Several years ago, Tonia Parshall bore a son who came into the world with spina bifida, a condition that prevented healthy development of his spinal chord.
He died when he was 30 hours old.
“When my son died, I really needed something to do with my hands,” she said. “It relieves stress.”
Her tinkering and artistic outlet has taken her to countless craft shows in Northwest Colorado, where she sold her jewelry, dolls and figurines, and where she said she discovered the need for a local store to showcase handmade goods from across the region.
Parshall and her husband, Vince, have talked about opening a consignment store for local artists for years, a dream they finally realized Dec. 1 when they opened Little Bear Creations in Craig.
Located in Centennial Mall, Little Bear Creations features jewelry, decorations and trinkets made by Tonia Parshall and other local artists. It is, as they dreamed, a sort of stationary craft fair open year-round.
“We’re just happy to get some local artists involved and get their stuff and get it sold,” Vince Parshall said. “The nice thing is that almost everything in here has been handmade by someone.”
So far, the store showcases lamps made of elk and deer antlers, chainmail jewelry by Lori Campos, candles made in Steamboat Springs and Tonia Parshall’s handmade dolls.
The dolls, called Tonia’s Tootsies, are just one of her creative outlets she has used to pass time since she was a young girl.
“I’ve always been able to see something, think about it and be able to make it,” she said. The dolls, which have wild, crimped hair and patchwork clothes, are a remnant of her childhood in the 1960s.
“It’s a statement, sometimes, of how I feel,” she said. “I don’t really wear a lot of bright colors because they don’t look good on me. But I think people look at them and see a bit of themselves in them.”
She thinks that even pieces of art have something alive in them, whether it’s a piece of the artist or something lingering in the raw materials themselves.
It’s these spirits that Tonia Parshall thinks is causing the strange occurrences in the glass display case in the back of the store.
Tonia Parshall said trays of jewelry sometimes flip over on their own, spilling pendants and earrings onto the shelf below, even when no one is standing nearby.
It could be a ghost, she said, or perhaps spirits living in the materials that make up some of the jewelry.
“Something is not very happy with me here,” she said, placing bundles of sage inside the display case with her ringed fingers, which she hopes will appease whatever is at unrest.
As the Parshalls expand, they hope to fill the walls with locally made paintings and help provide a brick-and-mortar outlet for local artists who work from their homes and follow the stressful path of craft fair tours.
And, as Vince and Tonia Parhsall settle into their new business and find more local artists to work with, they hope the spirits in the glass case will be calmed, as well.