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Among a dozen wreaths circling Brenda Richardson's dining room is a piece of swag she created using greenery, red hollies, plaid ribbon and pine cones. It's her favorite piece.
”It's made to look like it's plucked out of the woods," she said.
Richardson is one of several Shelby County crafters whose works are decorating the homes of neighbors or are wrapped delicately to be given as gifts at Christmas.
You see their handiwork in gift shops, at fairs, community events and many other places year-around, but in December, their unique talents and personal passions are transformed into another segment of the Christmas retail shopping machine.
And there is no shortage of crafters in Shelby County.
Richardson sells mistletoe and mailbox swags at Hilltop Produce in Shelbyville, and she markets her wreaths on EBay and Etsy, a Web site dedicated to handicrafts.
She said sales have picked up following black Friday, and Richardson is awaiting the day her 16-month-old business becomes profitable. Still, this retired teacher said crafting fits her schedule as she cares for her 90-year-old mother.
"I knew I couldn't just retire and sit and watch soap operas," she said. "And I love the trade shows – meeting other vendors and eating funnel cake. I think I was a carny in another life."
Many of Richardson’s wreaths are ringed with her specialty item, silk amaryllis flowers. In fact, she said the wreaths grew out of a need for her to show what could be done with the flowers.
And she is resourceful, scouring Goodwill for unique castoffs, like a pair of decorative ice skates that were perfect for a winter wreath.
Crafter Debbie Hembree is a similar hunter, picking up random things here or there to use in her creations.
Hembree makes a little bit of everything: baskets and knitted scarves and children's books recycled into journals. She has a kiln in her basement to melt wine bottles into cheese trays.
"I'm always trying to find something new to do," she said.
Hembree's holiday crafts include several ornaments. She has taken vintage Christmas cards and a Christmas stamp, fixed them between glass and framed them in metal with beaded handles. She said another ornament, quite popular at the trade show Trims and Whims, is an angel. Her wings are stained glass and her skirt is a broken piece of plate.
Hembree has made a fluffy red tassel, affixed with a key and nameplate that says, "Santa's Key." This can hang on a door, Hembree said.
"Especially if you have no chimney for Santa to get in," she added.
Hembree's eclectic items are sold at Through the Looking Glass in Shelbyville and Damselfly Gallery in Midway. The homemaker said she does well enough for her crafts to pay for themselves.
Mindy Stella, a painter, sells only at Trims and Whims, an annual, two-day event sponsored by an educational sorority that draws hundreds of shoppers each November.
"It covers all my costs, and it makes my Christmas money," she said. "I had a great year this year. I only came away with one screen."
Stella has taken cast-ff screen and framed it, then painted snowmen on rice paper and decoupaged the images onto the screen.
A door-swag Santa marks the entry to Stella's office at the Shelby County School Board, where she serves as the student database manager. The Santa painted on a piece of wood, actually once a part of her husband's grandparents' shanty.
Her father, James Farris, cuts many of the wood pieces to size for her, such as the fat snowmen faces hanging from greenery banner. Their jolly smiles welcome you in from the cold.
"It's kind of my creative outlet," Stella said. "It’s [painting's] kind of come easy. I look for patterns and then tweak them to my look."