As the annual Lines on the Pines festival approached, Niki Giberson could not make the sheep on her property grow wool any faster, but she could take more time out of her schedule to prepare for her appearance at the event.
Co-founder of the Swan Bay Folk Art Center in Port Republic, Giberson has been coming home from her day job as an aide for medically fragile preschoolers in the Atlantic County Special Services School District and making wool products - hats, little animals, ornaments and other items - by hand. She's also been busy preparing reed baskets and jams. Giberson is bringing about 100 items with her today to the largest annual gathering of Pine Barrens-related artists in the state.
Giberson even will be selling rolls of homegrown wool, for people who want to craft their own Pinelands-grown garments.
"You can really start from scratch. I can have my sheep and wear them too, and it inspires people to try to make things that maybe they wouldn't try on their own. Primarily, I'm a teacher. If I can give someone some wool, and they can produce something beautiful out of it, it's them. It's not me," said Giberson, 57.
This is the eighth year for the Lines on the Pines festival, an event originally begun to celebrate the books, photographs and films created to immortalize the Pine Barrens.
This year's version of Lines on the Pines will be bigger than last year's, with more participants in a bigger location, Kerri Brooke Caterers in Hammonton.
Of the 80 artists, authors, musicians, photographers and groups in attendance, Bill Smith, of the Warren Grove section of Stafford Township, is only one who will be there with plants unique to the Pine Barrens - bog plants and carnivorous plants.
A bog plant grows in a soft wetland or marsh. There are several different carnivorous plants in the Pine Barrens that eat insects, and they all live in bogs, Smith said.
"The plants that live there are living in a zone that most plants can't survive in. There's no food there. There is no oxygen. There's no calcium, none of the ordinary things. It's super acidic. The carnivorous plants have evolved, so they can survive there on almost no food," Smith said.
Smith sold his first plants, a half dozen, in five minutes last year. He plans to bring at least 30 plants in 4-inch and gallon pots today.
"When I come, I bring several graphics. I have documented the whole thing, the projects I've done, with lots of pictures of the plants, and the plants themselves are very attractive and kind of unique," said Smith, 73, who added he has the largest above-ground bog in North America at his home, which is 30-feet long, 10-feet wide and 3-feet high.
Besides being in a bigger venue, Lines on the Pines has increased the number of participants from 50 last year to 80 today, said event organizer Linda Stanton.
"I try really hard to stay true to the Pine Barrens theme. If there are authors and they have written books about the Pine Barrens and they have other books at this event, they can sell both," said Stanton, of the Sweetwater section of Mullica Township.
Stanton believes between 800 and 1,000 people stopped by last year.
"I think people are really starting to look forward to the event. It's the first day you set your clocks ahead. People are ready to get out," Stanton said. "Every year, we have consistently increased in the number of people who attend. If we stay true to that, I would expect more (than 1,000 visitors today)."
Also new this year is the first book written by Stanton and her husband, Jim, titled "Bounty of New Jersey's Pine Barrens: Recipes, short stories and tall tales." It is a self-published book which took one year to write. Eighty-five percent of the people who participated in Lines on the Pines during the past seven years contributed either a recipe, a short story or a tall tale to the book, Stanton said. She will have 175 copies for sale today.
The book contains more than 165 recipes and more than 85 short stories, tall tales, song lyrics and quotes. It costs $21 including tax. All proceeds from sales of the book are targeted towards It's a Sign of the Pines, the group that organizes the Lines on the Pines and Lines on the Pines for Kids events.
Paul Pedersen, 58, of Elm, Camden County, made his first appearance at Lines on the Pines last year.
Pedersen sells what he calls his "Pine Barrens Diamonds," which is antique southern New Jersey glass jewelry he makes by hand. He tries to have his jewelry in at least one store in each county. Urban Legends in Smithville sells his jewelry.
"I use glass that I find in the old glass works in the Pine Barrens. Sometimes, I use the pure Pine Barrens glass," Pedersen said.
Most of the time, Pedersen grinds the Pine Barrens glass down to a powder called frits and puts it between pieces of other glass in the jewelry that he makes. Some of the Pine Barrens glass he uses is from 1739. He uses glass from glass works that include The Coffin and Hay Works, which burned down in 1892. Plenty of glass was made and thrown away on the ground. Pedersen visits these sites at least three times per year to prospect for glass.
Last year. Pedersen sold almost 100 pieces of jewelry at Lines on the Pines. He returns today with another 100 pieces he has been working on for the past six months. The most expensive is $55 with Pine Barrens Diamonds on a Swarovski crystal necklace.
"I really had no idea to expect. I thought it was just for authors," said Pedersen about his appearance last year. "It turned out it's for crafts and stuff that is made in the Pine Barrens or by people in the Pine Barrens, utilizing all the natural resources we have in the Pines, and this was just a natural for it. People saw it and just went crazy. I was shocked."
Phil Gilson, 48, of Clayton, Gloucester County, believes he owns 70 percent of the assets from the past four historic bottle-blowing factory operations in southern New Jersey. Gilson's collection includes tools and molds. He blows his glass the way it was done in the 18th and 19th centuries, which give his pieces a distinctive look.
Gilson's least expensive offering this year will be a 4-inch round glass Jersey Devil suncatcher, which sells for $10 each or three for $25. His most expensive item is a ruby-red colored, square glass cabin bottle, which sells for $900. The expense comes from the square shape, which very few glass blowers using antique equipment attempt, and the ruby-red appearance, which requires a mixing of gold and copper oxides with the glass to create the color.
"I'm going to bring a few hundred pieces with me," said Gilson, who was invited for the first time last year and started preparing one month in advance this year. "I stepped up the number of pieces that I'm bringing with me. I'm going to upgrade my display and bring a couple of historic South Jersey designs with me."
Contact Vincent Jackson:
The Eighth Annual Lines on the Pines Festival
Held 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today
at Kerri Brooke Caterers,
755 So. White Horse Pike, Hammonton. Admission is free.
For more information,