I think that in every Maker’s heart of hearts, there is a dream of being surrounded by others like them who live their lives working and dancing to their own heartsong, trying to do their own best  work and cheering each other on to greater effort.

We dream of a place that supports us in our journey while letting us find our own way to our own best life.


One of the oldest established “artisan communities” in America is the village of Sugar Loaf, which is a small hamlet roughly six miles long and five miles wide, in the town of Chester in New York’s Orange County.  It’s been around since the 18th century.

The village was originally a waypoint along the King’s Highway, providing supplies and horses for the travelers along that road.  It was a busy place and went through many changes as the world moved through and then past it.

Back then it was likely that every tradesperson was some sort of artisan, if the definition of “artisan” is someone who makes things by hand.  (There wasn’t any other way to make useful things.)

Sometime around the middle of the last century, the village had become little more than a forgotten bit of the landscape between crowded metropolises.  Transportation routes had changed and it was no longer a hub and hive of activity.

There gathered a group of artists and artisans who took up residence in Sugar Loaf and began doing their work in the old falling-down buildings and barns that had endured for a couple of hundred years. These Makers found a place with room enough and time enough to do the work they loved.

In the course of things, a core group of these full-time working craftspeople opened up their independent artist’s studios to the public, selling the works of their hands to support lives they found meaningful.

Prophecy Untold” by Henry M. Diaz via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
For an interesting history of the early days of the Sugar Loaf artisan community as well as some of the trials and tribulations as the community went through assorted economic and other changes, click on the button below to check out an old Sugar Loaf Guild site by one of the leaders among these early artisan-residents, Bob Fugett.

(I have to warn you:  Bob is a bit cantankerous.)


As Fugett points out, some of the early artisans continued to develop their skills in their chosen work to a high level.

Over the years other Makers joined in as the earliest of these creative people and their neighbors made a community that was centered around producing locally made, one-of-a-kind, high quality creative work.

The people who appreciated the quality of the work they produced came in droves from all over the world.


But, the Way of the Creative is never an easy road.  In his musings on his website, Fugett mourns the lost shape of the community he helped to build.

“Sugar Loaf Sign” by Kafziel Complaint Department via [CC BY-SA 3.0]
In one of the riffs on his site, Fugett quotes James Lynch, the founder of Fforest Camp, an eco-living retreat in West Wales:  “It’s my experience that artist communities are almost always camps because they appropriate space that nobody else wants (at the time), but by virtue of a creative progressive view of neighborhoods they create a demand from others that ultimately marginalizes them, so they are forever transient.”

It’s a pithy commentary on what happens after the Makers have made Beauty in some abandoned place, which then becomes a “destination,” and then gets made over into something else as other folks move in.

This YouTube video, “Artists and Artisans,” was published in 2017 by Sarah J. Burns.  It’s a mini-documentary featuring interviews with some of the artisans currently living in the village and focuses on how their livelihoods changed with the recession.  It also offers a glimpse of the village itself.


The future is never certain, but the village continues anyway and it will grow into some new shape that better reflects the Makers who now live and work there in these very different times.

One of Bob’s salty comments that is spot-on nevertheless is this:  Talent is bullshit; work is the thing, and of course it is all for naught, always has been, always will be, but that has nothing to do with the doing of it.

Here’s a poem:


That things will change is a given

There is no argument.

Established constructs will be riven

And much will fade of past efforts spent.


Still and yet and ever more

The world keeps turning in its place.

Still and yet, there will be joy,

There will be rainbows and always grace.


Change comes, change goes

And so do you and I.

The only things we get to keep

Are the ways we walk and fly….

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “The Work Never Matches the Dream….” By Kendra via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a note or comment below and share your thoughts.

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11 thoughts on “ONE ARTISAN VILLAGE

  1. hello and thank you for the article.
    This certainly raises the level of articles written here as it deal with something that is more than just making money.
    I didn’t know about this artisan village and thank you for the information. been in Orange county many times but never knew about this village.
    the poem about change is very capturing and provides a reflection about the meaning of life.
    Thanks again,

    1. Hey Eli:

      Thanks for visiting and for sharing your thoughts.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again….

  2. AnxietyPanda says:

    Wow, Sugar Loaf sounds like a great village and definitely one that AnxietyPanda would love to have been a part of, had she been closer. Thank you also for the mini-documentary that provides a look at what it’s like in Sugar Loaf! The village has now made my bucket list of places to visit before I die 🙂

    1. Hey AnxietyPanda:

      Thanks for the visit to my site.  I am glad you enjoyed it!

      Please do come again….

  3. Actually, I don’t believe I said that (all of it)… at least I don’t specifically remember it and couldn’t find it with quoted Google search. Too bad the Burns effort was diverted by some itenerate passers-through and failed to show the true artists still living and working here.

  4. Sorry, found the quote exactly as you reported it using a local search on my own files.

    It was part of a response to a comment by potter Connie Rose.

    Once again sorry, and great website by the way.

    1. Thanks for checking on that, Bob. I’m glad I got it right! (Hee!)

      Please do come again….

  5. Great! I love the simplicity at which you write, Your blog design (village structure) also looks. So much insight in one article, and as Eli said, it’s more than just making. I’m currently undergoing some tutorials on how to make a leather bag, and i think it’s best for me if i stick to this village.

    1. Thanks for the visit and your comments, faftop.  I do appreciate it.  

      Please do come again….

  6. To be sincere I have never came across a place or village called sugar loaf community of crafting. This article has brought the knowledge of places we thought could never have existed and still in existence. Craft work and other areas have been looked down upon over the years. Thanks for posting this. 

    1. Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts, Olalekan.  I have noticed that when a society’s focus is on the future and on getting to a more modern way of living, it is often a side-effect that the traditional crafts and ways of thinking are discounted, looked down on and even actively discouraged.  

      However, I have also noticed that the grandchildren and those who come after the forward-looking generation of a people, the ones who have grown up in a more modern version of their society and culture often feel the need to connect back to their roots in order to find out who they really are.

      As a Hawaiian, I grew up not knowing how to speak my native language because it was actively discouraged.  The crafts and arts, the music and dance that sustained our way of life was almost lost entirely.  This has changed tremendously in my own lifetime.  

      It all came back.  It is all growing and developing in new and wonderful ways.  

      And this “renaissance” and “revival” all began because a few people kept to the old ways and then their grandchildren came back wanting to know more about who and what they came from and they brought their friends along with them.  

      I am glad you enjoyed the post.  Please do come again….

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