Exotic crafts displayed at the Harborfields Library

By Janelle Pottinger, Jedine Daley and Fred Wu

An elephant necklace fashioned from a silver fork hung around a black velvet darice. A wine cork with a deep blue colored stone in the middle, which started out as a rock, sparkled when the light hit it. A bright blue painting of a flower with a mint green background stood out amongst the other paintings. The distinct scent of sweet-orange bath bombs, and pumpkin-peppercorn soaps lured customers in. Jewelry, paintings, handbags, all handmade, were lined out on tables ready to be bought.

The two-day holiday craft fair, which started on Friday and ended on Saturday, celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Some 50 vendors set up shop in the library, Susan Hope, the adult program coordinator for the HarborFields Library, said. 

Locals can come into the library and purchase whatever items interest them via cash or online transactions. Most vendors offered mobile payment via Square, along credit card options.

“My concern when I first came here was do they accept some form of remote payment ike do they have access to Square, PayPal and most vendors did and I thought that was great because it made me more willing to purchase items,” Robert DeStefano, a customer at the fair, said. 

Jewelry made of utensils, bowls, wine corks, body washes, and bath bombs could be purchased at the fair. Every item was created by the hands of the person smiling from behind their booth as people admired their work. Vendors also sold necklaces with stones from Ethiopia and other parts of the world.

“This is important to me because it’s local, and I have four kids in the Harborfields school district, so I’ve been taking my children to this library for about 17 years,” Dana Porciello, a vendor at the event, said. “It’s nice to be showing my work in a local setting. Before the holidays, a lot of people buy, but after the holidays, I’m not sure how the business will go.” 

The total size of the U.S. creative industry was worth $43.9 billion in 2017, according to research by the Association for Creative Industries. This was a 45 percent increase from 2011. Online websites such as Etsy and eBay, allow artisans and craftsmen to sell products online. This has increased the market size. 

Since the library itself is not allowed to rent out space, this event happens through the non-profit organization, the Friends of the Library, who fundraise to host it each year. Each vendor at the craft fair is required to pay a fee to the Friends of the Library in order to display their work at the fair. The organization then uses the money to help provide funds that the library’s regular operating budget cannot.

“The Friends of the Library funded our entire museum pass program, and they provide the prizes for our summer reading program, which is one of the best in Suffolk County, and we cannot have our taxpayers paying for prizes,” Hope explained.  

Vendors gave detailed descriptions for each bright and colorful paintings of flowers, each piece of jewelry. There were necklaces of all colors, some made out of silverware.

“I make all the metal out of English silverware, spoons, forks, and knives,” Jodi Prendergast, a jeweler, said. “The beaded necklaces I never duplicate, so they are always one of a kind.” 

A handful of the vendors sell and create their items for a living while this is a hobby for the rest. Some vendors have full-time jobs outside of creating crafts. 

“This is a hobby, I own a gym, but I live in the area, and I thought this would be a good venue [to showcase my products] and would be good for the community,” Catherine Stratton, another vendor who specializes in soaps, said.

The fair also featured pieces from Dylan Thompson, a painter who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a disease that weakens his muscles. Thompson creates his pieces using Photoshop to bring to life his hand drawings, he said. These are used to create greeting cards and canvasses portraying his work. 

“It takes me a few hours or a day [to complete a piece],” Thompson said. “I’ve been doing this for six years now.”

The library doesn’t charge him to set up a table, and his profits go towards his treatment, Hope said. 

The event gives craftsmen and craftswomen the opportunity to make a living from their talent.  

“This used to be a side job until they eliminated my department last July. I was in medical sales, and I did this for fun,” Porciello said. “When they eliminated my department, I picked up a lot of events like this, and now I’m doing better than I was at my old job.”