When I was growing up, every December, we would go to Holiday Fair, in Greenville, SC. In “those days”, the art and handiwork that was on sale was still mostly handmade, though nowadays, this particular show was given in to goods that are cheap and sometimes mass-produced. Hence, we tend to go there to stock up on Southern Supreme fruitcake, because they always have a booth, but not so much for the crafts, anymore.
This isn’t to say that it’s a bad show, in case you’re crossing it off your schedule for this year! It’s still very nice, and not to be despised, as I’m sure there are some real quality craftsmen hiding between the pots-and-pans salesmen. But if anyone can tell us where the majority of the great local artisans are holing up at Christmas, we’d like to know.
But “back in the day”, we visited, and then for several years in a row, we actually went there to sell our own crafts. I say “our”, though my skills were not really behind any of what we sold, but I helped run the booth. It was great fun, though the hours were long, dressing up in your most Christmas-y outfits, and wandering the show, when someone else was manning the booth. I made friends with the other artisans and those running their booths, and could get some interesting conversations going, when they came to ours.
My parents had seen a particular type of angel doll, and decided to make their own. Dad put together all the woodworking parts, Mom sewed up the dresses and cut up the yarn for the hair, and they worked together to put them together. I helped glue the hair on, if I remember correctly.
At the same time, my dad built knick-knack shelves and coat racks (we used the wooden racks to hang our stockings, at Christmas). The racks had holes drilled into the tops, for snowmen. The snowmen were originally created to be free-standing, or to sit on some wooden sleds that my uncle had made. But then we cut the wooden spheres in half, to make half snowmen to go on the coat (or stocking) racks.
According to the dolls’ feet, they were made in 1996, so we would’ve had our own booth at Holiday Fair for several years after that, and at least one year, we went to the Spring Jubilee in Pendleton, too. So, from age 16 to 20, I was dressing up for the show, and helping my parents and my aunt and uncle with our booth.
So, of the dolls and snowman racks that didn’t sell, we took some of them to The Mercantile and some to Mountain Made. And at Mountain Made, some of them have remained ever since. They wrote to us, telling us that there were some left, but we never got the message. Not until I walked into the store, and started talking to the owner, and mentioning that my mom used to sell her dolls there.
A box of five dolls, some of the best my parents had made, were waiting for me to retrieve, and two racks, completely with their snowmen. Yes, one had lost his head, but I found the head in the box, afterwards. Plus an extra snowman, or rather, snowchild. Several of them have bumped noses, so that’ll have to be fixed eventually.
But looking through all of them was quite fun, because of the memories that were surfacing. I didn’t have a lot to do with the making of the dolls, except for gluing on yarn hair. But I helped paint the snowmen, and their hats. I put lots of earmuffs on the snowchildren, tied on neck scarves for the daddies and the children, put on the head scarves for the mommies, and hot-glued them into place. My dad drew all the faces, glued the snowpeople together, and put their noses in. And glued in the pegs, for the half snowmen, so they would attach to the wooden racks.
It was a bit of a family project, you might say, and we still have our own sets of everything that we get out at Christmas. I had my own snowman coat rack, when I was living in Pennsylvania, and I used it regularly. It held all my jackets during spring through fall, and then in the winter, I flipped the rack over, and dug out my half snowmen, to put them up.
And while clearing out the basement, recently, we also found the wood and nails “frame” that my dad used to bend the angel dolls’ wings into that particular shape. Unless I decide to use it to hang jewelry on, we’ll probably donate it. But it’s a fascinating contraption, and I wonder how many people would see it in a thrift store, and wonder what in the world it was used for?