When the English chef Clare de Boer, 34, opened her restaurant Stissing House in Pine Plains, a sleepy village a two-hour drive north of New York City, in 2022, she envisioned it as a quieter, slower counterpoint to her acclaimed Manhattan restaurants, King and Jupiter. Housed in a Revolutionary War-era former tavern beside the town’s only traffic light, it serves modern takes on humble early American fare: Dishes include fire-roasted game birds and rabbit-and-tarragon pie. De Boer also hoped to tap into the area’s vibrant local scene of food growers and artisans. And over the past year and a half, she’s done just that, cultivating relationships with an array of craftspeople who now supply Stissing House with products including hand-woven willow breadbaskets, tapered beeswax candles and scented botanical soaps. “These objects have become part of the DNA of what we do,” said de Boer recently, adding that the restaurant’s newsletter has evolved into a sort of monthly ode to the region’s makers.
This year, as the holidays approached, de Boer had the idea to bring together some of these people for a holiday market and proposed the project to a Stissing House regular, Deborah Needleman. A former editor in chief of T, Needleman, 60, left magazines in 2017 and now pursues basket-weaving full time, traveling the world studying traditional artisan practices. She jumped at the chance to assemble a roster of small-scale makers she admires and help them find a wider audience. And so on a damp Sunday morning in early December, some 450 ticketed guests began arriving for Stissing House’s inaugural craft feast, a lively celebration of community, good food and slow shopping. “Craftspeople tend to work alone and it can be very isolating, so our aim was to gather them and have people buy directly from them,” said Needleman. That evening, added de Boer, they would all “sit down, eat together and connect in a meaningful way.”
Over the course of the day, as a group of local folk singers performed traditional French and German carols and a kettle of rosemary- and thyme-scented broth simmered in a hearth, guests mingled and chatted with the nearly 40 vendors. Many of the artisans are committed to the revival of vanishing disciplines, and their goods looked right at home in the 1782 building, a sprawling collection of dining rooms with exposed Dutch Colonial oak framing. The artist Amy Krone offered white oak frame baskets, with dramatic swooping shapes, made in the centuries-old Appalachian style using trees she harvests on her 125-acre property in Roundtop, N.Y. “I’m taking these traditional practices and applying them to modern forms to bring them up to date,” she said. The Queens-based fashion historian and clothing designer Sarah Jean Culbreth sold jackets, smocks and dresses inspired by 18th-century American work wear. “A lot of what I make is trying to prove this point that we should be looking at the clothes of yesteryear because we kind of figured it out back then,” she said. And in the ballroom on the second floor, Jordana Munk Martin, the founder of Blue: The Tatter Textile Library, a nonprofit in Brooklyn focused on fabric research, explained her mission of preserving old fiber-arts techniques, partly through the sale of historically inspired goods — which on this occasion included knit mittens patterned on an early 19th-century pair housed in the Smithsonian. “Especially in this A.I. world,” said Martin, “it’s important to remember that there’s humanity and culture in the handmade.”
There were several ceramists, including Miwa Neishi, who creates tea bowls and vases with forms inspired by Japanese calligraphy in her Long Island City, Queens, studio. And elsewhere there was delicate stemmed glassware from the Brooklyn-based designer Sophie Lou Jacobsen; sustainably crafted brooms from Erin Rouse at Custodian Studio, also in Brooklyn; linen aprons and tea towels from the English silk-screen artist Henrietta Lewis; handmade jewelry by Presley Oldham, an artist who divides his time between Los Angeles and Santa Fe, N.M., and by the designer Ope Omojola of the Brooklyn brand Octave Jewelry; clothing, quilted bags and Christmas stockings made with upcycled Liberty print fabrics and khadi cottons by the Danish fashion designer Line Sander Johansen; and framed flower collages from the Rhinebeck, N.Y.-based florist Ariel Dearie. “What joins a lot of these artisans is that they make things using materials from nature,” said Needleman, who was manning her own table packed with bowls, baskets and hampers woven from willow she grows on her property in the Hudson Valley. “They’re connected to the land in one way or another.”
At the end of the day, the makers sat down to dinner together.Credit…Blaine Davis
At 4 p.m., as the throng of shoppers finally thinned out, the vendors cleared away their wares and the display tables were arranged in rows and set aglow with tapers in wrought-iron chamber-stick candleholders. Needleman and de Boer gathered the artisans, as well as the Stissing House staff, for a toast. “Grab some champagne, help yourself to dinner and sit down before you all fall over,” said de Boer, ushering the group toward a buffet that included steelhead trout, charred pork belly and the restaurant’s signature rabbit pie, all cooked in the kitchen’s wood-fired oven. “The best thing about today was that there were a lot of people who didn’t know each other but maybe had friends in common,” said Needleman. “And now a lot of real-life connections have been made. This feels like a true community.”