Crafty Shopping

My husband and I had a hair-raising adventure on a Monday afternoon in mid-November.  We drove eastbound on the 401 across Toronto.

Our goal was to arrive back in Paradise (a.k.a.: Eastern Ontario) in one piece, so there wasn’t much gawping at the local scenery as we trekked across the city, even for me in  the passenger seat, but there was one sight that hauled my attention away from mentally helping my hubby drive through the nightmare that is the 401 and gave me pause:  the parking lot at the Yorkdale shopping mall was full.  The kind of full that means there are no parking spots anywhere  –  at all.  There were cars cruising the lot waiting for a sated shopper to leave so the inhabitants of said cars could have a turn at all the stores.  People were out in force.  Christmas shopping had begun.

I come from a family of avid shoppers.  In the olden days when department stores delivered things one had purchased directly to one’s door, Eaton’s and Simpson’s trucks were frequent visitors to our home.  The drivers would be delivering merchandise, and sometimes picking it up again to return it to the store after my mother had decided on the one lamp to keep out of the 14 that she had ordered.  “I have to see which lamp looks best in our living room,” my mother would explain.  “Those lights they have in the stores twist all the colours around.”

My mother is the family’s shopping matriarch, but her genes live in the rest of us.  There was some talk in our extended family a few years ago about giving up our Christmas Eve gift exchange.  We were at the point in our lives where our houses were full of stuff and none of us really needed or wanted anything.  Should our gift exchange die a timely death?  We played around with the idea  –  for seven seconds.  To this day, the gift exchange lives on, because there are members of our family who just can’t do Christmas without shopping for gifts.

Am I a shopper?  The very first word I was able to read at the tender age of 3 was the “SALE” sign on a shop window.  Draw your own conclusions.

I am also, however, an artist and like to give gifts crafted by myself or other local craftspeople.  This means you will probably not find my car among the hundreds in the parking lot at Yorkdale or any other shopping mall at Christmastime, but you will see me at local art and craft shows throughout the year displaying my own wares and perusing treasures made by other hands.  This is a different kind of shopping  –  a fulfilling kind of shopping  –  an experience.

Look for me.

I’ll be meeting the gentleman who carved the small wooden bowls I bought (one for a relative’s wedding gift and the other, a gift for me!) and he’ll tell me about the sugar maple burls he found from which these gems were made.

I’ll be hearing about alpacas from the lady who raises the animals and used their wool to knit my husband’s socks.

I’ll be buying stunning clay wine goblets in my favourite deep sage colour from a woman who is selling the last of her handmade pottery as well as her tools of her craft because The Arthritis won’t let her work with clay anymore.

I’ll be ordering a bone necklace from the young girl who will make one to fit my daughter’s tastes exactly.

I’ll be conversing with the watercolour artist as I admire his painting of an old barn door, listening to the story of why he came to paint it.

I’ll be hearing about a photographer’s journey into the cranberry bog down the road from his house and how he took a time lapse/zoom photograph to create a spectacular piece of art that will live with honour on my cousin’s living room wall.

I’ll be buying a tiny quilted angel decoration that will hang on my grandson’s first Christmas tree from the artist who has four grandsons herself, and an infant great-granddaughter way out in British Columbia who will be coming “home” for the first time at Christmas.

I’ll be stopping at The Honey Lady’s table to buy buckwheat honey for my tea, which I will drink while remembering my grandmother and how she would buy buckwheat honey by the pail and use it to bake the most decadent walnut torte.  I can smell it.

I’ll be visiting the Fudge Lady who does not play fair and puts several fudge samples out on a little white plate at the front of her table.  Over the years of frequenting these sales, I’ve learned that it’s pointless to fight temptation, and I buy a generous slab of maple fudge as I leave the community centre.  The Fudge Lady just smiles.

I’ll be shopping locally, supporting my fellow artists, buying Canadian and learning something about the people who have crafted these gifts, imbuing each piece I purchase with a little bit of life  –  its own story.

Christmas is coming, and the New Year follows smartly on its heels.  Do I find you in the throes of making lists of gifts you need to buy, and other lists of resolutions for bettering your lives in 2013?

Here we are in Small Town Ontario where artists and craftspeople abound.  May you resolve to seek them out at their studios, or at the plethora of craft shows that blanket our area each year.  May you acquaint yourselves with these creative people  –  your neighbours  –  and their work, and may you share their talent with the people in your world.


Crafty Shopping was published in The Scoop December 2012