By Rose Miller, Staff Reporter
On a windy Saturday earlier this month, anyone passing through the student center was greeted by scores of artists and crafters displaying their works for sale to the UMF and Farmington communities. While more common crafts like knitting and beadwork were well represented, between the many participants who ranged from casual hobbyists to serious entrepreneurs, there was a definite variety in projects ranging everywhere from tiny rock sculptures to homemade soap.
The fair was expansive with tables lining both sides of the hall running the full length of the building and up around the corner onto The Beach. There were even more tables in the North Dining Hall and CR123. Throughout the day, a steady stream of students and community members passed through to browse the goods.
Many participants were happy to talk about their work and how they got started. Leroy Croteau of Farmington recycles old materials and makes them into wind-chimes. Next to the table where his wife Janice sold knit items, Croteau had several chimes of different varieties hanging on display. While silverware serves as the actual chimes the base of each set was different. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” said Croteau. “Whatever I find I see if I can make into one,” he was saying as an interested customer interrupted to ask about a set of chimes made from a tiny old bird house.
Christine Greenleaf of Jay also incorporates recycling into her work. Greenleaf has displayed her work at craft-fairs for more than ten years, she said, “One of my best sellers are my recycled wool mittens.” She explained how she buys old sweaters from local thrift store Touch of Class and uses the wool to make the mittens, which she then lines with fleece. While her mittens are popular, the most prominent feature on her table was a wide spread of beautifully patterned homemade purses.
But not all attendees were craft-fair veterans. This was only the second year for soap-maker and entrepreneur, Meghan Knieser of Wyman Township. While she’s been making soap as a hobby for 15 years, she decided to make it a business and created Billdad Bath in 2013. To those raising a confused eyebrow, the Billdad is a figure from logging folklore. Knieser explained she first came across the bit of local color in John Gould’s book “Maine Lingo: Boiled Owls, Billdad’s and Wazzats,” and decided to use it.
While some spoke more formally about their crafts, there was a character or two to be found amongst the fair’s participants. Jeannine Roy, who was manning her husband’s display of pottery while he was absent, was more than happy to chat away about his hobby and her thoughts about UMF. “My husband at 82 discovered pottery,” said Roy, as she explained how a friend had set him up with a class. “And then my house was inundated with pottery!”
According to Jeannine this was the Roys’ first craft-fair and unfamiliar to the Farmington area, the Lewiston couple had visited UMF the weekend before the event to get the lay of the land. “I’ll tell you it’s the best,” she said. “All these college students are divine!” She’d been pleased with the encounters she’d had with students as she and her husband found their way around campus. “What a joy to meet all these wonderful young people!”
Among other crafters, was local jewelry maker Elizabeth Chenard who’s working on getting her Etsy page off the ground for Hippie Chic Designs. Her table featured an array of intricate necklaces and bracelets made of paper beads. “Paper beads are my specialty,” she said.
Convention and Event Coordinator Ernestine Hutchinson and Facilities Crew Leader Laura Adams spoke of their involvement in the fair’s organization, explaining the annual event was going on 20 years now. They also mentioned that a similar event will be part of Farmington’s annual Chester Greenwood Day celebration on December 5.