vendors with a diverse offering of everything from jewelry to furniture to glass art, all set against the breathtaking backdrop of Marine Park.

Event organizer and Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce board member Marilyn Holstein is thrilled with the 60-plus artists being showcased this year at the Arts and Crafts Fair in particular. “Everything sold by vendors is uniquely handmade,” she says. “The quality is very high.” When asked if anyone in particular came to mind that visitors must see, she immediately thought of Water Mill resident Ron Grzybowski.

Grzybowski has been salvaging different types of wood for six years, turning washed up and abandoned logs and limbs from around the East End into pieces such as benches, tables, headboards, and even mushroom lawn art. “A lot of wood is left to rot, but some wood is so pretty,” says Grzybowski. “You never know what’s inside a log until you cut it. It’s like a Cracker Jack box – you can’t wait to see the prize.”

His venture into this craft began when Grzybowski’s brother-in-law needed a dead oak tree removed from his yard. As an experienced carpenter, he saw the opportunity to create something special. Grzybowski had the wood milled in Southampton, and then began creating furniture. Each piece of wood tells its own unique story, and many of the salvaged pieces of logs and trees had been blown down by Hurricane Sandy. “I wanted to make something good out of the bad,” he explains when talking about the creation of his work.

One piece in particular he is most proud of is a table made out of a log he found in Amagansett waters. “I pushed it in the water for a half-mile,” Grzybowski remembers. “I then ran into two families at the beach that helped me roll the log up the road and into my truck.” This is just one of many fond stories he has of working with wood. Now, his Water Mill house is home to various finds including cedar, pine, cherrywood, and oak, most of which have been crafted into assorted tables, benches, and other soon-to-be creations. Signature pieces Grzybowski enjoys include those with a live edge, which is done by removing the bark and leaving the natural edge on the table. This shows the real shape of the tree, and lends to its own story.

Because the materials are so different, no piece is alike. While for some artists it is hard to let go of their work, Grzybowski finds comfort in knowing his customers will be able to enjoy something for years to come that no one else has. He’s always on the move to craft the next piece, and the thrill of the hunt for interesting and exciting types of wood keeps him going. As a returning vendor to HarborFest, he is eager to meet with new people to share his favorite stories of how a fallen tree left to rot was resurrected into an art people can use and enjoy.

Other returning artisans include Chuck Seaman, who was the third American awarded the American “Gyotaku” Fish Painting Master from Mineo Yamamoto, President of International Fish Printing Studio in Japan; Lorraine Pepper of Sag Harbor Glass selling earrings, pendants, paperweights, and other glass fusion creations; and Lauren Schellinger with nature-inspired gel candles, which can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to create depending on scents and materials used. Exciting newcomers to HarborFest include Domenico Belli Metal Arts with abstract metal sculptures, Shore To Sea with an impressive lighted display of batik lampshades, and Walter (Sicanni) Purizaca selling handmade bamboo flutes.

Nothing generic will be found at HarborFest this year, making it a true celebration of artisans and craftsmen and their various works. The Arts and Crafts Fair will take place on Saturday, September 10 and Sunday, September 11 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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