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Disasters take their toll on many craft artists

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A poor economy and the slow recovery have been a burden to many in the woodworking industry. But national disasters have also taken an unprecedented toll this year on the craft artist community.

According to the Craft Emergency Relief Fund, floods, tornadoes, wildfires and other natural disasters that have affected much of the country are being felt deeply by artists. In a typical year, natural disasters account for 20 percent of the relief fund’s assistance. Halfway through 2011, it’s 34 percent.

“It is still early in the recovery stage for many artists, so we expect to see additional applications associated with the severe weather events of this spring,” says CERF.

During the first half of 2011, CERF assisted 32 artists from across the country with a total of $82,386 in loans, grants and in-kind assistance. This aid includes 25 grants (up to $2,500 each) four quick loans (up to $4,000 each) and in-kind assistance, such as booth fee waivers at shows, and discounts or donations from suppliers and manufacturers to eight craft artists.

While CERF provides post-disaster assistance, it also prepares craft artists for the unexpected through information at

“Large businesses and organizations tend to have emergency plans in place to protect their employees and the future of their businesses. However, like many small businesses, most artists have not taken adequate actions to protect their careers from the effects of emergencies. CERF feels that it is important for artists to safeguard their careers to help protect the vitality of our cultural heritage,” says executive director Cornelia Carey.

More can be learned about CERF’s efforts and ways you can help — or get help — at

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The Woodworkers Guild of America held its second annual Build a Vet a Guitar event July 15-16 at The Wild Earth Woodworking School in Hudson, Wis. Guitars for Vets is a nonprofit organization that enhances the lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and music instruction.

Last year’s event drew approximately 100 participants, while Guitars for Vets has provided more than 800 new guitars and 5,000 lessons to our nation’s veterans.

“The build event is an amazing show of community, with people coming together for one common cause,” says George Vondriska, the guild’s managing editor. “It’s a great way for the woodworking community and people in general to put the healing power of music in the hands of our veterans.”

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Finally, a plug for the Emmy-nominated and Peabody Award-winning documentary series “Craft in America,” which airs on PBS.

On Monday, Oct. 10, the new season premieres with “Family,” an episode exploring the creative home environments and personal dynamics of four families of craft artists, including the Moulthrop family of Georgia woodworkers. Former President Jimmy Carter will share stories of learning turning techniques from the late Ed Moulthrop, while his son, Philip, and grandfather, Matt, will also be featured.

If it’s half as good as the first episode, which featured Sam Maloof, Garry Knox Bennett and other woodworkers, it qualifies as must-see TV.

This article originally appeared in the August 2011 issue.

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