The Craft Fair as a Nature Meditation

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”  — Albert Einstein

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” —  Rachel Carson

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” – William Shakespeare

Earrings by Cheryl Jacobs
Earrings by Cheryl Jacobs

The connection between contemplating nature and doing your shopping at the Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair may not be immediately obvious, but let me make a case for it: the Fair is, in its own way, an enchantingly beautiful invocation of the natural elements.

Earth is predominant. A crystalline-glazed vase, a two-foot in diameter wine-red platter, a leaf-patterned tea mug – all tell a story of mud, transformed through human hands and imagination into art. And the earth element shines, literally, in the metals and stones used by the fair’s many jewelers.

Water shows up in artisanal teas from wildcrafted plants, and wine from local vineyards. Also, scented soaps, lotions, and cosmetic oils invoke the warm soothing waters of a bath where we can pamper ourselves with products made from natural, locally-sourced ingredients.

Fire collaborates with earth in the ceramic arts, and also provides the transformative power found in glass arts and metalwork. The fire of the sun is also captured in dried flowers arranged as ornaments or made into teas.

Denman Island Craft Fair artist Fern Niedermoser
Fern Niedermoser’s fragrant soaps are made with farm-fresh goat milk

And air? You can’t make crafts out of air, but you can smell it in the many luscious scents of the fair: rose and sandalwood, espresso and hot apple cider, beeswax and fir sap. You can see its movement in the fluttering of a hand-dipped candle flame, and hear its vibrations as you listen to local children playing mandolin outside the Community Hall.

Nature is everywhere: the forest manifests in exquisite wooden bowls, boxes and baskets. The animals that graze Denman’s fields contribute, whether via a pair of woollen socks, hand-knitted by the farmer who raised the sheep, or an irresistibly cute little needle-felted mouse. Denman’s gardens provide big firm garlic heads for braids; fruit for jams; and hot peppers for salsas and relishes.

By gathering together so many beautiful objects that come directly from the earth, craft fairs reconfigure our relationship with shopping, with the objects we use for play, utility and pleasure. The fair offers a welcome counterpoint to the disconnect created by global mass-production, and it brings our relationship with stuff a few satisfying steps closer to sustainable.

In a world where “nature deficit disorder” is a recognized syndrome associated with a host of physical, mental and social problems, taking part in a craft fair, as a vendor or shopper, feels ever more meaningful.

Originally published in The Island Word, November 2017

photos by Fireweed