By CHRISTINA M. CURRIE
Daily Press writer
The pine needle baskets that Craig resident Shirley Fuller calls "absolutely beautiful" are a product of tradition. The creation of the baskets is a skill passed from mothers to daughters and has resulted in a heritage of craftsmanship that has not only linked a family, but has been profitable, too.
Fuller, her mother and her sister sell the baskets, ceramics and pottery at craft fairs around the country and their next display will be in Craig at the annual holiday craft fair sponsored by the Centennial Mall Merchant's Association.
The craft fair will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Centennial Mall.
"It's a lot of fun to do," Fuller said. "It gives us some extra spending money and it's fun to meet different crafters."
The Centennial Mall Merchant's Association has sponsored the craft fair for more than a decade as a way to give people a chance to shop for the unusual.
"The Craig trade area is limited and this fair gives people more of a choice," said mall Manager Vicki Hall. "I think people really look forward to the show."
The fair also increases foot traffic in the mall.
"Hopefully, it will help mall merchants as well," Hall said.
Nancy Armbruster, owner of Nancy's Cards and Gifts is in a flurry of preparations for the weekend event, which she said benefits all the mall merchants.
"It brings people to the mall," she said. "It's good for business."
More than 70 vendors will display their wares in the mall's common areas, offering handmade crafts and foods ranging from Greek treats to English toffee and from birchbark mirrors to Russian crafts. Vendors from Northwest Colorado will be on hand, as well as some from southern Wyoming and from as far away as California.
"There's just an amazing variety," Hall said. "These people work very hard to make these things. We see a lot of different things you can't buy from stores."
And after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Hall also sees the craft fair as a way to increase American pride.
"Buy American," she said.
Most craft fair merchants are looking to turn a profit, like Sylvia Fread, who sells her painted ceramics not only to make money, but to increase awareness of her Craig business, where she sells unpainted ceramics and offers painting classes.
Other merchants, like Fuller, participate because they enjoy the camaraderie.
"It's fun to meet different crafters," she said. "This gives you a chance to meet people from other places."
Sometimes Fuller turns around and uses the money made selling pine needle baskets to purchase crafts from other vendors. Often they trade, she said.
"There are some people that this is their life. They just go from town to town to town," she said.
The Centennial Mall Merchant's Association rents out booth space to crafters. The profits are used to advertise craft fairs, including a senior citizen and non-profit group craft fair which will be Dec. 8. Proceeds are also used to pay Santa Claus for visiting the mall in December.
"This is definitely a fundraiser," Hall said.
"There are a lot of talented people in Craig and Moffat County," Armbruster said. "This is a good way to show off their talents and help them make a little money, or a lot of money."