cover image Catskill Crafts Artisans of T

Catskill Crafts Artisans of T

Jane Smiley. Crown Publishers, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-517-56700-5

In her first nonfiction work, the author of Barn Blind fashions what she calls a ""friendship quilt'' from interviews with artisans who see their choice to live in the the New York Catskill Mountains region as being significantly entwined with their decision to live by craftsmanship. Fourth-generation Catskill dwellers as well as recent escapees from Manhattan explore a diversity of craft, which Smiley defines as ``the making of useful objects by hand, one at a time.'' New techniquessuch as the use of casting and molds in potteryare implemented alongside traditional ones in fashioning quilts, furniture, paper dolls and stained-glass windows. Unfortunately, charming descriptions of country life wax sentimental and bog down in minutiae; Smiley's intricate descriptions of dry-fly tying, thread spinning and the like won't interest general readers. Examples of the crafts and the lovely rustic environs are evinced in complementary photographs, but the vivid color shots are more successful and sharper than the grainy black-and-white pictures. (December 23)