Friday, November 14, 2014


I was thinking about participating in a craft fair or two this holiday season.

My mom and I used to have a great time making craft items for fairs during every season. We’d spend countless hours creating Easter bunnies and eggs, Valentine bears, Halloween witches, Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas angels. I think we even made something for Saint Swithin’s Day. You name the holiday and we had it covered.

We always tried to come up with innovative, original ideas so our crafts would stand out from all of the others at the fairs. Some of our creations were big successes, while others were…well, pretty dismal failures.

Among my successes were reindeer made of clothespins; plaques decorated with dried beans, corn and spices; ceramic-tile magnets with people’s names written in calligraphy on them; cats made from the little wooden spoons that come with ice-cream cups; and lollipop holders that said, “Thank you for not smoking.”

My failures included plastic lids with scenes painted on them; jewelry made of soda-can pop-top rings; potholders decorated with puff paint; clay turkeys, and wooden frogs with glittery peace symbols on their bellies.

But if there was one thing I learned, it was that being a craftswoman wasn’t going to make me rich. If I had to charge for every hour I spent working on my craft items, the clothespin reindeer would have been $175 each.

Boxes I hand-beaded, one bead at a time!
Even worse, sometimes spending hours on a craft resulted in not making any money at all. I remember the time my mom and I bought this craft glue on sale that turned out to be about as sticky as plain water. I used it when decorating a wooden box with tiny colored beads, sticking on one bead at a time with a toothpick to create an intricate pattern. When I finally finished, about 12 hours and 2000 beads later, I picked up the box to admire it, and all of the beads fell off. To this day, I’m still finding them in the cracks in the floor.

My mom also had problems. She once made some Christmas decorations using dog biscuits. Her dog got into the first batch and ate all of the biscuits, including the glitter and ribbons. So Mom hid the next batch out in the garage. When she opened the box at the craft fair, the biscuits were nothing but piles of powder. Some kind of grain-eating beetles had made a feast of them.  

Bugs seemed to love my mom’s crafts, for some reason. She made these cute little cats from woolen yarn, only to have moths attack them. The poor cats ended up looking as if they’d been blasted with buckshot.

There were times I thought my mom purposely came up with craft ideas that inevitably would send us out on excursions that involved machetes and pith helmets. There was the time she had an idea to make turkeys from pinecones. So off we went into the woods to search for pinecones – of three different sizes. Until then, I’d never realized just how many different varieties of thorn bushes grew in New Hampshire.

Then she wanted to make candleholders out of birch logs, so back into the woods we went, looking for fallen birch-tree limbs. That’s when I discovered that fallen limbs usually have surprises living underneath them. I became intimately acquainted with everything from centipedes to grub worms. I spent more time flinging the wood and screaming than I did collecting it.

But the worst excursion of all was when Mom wanted cat-o-nine tails for yet another craft project. The next thing I knew, we were wading through a swampy area that was so dark and creepy looking, I expected the Creature from the Black Lagoon to pop out at any minute.

After my mom passed away and I was cleaning her things out of her house, I found several big boxes of her crafts. So I brought them home and stored them next to my craft items in the basement.

A couple weeks ago, after I started thinking about selling some of our crafts at a Christmas fair, I ventured down into the basement to search through our masterpieces.

I knew my basement was damp, even with two dehumidifiers down there, but obviously the dampness turned out to be a bigger problem than I’d expected. The dried beans on my plaques were swollen and soggy. The red felt on my mom’s Santas had bled into their white beards and turned them pink. And the sealed candy canes they were holding looked like taffy. The alphabet-noodle pasta I’d used to spell out words on some of my plaques had become “al dente” enough to be served with marinara sauce. The cat-o-nine tails had puffed up and split open, and the stenciled cards I’d made were permanently stuck to their envelopes.

So I’ve decided to forget about any craft fairs this year, mainly because I don’t have 2,000 extra hours to make all new stuff to sell.

Fish I made from dimes and pennies
But on the bright side, if there ever is a famine, I know where I can find a stash of pasta, beans, liquefied candy canes and powdered dog cookies.



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