The arrival of spring signals the beginning of festival season in north Georgia. This is the season for which most handmade artisans spend an entire winter preparing. We have been busy at our kitchen tables, in our craft rooms or in our garage workshops creating our labors of love. Many of us are working full-time jobs and raising families, so crafting is a part-time pursuit.
Though there are many men in our growing circles, most of us are women. Each of us has a passion for art and craft, and creating is the same as breathing — we can’t live without it. We spend years practicing and perfecting what we do. It’s our faces you see behind the craft tables under the little white tents at the farmer’s markets and festivals. Some of us travel only a short distance to participate in local events. Some of us will travel up to several hundred miles to attend larger events like state fairs and expos.
I’ve been part of the north Georgia festival circuit off and on since 2009. I have found it to be an interesting culture full of talented people who are at different levels of success. There are always a few who are just starting out, and they are the most fun to meet because their first-time enthusiasm is so refreshing. Then, there are the veterans of the crowd who have been working festivals most of their lives. Every now and then, one of them will be propelled into greater levels of success. They will carve out a niche in the retail world or in art galleries. There are still others who have found success by licensing their art to companies who use it to manufacture a unique line of products.
The success stories never cease to amaze me because of the process it takes to get there. Each person has been on a journey, and each journey is uniquely fascinating. What makes their stories so relate-able is that these are “real” people just like you and me. They took their dream, their talent — and usually a very small amount of money — and nurtured it until it grew into something bigger. Some have seemingly stumbled into success just by merely showing up. They truly did not know how talented they were or how well their handcrafts would be received. For most, it is a long, slow climb — but with never a dull moment, to be sure.
As for me, art and crafting has opened doors that I would never have known existed. These have enabled me to meet so many people from all walks of life. I’ve discovered things about myself that I never knew. My place in the handmade world seems to be that of an encourager and sometimes-mentor. I get a particular thrill out of watching these women gain confidence and begin to spread their entrepreneurial wings. When they finally take off and fly, my heart rejoices.
This spring marks my return to the festivals after a nearly three-year hiatus. I had to lay down most of my crafting endeavors while I was recuperating from BELL’S PALSY. My vision was affected for almost a year, and my facial appearance was somewhat grotesque. It was difficult to spend time out in the sunlight much less spend it in front of crowds of people. I am not entirely healed from Bell’s palsy, but I have been able to return to crafting. My appearance is more normal, and I am less self-conscious. Not to mention that I have since dropped about 70 lbs of weight! In a sense, I have been in training for the past year in preparation for my comeback.
I am pacing myself this year and have, so far, only signed up for two events. The first will be on May 5 at the Jaemor Farms’ Strawberry Festival. The second event is the weekly White County Farmer’s Market in Cleveland, Georgia, which starts on June 16. Though I have been invited to participate in all 15 weekly markets, I am going to take it a week at a time to get back into the swing of things. I may also do the Agri-Fest in September — also in Cleveland — and possibly one or two fall events. If you would like to stay informed of my festival and market appearances, click on the LOCAL EVENTS tab at the top of the page. Or sign-up for my FREE E-NEWSLETTER to receive notifications in your e-mail inbox.
If you see me at one of these festivals, be sure to stop by my booth and introduce yourself. I would love to meet you in person and give you a great big hug!
Until next time! ~ Susan