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for what its worth

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for what its worth

I hadn’t realized it until this weekend, but the holiday shopping season is in full swing. The Brazil family packed into the Pathfinder this weekend and took the quiet drive to Bismarck. It is a road that I have traveled so many times. I directed my husband through the city to the Civic Center, where the Pride of Dakota Holiday Showcase was being held. Suddenly, we were overwhelmed by crowds of people flocking to and from the event, reusable shopping bags in hand, poised and ready to shop local.

Pride of Dakota is a marketing organization that facilitates business growth for North Dakota companies and artisans.

Pride of Dakota is a marketing organization that facilitates business growth for North Dakota companies and artisans.

The idea of a mass crowd suddenly overwhelmed me. How could we enjoy and appreciate the diversity of quality, locally produced goods with crowds and crowds of people!? My worries were eased though when we got into the showcase. The crowd was part of the atmosphere. The people were kind and respectful. Even when my youngest was apt to run off through the crowd, I received understanding looks rather than the scorn I expected.

There was no reason to be crabby, anxious, or overwhelmed. My husband and I each took a kid and split up. I cruised through, observing the atmosphere, buying a few gifts, sampling some goodies, snagging business cards, making mental notes, and feeling rather energized and inspired.

At first I went into my anthropological observation mode, but that was quickly overcome by aesthetic magnetism. Some magnificent pottery caught my eye. I was careful not to linger near these fine hand-crafted items with a two-year-old at my side for long. But I was still impressed.

There was a variety of wineries with their products on sale. There were many North Dakota inspired items such as Cowboy Rope Art, pheasant feather flowers, awesome birdhouses upcycled from weathered wood and doors, delightful photography prints on notecards, and some absolutely phenomenal handcarved spear fishing decoys.

Dakota Sun Gardens is just south of the town I live in.

Dakota Sun Gardens is just south of the town I live in.

The booth for Pysanka featured hand decorated Ukrainian Easter Eggs. I was in absolute awe of the pottery, sculptures, paintings, and jewelry on display at the Northwoods Studio booth. With Northwoods is Jenna Jacobson, a talented young artist I would have loved to visit with. But instead, I had to settle on a quick complement as I dashed after my child who was disappearing into the crowd. Some jewelry in particular stood out at Muvey’s Jewelry. This artist specializes in hand crocheted necklaces. They were so elegant and beautiful, I wish I had a picture to share.

The market for hand-crafted items doesn’t seem to be just a yuppie trend anymore. We all know that the economy is tough these days. It seems that with the dwindling economy comes an increased appreciation for high quality craftsmanship. I see many people becoming more aware of how they spend their money, appreciating the opportunity for their hard earned dollars to go into the local economy, encouraging a growing trend in crafters and artisans.

After finding our fill at the showcase, we had to make a quick run to target, to get those other household type items that we have to rely on. My mind was still in the mode of seeking out the aestetics that moved me. Near the Christmas department, I found my oldest son must have still been in the same mindset as he cheerfully showed me some ornaments.

I admit, they were cute and crafty… looking. Little knitted woodland creatures ready to grace the boughs of a fir tree. Who wouldn’t want these?!

Cute little woodland creatures. Handmade by a loving relative? Not likely, Made in China.

Cute little woodland creatures. Handmade by a loving relative? Not likely, Made in China.

Contradiction overrode impulse this time. What in the world? Why is Target trying to fill in the niche market of hand crafted quality items? They actually had a name for the items, “Contemporary Craft Ornaments.” Does contemporary mean factory made? What does “craft” mean in this context? Who would be benefiting from the $3.00 spent on a imitation home-made gift? No one I know, I am sure.

I do know that something happened in that setting that hasn’t really happened to me in a Target before. I confidently said, “We can make something like that at home.” Now I have a child wants to learn to knit or crochet, and I haven’t the slightest clue how. But I am confident that we could make some version of the paper ornaments on display.

“Paper” ornaments sold at Target for $3.00 each.

I think I remember making something like this in grade school once…

And maybe, with the right materials, we could make something like these yarn wrapped wildlife. I think the fun in doing something like this would surpass the value of $3.00 a piece. Just making the little prototypes I did last night was a rewarding and peaceful endeavor.

This bit of reflection aligns very well with some of my hopes for my future storefront. North Dakota winters are long and cold. I know many folks keep themselves busy through the winter months by crafting unique pieces of art. Some of these folks are knitters, quilters, scrapbookers, jewelry makers, and much more. As for myself, I love drawing and journaling. I’ve been making jewelry for just over a year now, and maybe I have a future in ornament crafting as well.

Unfortunately, I find it difficult to keep inspiration going when there aren’t many places for me to stop in and get supplies, books, advice, or finished products. I either order my supplies online, make d0 with what I have, or wait until I make the drive to Bismarck, Fargo, or Grand Forks. I imagine others must face the same predicament. To help start the conversation, I started a Facebook Group for Crafters & Artists of Central North Dakota. Perhaps by gathering like-minded individuals, we can develop a vision to encourage the flow of creativity in our region.


About Rachel

Rachel is an independent artist and writer who thrives on sharing her deep appreciation for the natural world. She has taught college courses in wildlife identification, ethnobotany, environmental science, natural resource management, and cultural studies. She lives in North Dakota with her two boys, husband, dog, and cats. She enjoys gardening, cooking, drawing, writing, hunting, hiking, and snowshoeing, but is usually too tired to do any of these, except for writing...

3 responses »

  1. Great article, thank you for your kind words and we hope to see you again next year, Rick & Connie of whittier decoys

  2. You have grown up to be such an amazing woman.


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