Leyden crafts a holiday fair
Loril Moondream,of Wendell, tels stories as she leads participants in the making of traditional corn husk dolls. In back are helpers BN Ducco and TK Lyn Song, members of the Iroquois tribe. This craft was featured as part of the Holdiday Craft Fair in Leyden on Saturday.
Sisters Reesha and Randi Blanchard, of Greenfield, display their handmade jewelry and decorative lights made from used glass masonry blocks at the Homegrown Holiday Fair in the Leyden United Methodist Church Saturday. Across the street in Town Hall, several other vendors proudly sold their handmade wares.
LEYDEN — A cozy alternative to crowded shopping malls and big box stores popped up Saturday in Leyden.
The Homegrown Holiday Fair was back for its second year and artisans from all over brought their handiworks.
Sue Carlson came from just up West Leyden Road, but her materials traveled much farther to get to her booth at Town Hall.
“I go to Harlem (in New York City) to buy fabrics from Africa,” said Carlson, who uses the cloth to make handbags, aprons and other items. “There’s one street that’s just chock full of rows of booths, where vendors sell fabrics and other things. And the food is great!”
Carlson also uses vintage fabrics in her work. She said she’s always loved to sew, but has had more time for it since she retired from Deerfield Academy four years ago, after 43 years in education.
“I’m type-A retired,” she joked. “Sewing is a not-quite full-time job.”
She said she sews all year and sets up at several craft fairs in the summer and fall. While she’s at them, she likes to shop around, and said she loves to see all the handmade jewelry, and anything “vintage.”
A big seller for Carlson are her baked potato bags. They’re made with a lining used to make microwaved baked potatoes come out just as good as ones that have been in the oven an hour.
At the next booth, another vendor had her own take on potato bags.
“A while ago, I made a handbag from a package of octopus-flavored potato chips,” said S. Lou Leelyn, of Wendell. Leelyn runs Lou’s Upcycle, where she’s saved thousands of items from a life in the landfill by giving them new jobs.
“It’s been a journey, about learning what people consume and what you can do with it afterward,” she said. “No matter what we eat, be it convenience food or organic products, all of it is wrapped in packaging.”
With the help of an iron, the plastic in those packages is fused together, which makes them more durable while preserving their logos.
In addition to packaging, Leelyn incorporates fabric scraps, magazine clippings and other items into her totebags, organizers, wallets, buttons and other merchandise.
“I just got over 1,000 old neckties to use,” she said, while she pondered the possibilities.
She began “upcycling” when she was trying to become a zero-waste household, and was inspired by a YouTube video of someone melting garbage bags together to make faux-leather clothing.
When she started out, all of her materials came from western Massachusetts, but now, she said, she gets trash from all over the world delivered to her doorstep. While that would drive the rest of us nuts, Leelyn loves finding new, out-of-the-ordinary packages and keeping them out of distant dumps.
“I get to be an environmental advocate and an artist at the same time,” she beamed.
Across the street in the Leyden United Methodist Church, two Greenfield sisters had their own recycled art.
When Reesha and Randi Blanchard’s father came across a load of used glass masonry blocks that were being thrown out, he grabbed them for his daughters.
Not everyone would be excited about demolition debris, but the Blanchard sisters were.
“When he told me he found the blocks, I said ‘Oh my God, I want them!’” exclaimed Reesha Blanchard.
Some of those blocks became snowmen, others received bows and ribbons and became giftwrapped boxes, and others sported silk flowers, but all shone from inside, full of decorative mini-lights.
“We’ve been making crafts forever, but we just started doing the blocks in October,” said Randi Blanchard. For Halloween, the glass blocks were made into pumpkins and scarecrows.
“We want to do them for every season,” said Reesha Blanchard.
When they got the blocks, there were bits of mortar still stuck to the edges, that they painstakingly scraped off with butter knives.
Once the blocks were clean, they used diamond-tipped drill bits to make a hole in each one to snake in a strand of Christmas lights. Clear blocks shone with multicolored lights, while the white-painted snowmen let off a gentle glow.
“One woman ordered six of them to use as night lights for her grandchildren,” Reesha Blanchard said.
They said they got their love of crafts from their grandmother.
“I think it skipped a generation,” said Reesha Blanchard.
The sisters do the painting, gluing and other assorted dirty work, but it’s still a family affair.
“Mom helps by giving good ideas, and dad is always finding things for us to use,” said her sister.
Randi and Reesha Blanchard set up last year for the town’s first Homegrown Holiday Fair. They said it’s a bit of a slow start, and people showing up in spurts, but they expect it to grow as years go on.
The fair also featured gift-making workshops, live music, and hot cocoa, coffee, and other snacks and refreshments. Other crafts included pottery, wooden bowls and toys, ornaments, jewelry, and homespun clothing.
“So many people around here are creative,” said Carlson. “There are a lot of other great Leyden artists that aren’t here today, too.”
David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279