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Homespun Creativity on Display for Holidays


Newton Falls – Now that the costumes from Halloween have been tucked away into closets, the collected candy undoubtedly devoured long ago, and the dishes from Thanksgiving have been cleared, the celebratory focus will soon turn to preparations for the plethora of winter holidays approaching right around the corner of the calendar. Whether the cooler weather brings thoughts of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, St. Lucia Day or a multitude of other occasions commemorating customs and heritage traditions, showing love and appreciation through the exchanging of gifts is likely to be on the list.

’Tis the time for craft shows and the 2015 season is already in full swing thanks to several recent opportunities for Newton Falls residents and visitors to share their talent for unique wares with the neighborhood staples as well as perusing passersby. In addition to church bazaars, school society sales and home party vendor exhibitions, events showcasing the handmade creations from local artisans have been busy scheduling space on the already very-much-spoken-for holiday shopper’s timetable. The Saturday before turkey/tofurkey/ turducken day, the 44444 greeted gift-giving guests at the city park, welcoming them into the community center-turned-workshop wonderland and inviting them to peruse products unlike anything available among the shelves of mass-produced merchandise typical of those big box stores. Decorative glass bottles made extra special with just the right adornments, knitted or crocheted fancies stitched from fingers flying with festive yarn and chocolate-dipped anything-and-everything straight from the kitchen counter to tempt the tastebuds, satisfy the sweet tooth and fulfill every other old adage one would expect from such offerings. But when it came to the handiwork itself, there was nothing typical or commonplace about it.

Wood working isn’t just about a hammer and nails or a chisel for casually whittling away anymore – a flair for design, keeping up with trends in style and ultimately providing something sturdy to perch upon or play with that will last for many hours of fun and function are important elements as well. Ordinary items no longer good for their intended use are upcycled into something innovative and new, such as old chairs not quite fit for sitting given a fresh purpose as artfully arranged catchalls ideal for brightening up a small space where nothing else quite seems to work. Who knew golf balls could transform into ornaments of tiny pigs, goldfish and ladybugs perfect for the upper branches of that temporarily-adopted evergreen perky and patient in the corner of one’s living room? Too cute!

Just like in the art and magic of baking in which simple ingredients are combined just-so to rearrange into something extraordinary, these creative craftspeople showed amazing aptitude in taking an assortment of materials and making them more than the surprising sum of their parts.

With the shopping-centric weekend trifecta of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sandwiching Small Business Saturday in between, many people may have already made their lists, checked them twice and check-marked most of what needs to be procured or tasks to be performed. But for those of us who still have some or all of our to-dos to be to-done, consider taking a cue from our crafty comrades and this year produce rather than purchase presents.

Suggestions for making your own gifts can be found by the thousands with a simple internet search or by flipping through stacks of books at the library, but here are a few favorites: Do you have a really nice camera (no, not the one attached to your phone) and an eye for photographic composition? Offer to host a photo shoot for a family or snap a few headshots for a pal looking to refresh her resume. Whether you make a day of it or prefer a quick mini-session for just a few frames, take advantage of the wintery landscape or plan ahead for when the weather is warmer in the spring and find the beauty that is unique to each season and each friend! Are you the type that is never without a notepad, sketchbook and pencil? Custom art is a one-of-a-kind offering that can combine the recipient’s interests with your distinctive perspective whether you doodle or paint in cartoonish, realistic or even abstract styles. Love telling stories? Penning a poem or longer tale inspired by your friend or family member is another way to reflect your relationship especially when utilizing a form that matches their personality. (Think a limerick for your comedic uncle, sonnet for a romantic connection or haiku for a philosophical parent.) Loved ones live long distance? Take bedtime stories a step further for the times when you can’t be right there to tuck them in. Making a personalized audio book is as simple as using the basic sound recorder function on your personal computer and burning the track to a blank CD.

If you’ve already employed the ideas above or think your family members have enough of your art plastering their refrigerators, walls and bookshelves, try developing a new skill to share which will be a gift right back to you too! Or trade services with a creative comrade: plates of baked goodies she can give to her cousins in exchange for a photo portrait you treat to your aunt and uncle; framing and matting your mom’s favorite painting for entertaining the children of his neighbor during date night; helping her grandmother send emails for teaching your niece how to foxtrot. This isn’t the chore coupon book from your childhood! Well, maybe, just with a grown-up identity.

Everyone has SOME type of talent to share, but if one still isn’t quite comfortable with the idea and would rather still buy a gift, supporting your local small businesses or freelance artisans are great alternatives for obtaining the desired result, and contributing to the goodwill cycle of a neighborhood economy will help everyone have a happier holiday season all around.

Like the Little Drummer Boy’s fabled offering, gifts spun from the heart and not from gold have been around for a long time! Of course, store bought gifts can be from the heart too as the thought is what very much counts, but this year considering a gift spun from the hands and not just from gold may be the key to fulfilling the wishful thoughts of that proverbial someone who has everything and truly remembering the reason for the season.