Town­ships Ar­ti­sans make Christ­mas shop­ping easy

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier

I don’t know why I used to look for­ward to go­ing Christ­mas shop­ping at the mall; ev­ery sea­sonal ex­cur­sion to that ‘mod­ern’ mar­ket­place ended badly: headachy, grumpy, ex­hausted, and never all that thrilled with my pur­chases. So this year, I

de­cided to fi­nally abol­ish that Christ­mas tra­di­tion and cre­ate a new one: do all my Christ­mas shop­ping at lo­cal craft fairs, buy­ing from lo­cal ar­ti­sans.

First stop was at a craft fair held in Way’s Mills over the weekend. There, I didn’t look over in­dus­tri­ally-made mer­chan­dise un­der cold, flu­o­res­cent light­ing, but rather pe­rused dozens of hand­made trea­sures and met the in­ter­est­ing peo­ple who made all the items, in some cases those peo­ple be­ing my neigh­bours.

What first caught my eye at the fair were the gleam­ing, turned, wooden bowls made by An­dré Laje­unesse who was stand­ing be­hind his ta­ble, ea­ger to share his pas­sion for wood­work­ing. Orig­i­nally from Saint Hu­bert, An­dré and his wife, Marcelle Briere, moved to Coat­i­cook about ten years ago and have both be­come ar­ti­sans in their ‘re­tire­ment’. “I saw a man from Wind­sor do­ing this kind of wood­work and I had to learn. So I took cour­ses in turn­ing wood and cab­i­netry,” ex­plained Mr. Laje­unesse. “As soon as we ar­rived in Coat­i­cook, a friend in the Cer­cle des Fer­mieres said ‘Come with me’. Now I have four looms at home,” said Marcelle who was sell­ing woven tea tow­els, blan­kets, and painted wooden boxes.

Another re­tired cou­ple, Jac­ques Girouard and Gaby Morin of Way’s Mills, make tra­di­tional look­ing and beau­ti­fully fin­ished pine fur­ni­ture as a hobby through­out the year, sell­ing only at the an­nual Way’s Mills Art Expo. “We like to use pine be­cause the wood is ac­ces­si­ble and it’s less ex­pen­sive. So peo­ple can af­ford the pieces,” said Mr. Girouard. And af­ford­able their pieces were, even cheaper than many fac­tory-made pieces of fur­ni­ture of much lower qual­ity.

The in­ge­nu­ity of craft- ers was on dis­play at the ta­ble of Chan­tale Bour­geois and her young daugh­ter, Sa­man­tha Pi­geon, of Ayer’s Cliff. “I made th­ese pen­cil cases and th­ese jean purses, out of old jeans,” said Sa­man­tha, a stu­dent at St. Barthelemy school. “I’ll have to ask my fa­ther for some of his jeans so I can make more next year,” she added. Sa­man­tha’s mother, Chan­tale, only had one re­ally nifty chalk­board place­mat left, hav­ing sold quite a few to happy grand­par­ents as ‘vi­sions of quiet grand­kids wait­ing for their din­ners while doo­dling danced in their heads’. I’ll go early and get some from her next year. Lovely knit mit­tens, in a fancy pat­tern I’d never seen be­fore, were also for sale at their ta­ble. “My great- grand- mother, Mar­garet Bat­ley, made th­ese mit­tens,” said Sa­man­tha.

Louise Bé­nard and Roger Blais, a cou­ple from East­man, had a col­or­ful and fragrant ta­ble of hand­made soaps, lo­tions, and soy can­dles. “Roger does all the wood­work for the soaps and I make all the prod­ucts,” said Louise as she had me try out her soothing, silky lo­tions on my chapped hands. A few stock­ing stuffers were picked up at their ta­ble.

Sit­ting be­hind a ta­ble over­flow­ing with hats, scarves, slip­pers, mit­tens and more were the four Mat­teau sis­ters from Barn­ston West, Coat­i­cook, Stan­hope and Way’s Mills. Th­ese four sis­ters are per­pet­u­at­ing a fam­ily skill that they learnt from their mother, get­ting to­gether reg­u­larly to knit to­gether. “We’ve shown our daugh­ters how to knit, and even a grand­son is learn­ing,” they com­mented.

Next stop for the day was the North Hat­ley Li­brary for the Christ­mas Art and Gift Ex­hi­bi­tion. “This show is re­ally a com­mu­nity ef­fort and we try to ac­com­mo­date lo­cal artists and ar­ti­sans liv­ing around the lake,” said Don­nie Rittenhouse, the li­brary vol­un­teer who or­ga­nizes the show. More than twenty lo­cal artists have their cre­ations on dis­play, from paint­ings, pot­tery and jew­elry to old-fash­ioned, wooden an­i­mal toys, the kind that come to life with their mov­ing joints when pulled by a string. A good sup­ply of knit goods cov­ered a small ta­ble, knit by lo­cal res­i­dent, ninety yearold Gla­dys Shar­man, who makes them through the year, then do­nat­ing them to the li­brary for the sale. This ex­hibit con­tin­ues un­til De­cem­ber 28th.

My shop­ping ex­cur­sion ended with a re­lax­ing drive through the coun­try­side home, no headache and no grum­bling, com­pletely happy with all my pur­chases. Luck­ily there are more craft fairs and Christ­mas mar­kets on the hori­zon, such as the Stanstead Christ­mas Mar­ket on De­cem­ber 7th, where I can fin­ish my hol­i­day shop­ping!

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Hus­band and wife team Marcelle Briere and An­dré

Laje­unesse dis­cov­ered their crafts af­ter mov­ing to the coun­try from the city.

Young Sa­man­tha Pi­geon, seen here with her mom, Chan­tale Bour­geois, mod­els a purse that she made from an old pair of jeans at the Way’s Mills Art Expo.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.