June 22--Judy Rohtbart and Nancy Gordon were on a mission: to find a small, one-of-a-kind table at the Manayunk Arts Festival for Gordon's new apartment in Center City.
"It's serendipitous. You never know what you're going to find," said Rohtbart, an interior designer from Wynnewood riding the train from Conshohocken to Manayunk -- forget even thinking about finding parking at the jam-packed event -- where she was meeting her friend and client.
As soon as the two hit Main Street, Gordon spied a piece that fit all of her qualifications: It was unique, handcrafted, and fun. But it wasn't a table. It was a metal sculpture by Eugene Perry that she had seen not long ago at the Rittenhouse Arts Festival.
"I fell in love with this piece," she said of the sculpture, which had a swirled golden base and a shiny reflective ball sitting on top.
Swooning over artwork wasn't hard to do Saturday as 300 vendors lined closed-off Main Street with their paintings and pottery, sculpture and sweaters, and some off-beat items such as candles made from beer and wine bottles and coasters made from the centers of old LP records.
The festival, celebrating its 25th year, is the tristate area's largest outdoor juried arts show and was expected to attract about 200,000 shoppers over two days. While most of the artists are seasoned professionals who ply their handmade goods at art shows up and down the East Coast, the festival featured an emerging-artist tent for young local talent just getting into the business.
That was Perry, 38, not too long ago. The Northeast Philadelphia resident was a structural-steel welder for cell towers when he started playing around with scrap metal. Eight years later he is a full-time artist who sells about 100 pieces at 36 shows annually. Last year he won second place at Manayunk in his category.
Gordon decided to wait on buying the $2,500 sculpture, but the two women walked away talking about what kind of stand they would have to get for it. "I can make it," offered Perry.
A few tents away, Dana Prophet, 42, a pastry chef from Mount Airy, was sifting through the coasters made from album labels when she found one from one of her favorite artists, Barry Manilow.
"OK, I'm buying this. I saw him two years ago and he was great," she said excitedly, while admitting that her musical tastes are decidedly retro. "I'm turning into my parents," she said.
Bob Ross is a musician who makes the coasters as well as album clocks. He said he buys albums all over the East Coast, then punches out the inner labels for the coasters and stacks seven albums together to make clocks. "I can bang them out pretty quickly," he said.
Even though she lives in nearby Roxborough, Frannie Costa had never been to the festival before this year. Probably a good thing for her budget, since shortly after arriving she snapped up a $110 dress from Sandra Baquero, whose unique designs are adorned with rows of zippers that she even fashions into flowers.
"I love too many of her things," she said eyeing another dress.
When Baquero asked if she liked the length, Costa, 61, said: "I like them a little short. I'm old but I don't know it."
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