Craft fair a big draw

Functional art continues to draw strong crowds regardless of a weak economy, say exhibitors gathered for the 15th-annual Our Best To You craft fair.

Ab Odnokon of Shell Lake

Functional art continues to draw strong crowds regardless of a weak economy, say exhibitors gathered for the 15th-annual Our Best To You craft fair.

Unsure of how well they would be received this year, the show’s owners and nearly 200 exhibitors found the crowds were as strong as last year and people’s spending habits hadn’t changed significantly.

The strong attendance was a great relief to people like Okotoks-based pencil artist Bernie Brown, who founded the show along with wife, Margie.

The show’s formula is based on finding a good selection of people working in wide range of median and then ensuring that they had items available in every price range from $5 to $5,000, Brown said from his booth on Saturday afternoon.

Woodworkers Ab and Shirley Odknokon from Shell Lake, SK have attended the show every year since its inception.

People were a little apprehensive for the first few years, because there was some perception that a craft show would offer little more than kitsch and the sort of handwork that anyone could do with a pattern and a little practice, said Ab.

As more people learned about the show, they discovered that it offers high quality fashions, gifts and personal care products, all made by the artists and artisans who tun the booths, he said.

Our Best To You is a juried show requiring that the people who make the goods must be in the booths for at least 50 per cent of the time, said Signature Shows co-owner Peter Harbic.

He and his partner, John Ladouceur, purchased the Red Deer event three years ago, intent on maintaining the standards the Browns had developed in its creation.

Among those standards, all products are made in Canada by Canadians, said Harbic.

Lacombe-based sculptor Sharon Boone and her partner, Nancy Cottrell brought their products in for the first time this year.

The two women work and offer instruction in a process that uses a product called Paverpol to stiffen fabrics into hardened and weatherproof forms.

While Cottrell’s work tends to be hefty with a look of power, Boone’s pieces are light and airy with lean elegance.

Some of the pieces are strictly decorative while others, such as Cottrell’s bigger-than-lifesized snail serve practical purposes.

Cottrell’s snail is a downspout holder — a sharp contrast to the light and whimsical female sculpture that Boone created for the same task.

Boone said the show has helped her and her partner exhibit their work and get the word out that they teach courses in Paverpol sculpture.

Paverpol can be whatever you want it to be, said Boone. But each piece needs advance planning so people need instruction to help understand how different fabrics behave, she said.

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