Countdown to ChesterFest: Artisans, crafters gear up for fall festival

When ChesterFest returns to the Village Green next month, so too will a host of artisans and crafters that will tempt festival goers with their varied wares.

Kay Braswell, of Chester, and Jean Alvis, of Quinton, Va., are two of the more than 140 vendors who will set up shop at ChesterFest this year.

Braswell and Alvis, who participated in ChesterFest for the first time last year, make and sell hand-painted bags and clothing and handmade soaps and lotions, respectively.

“I am fairly new at this,” Braswell said last week. Painting has been one of her hobbies for most of her life, she said, but in recent years she began focusing her efforts on fabrics. She started with the tote bags, but soon began making children’s clothing and, later, adult clothing, she said.

She paints a lot of flowers and garden scenes on her products, she said, and “there’s always a call for ladybugs.” She also paints lighthouses, which seem to do well, and at last year’s ChesterFest her children’s Halloween outfits and painted high-top sneakers were popular, she said.

“If I sell anything, I’m OK, I think it’s been a good day,” she said.

Her husband came up with the moniker – This Ole Bag – that she goes by at festivals and on her website, She’s set up shop at a number of regional festivals, she said.

“I did enjoy ChesterFest last year,” she said. “It started out with a drizzle in the morning, but it turned out to be beautiful.”

Braswell has spotted a few of her neighbors at the festival, but she also enjoys running into crafters and artisans she’s met at other events, she said. Alvis, of Little Luxuries of Virginia, said the camaraderie among the vendors helped set ChesterFest apart.

“We just seemed to really hit it off,” Alvis said. Also, it was “really nice the way they helped us set up and break down,” she said.

Alvis, who has been in the business for a little over a year, said she has always enjoyed aromatherapy. She had a friend who made a cold-process soap who got her into the activity and taught her the ropes, she said. It’s also a little luxury that people can afford, she said, even when times are hard.

“You start with good ingredients,” she said. Little Luxuries of Virginia produces handmade vegan glycerin soaps and goat’s milk soaps in a variety of scents, she said, as well as lotions and body butters.

“I use essential oils,” she said. “I have fragrances that I like to blend myself,” but she also enjoys coming up with new and different scents. She has crafted exclusive custom scents for several bed and breakfast clients, she said.

“I have beautiful molds that my husband has engraved,” she said. Her husband, who was a hand/steel engraver for 30 years, also makes a line of handmade soap dishes that are new this year, she said. Night lights, whipped Shea butter and a sugar scrub are new this year, as well.  More information about Alvis and Little Luxuries of Virginia is available at


Countdown to ChesterFest! Artisian......

This is a great article about the local artisians that will be attending ChesterFest this year! Particularly, Jean and Chip Alvis of Little Luxuries of Virignia.

My name is Amber Curles. I just joined Little Luxuries of Virginia, serving as the new Director of Marketing! This experience has truely been GREAT for me! Jean and Chip Alvis make exquisite products made with wonderful craftsmanship. I look forward to "Broadening the Horizons" for Little Luxuries of Virginia!

Don't forget to come by our booth during ChesterFest to see the wonderful display of GREAT products!

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