By MICHELLE SCHMIDT
You can almost hear her smile as she describes the visual beauty of the event — the colors, shapes and designs that cover East City Park from end to end and then some. But she doesn’t hesitate when asked her favorite part:
“It’s a celebration of spring — the fair means that spring is happening,” said Wood. She explains that while traditional Renaissance fairs focus on the Elizabethan era, Moscow’s event, taking place Saturday, May 4, celebrates the meaning of renaissance: rebirth.
In her tapestry of Renaissance Fair memories, those of the first seem distinct.
“I remember that first one, it was a beautiful day,” she recollects. “The fair was much, much smaller. It took up one section of Friendship Square.”
Because it had just begun, most of the artisans were from the Moscow area, which is how Wood found herself present that first year. Wood started throwing pottery in a ceramics class at the University of Idaho while working toward her art degree. She found her niche and has been throwing ever since.
Wood has taught art at Northwest Children’s Home Education Center in Lewiston for the past 13 years, but on weekends you can find her in her studio, working on her art. Her primary work is functional — wheel-thrown pottery — though she has dabbled in drawing and collage.
“After the piece comes off the wheel, I alter or carve it. I enjoy the surface decoration,” said Wood.
Surface decoration includes painting, and Wood paints a lot of animals on her pots: ravens, zebras, cave painting-style horses and bison.
Wood sells most of her work on Etsy (shop ‘jeannepottery’) — and at the Renaissance Fair. Like any artist, her work has changed over the years, shaped both by her own creativity and interests, as well as those of her buyers.
“A lot of people appreciate that I come up with new ideas,” she said. But at the same time, customers can still count on her to create their favorites.
“I have some people that come back for a particular type of work. So I always make sure I have some of those styles for them.”
Just like Wood’s artwork, the fair itself has evolved over the years. Aside from its growth and change in location, the early fairs primarily attracted local artists. Now, while there are still some locals, most of the booths are manned by artisans who travel from art fair to art fair.
The years have given way to a long string of art and craft trends.
“I’ve seen a lot of change in what people sell,” said Wood. She remembers when macramé was the thing, then candles, then stained glass. Jewelry, she contends, has always had a strong presence at the fair. And the current trend?
“There seems to be more handmade foods for sale — chocolates, soup mixes, spice mixes,” said Wood. “That and woven clothing, which I always admire.”
Another highlight of the fair are the social connections.
“The fair attracts people from all walks of life. People come from a ways around,” she said. “Some people who’ve moved away come back that weekend so they can come to the fair and see everyone at once.”
She herself looks forward to seeing friends she hasn’t seen out around town during the months of bad weather.
“I usually bring an extra chair or two, because there’s always someone I want to talk to for a long time,” said Wood.
Besides the extra chair, she usually brings a propane heater and wool clothing. Just because the fair celebrates spring, doesn’t mean the weather always cooperates; past fairs have even seen snow.
“You have to be prepared for that,” said Wood. “But it’s amazing — people turn out anyway.”
Perhaps just as amazing as the fact that one woman has stayed at her craft and brought it to the fair every year for 40 years. It’s a habit she plans to continue.
“I’ll be a part of it as long as I can possibly do it,” said Wood.
Schmidt can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (208) 305-4578.
If you go
What: 40th Annual Moscow Renaissance Fair
When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, May 4, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, May 5
Where: East City Park, 900 E. Third St., Moscow