PORT AUX BASQUES, NL – There are always hidden gems at craft fairs – but some are more obvious than others.
At the Lions Club Christmas Craft Fair on Nov. 6 a trio of retired couples filled tables with their eye-catching wares.
Albert Osmond has a small, finely crafted clock on prominent display. A conversation with his wife, Bernice, revealed he once built a clock close to six feet tall, and that a four-foot model is at home on their living room mantle.
In fact, Albert has built a lot of their furniture, and has been crafting wood for over 40 years.
“I used to do model boats and duck decoy carvings,” said Albert, who still works as a school bus driver to help pass the time. “It’s a lot of work.”
Albert uses patterns but modifies them when he needs to. The six-foot clock he built has a domed ceiling and took almost a year and a half to complete.
“In the article when they advertised for this clock, it said if you could build a domed clock you could consider yourself a master scroll worker,” he said.
Albert built the clock but laughs and shrugs off the suggestion he’s a master.
Like many artists, he’s his own worst critic.
Bernice, who paints some of his pieces in addition to her own canvas paintings, is similarly modest. The couple is, unsurprisingly, each other’s biggest fan.
“She’s an artist herself,” said Albert, only to be immediately contradicted by his wife.
“I am not!”
Her paintings would suggest otherwise. She frets when he brings one out to share, and shakes her head when he talks about her stunning wolf in snow portrait. The wolf’s eyes follow the painting’s admirer everywhere around the room.
“That was just a fluke. I don’t know what I did.”
Bernice works from photographs, sometimes at her husband’s behest, like one she painted from his snapshot of a log cabin.
No less crafty are Alvin and Sharon Sheaves. Their table boasted a stunning collection of sealskin and fur pocketbooks, purses, jewelry and toasty warm mittens.
This was their second craft fair. They’ve only been making the purses for three years, but both have lifelong experience with sewing. Alvin sews the sealskin while Sharon makes the soft, colourful liners.
Initially they were buying sealskin from producers, but Alvin has opted to buy local.
“I can get just as good a quality down at Colemans grocery store,” he said. “But the leather? We bring the leather in from Alberta. We bring in the cow hide.”
While Alvin is retired, Sharon is still in the workforce. The couple takes pains to ensure their products are 100 per cent Canadian.
“Just something to fill the time,” said Alvin, who used to be a long-haul truck driver. He also does auto interiors, including car seat covers.
“We have been to Corner Brook for a craft fair,” said Sharon of their marketing approach, which seems to be primarily word of mouth. People tend to call them to place custom orders.
“We’ve sent the stuff to Alberta, Halifax,” said Alvin. “We’re always getting calls.”
For Millville farmers Judy and Harry Coates, the craft fair is an opportunity to have a little fun and sell off some extra vegetables and jams. The couple relocated to their little one-acre farm in the Codroy Valley in 2000 after retiring from teaching jobs. They also spent time working in Labrador. Judy is originally from Port aux Basques.
“We bought the place in the ‘70s as a summer home. We never intended to retire there,” said Judy. “We haven’t regretted it.”
Judy makes tasty green tomato chow, as well as jams and marmalades from the vegetables and berries they grow. The couple tends to sell them at a little kiosk on the side of the road.
“We have an honour system,” said Harry. “We put the stuff on the table and people pay what they want to pay into the bucket.”
Most people are fair. Said Harry with a laugh, “It works out for the customer!”
Theirs was one of the busier tables at the fair. Local produce is always popular and welcomed.
“It keeps us busy,” said Judy.
But for all three couples there seems to be a bit more to it than that.
Albert Osmond probably put it best. “It’s just a passion, right?”