Celebrating the Craftiness of Others

I like to make stuff.

We have established this.

(See: https://iamchronicallywell.com/2014/08/04/the-crafty-chronic-1/ and https://iamchronicallywell.com/2014/08/27/the-crafty-chronic-2/ Also, my Etsy store: www.etsy.com/shop/NARlyGifts)

I also happen to very much enjoy buying stuff that other people make.

Enter The Christmas Fair!

Also known as a Christmas Mart, a Holiday Bazaar, or my personal favorite, a Winterfest-Craftfest.

I don’t know if they have these anywhere else, but I hope that they do, as they are so much fun. Essentially, it is an event, large or small, where a bunch of crafty people sell their stuff under the warm and wonderful umbrella of a holiday theme.

I started going to craft fairs about 5? maybe 6? years ago. A local church/school had one as a fundraiser. They filled the school hallways with card tables where people set up their wares, had hot chocolate and hot dogs for sale in the cafeteria, and played Christmas music radio over the loudspeaker.

In short, it was lovely.

Sigh.

We’ve gone every year since, and my excellent investigative skills have led us to countless new fairs. This year we didn’t even make it to all of them- and we went to at least one, usually two or three, every weekend in November and the first weekend in December. That’s a lot of fairs!

My favorite one is at a county fairground an hour away. They have multiple heated buildings set up, filled to the gills with crafty people. My least favorite one was at a different county fairground an hour in the other direction, where the whole thing was outside. Wind + 35*F = unhappy shopping experience.

The best thing about it is that people are so inventive! I think that living in a culture where nearly everything we come in contact with is mass-produced elsewhere causes us to sometimes forget that people have individual creativity and can actually make things themselves.

Not every item is fancy. There will be row after row of beaded bracelets and painted rocks (yes, apparently it is a Thing). And then there will be people who go above and beyond so far that you wonder why their art is being sold in a high school gym and not to a museum (I am looking at you, Lady who Hand-paints Ostrich Eggs to look like Baby Penguins. You too, Guy Carving Totem Poles with a Chainsaw in the Parking Lot).

I have ended up with some pretty amazing things from my craft fair travels.

For instance:

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These are gourds. As in, this was once a squash. Then it was dried out, treated with something, and painted.

To look like a cat.

Or Santa.

My sister has a penguin.

The Santa one is hollowed out and there are stars cut out on the sides. A night light attached to the inside-back makes the whole thing glow. It makes me so happy to look at; it’s incredible the amount of thought that went into it. I mean really, have you ever looked at a squash and said, “I bet that would make a beautiful Santa night-light!”

Me either.

Until now.

I happen to love Elf on the Shelf. A friend of mine has kids and so has been posting the most creative ideas on Facebook (LOVE IT). But have you ever heard of Elf on a Shell?

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This is a seashell. A lady went to the beach, picked up a bunch of free-from-the-environment-materials, washed and painted them. Now they are ornaments with adorable faces.

Speaking of ornaments, this gingerbread man is made of corkboard.

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Buy a roll of the thin kind at Staples or a craft-store, use a cookie cutter to slice them out, and decorate with bits of leftover fabric, ribbon, and buttons. So easy, so cute!

Know what’s pretty? Ivory. Especially non-elephant-harming PLANT ivory.

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This stuff is Tagua, the seed of an ivory-nut palm. It’s the most amazing thing, and it comes from South America. The woman I bought these from told me that when she goes home to visit relatives, they harvest a bunch of these seeds and then sit around and carve them into intricate animals or other designs. Talk about a fun way to spend family time! Tagua really lasts too. Even though it is organic material, drying it out allows it to keep. This is not something I ever would have known without a craft fair- cool, right?

The one booth I most look forward to finding is that of a lovely older woman who makes glass pendants. Seriously, I could be her groupie. A lot of the crafters go to multiple fairs, and eventually you start to recognize people. You especially recognize them if you have a bunch of their work at home. This is my collection:

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Friendly crafter-lady has tried to explain to me before how she gets the glass colors and patterns just right, but it goes right over my head. It’s probably because I’m distracted by the kaleidoscope of pendants- which are all less than $10, further enabling my obsession with them.

One of these days, I will get myself a booth and switch to the other side of the table; I plan to have enough stuffed animals at the ready next year to do so. Until then, I am enjoying my time as a consumer. I am consumed with wonder and amazement at the craftiness of others!

 

Have you ever been to a holiday bazaar, Chronic readers? Do you do any crafts yourself? I would love to hear about it!

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