Article and Photos by Alice Gerard
Senior Contributing Writer
Julia Nowak, an artist from Amherst, said she loves transforming old compact discs, DVDs and vinyl records into clocks of various sizes, each with a different abstract pattern. She creates her clocks with a technique called fluid art. Fluid art is an abstract painting technique that involves the use of fluid art mediums, such as acrylic paints.
“I take CDs and records, and then I use acrylic paint and a lot of different additives to do what we call a paint pour or fluid art,” Nowak said. The clocks are coated with an epoxy resin for durability and a hole is drilled in the center, and the clock mechanisms are attached to them.
“I really like something that serves a purpose and looks really pretty,” Nowak said. “If you look at it, it’s all about design and composition and color, not so much drawing a figure or a person. I love making the clocks because I’m big on functional art.”
Nowak was one of approximately 50 vendors at the Grand Island craft fair, held Sept. 2 on the front lawn of Island Presbyterian Church, 1822 Huth Road.
Carolyn Beard, the new pastor, helped organize the Grand Island craft fair.
“I didn’t know if there were any craft fairs on the Island,” she said. “I thought that we have this beautiful lawn and that it might be a nice thing to offer, to offer our space and have local makers and crafters and vendors come out and showcase their crafts.”
Beard is currently working on her doctorate in religion at the University of Toronto and hopes to be ordained in the next year. She said, “I feel really grateful to have the opportunity to walk with the different folks in our community, to build community, to have relationships with all the different folks here.”
Grace Spriggs displays some of the crafts she offered for sale.
This fair, which Beard described as a community-building event, was a few years in the making. Former pastor Cathy Rieley-Goddard explained, “We talked about this last year, and we never got around to doing it. So, it’s been two years in the making, and now, Carolyn has gotten it going. We’re really glad about that.”
Nowak said her art journey began at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
“One of my classes was a fine arts class in which we had to draw live nude models,” she said. “We had this very handsome, very well-built man with lots of muscles. It was very difficult to draw him because he was so flat and perfect. By the next week, we had a well-endowed oversized woman. She came in and, wow, I could draw her. It was awesome. At that time, you’re thinking, that’s kind of cool. You can appreciate different figures on people.
“I learned through that I am not a fine artist. I’m all about design and composition and color. I was actually studying graphic arts. I worked in that field for quite a while. Then I had kids, a family. I wasn’t doing any artwork. Now that my kids are in college and out of college, I decided to go back to art. I don’t know exactly how it started. Everything just developed from one thing to another. I absolutely love fluid art.”
In July, Nowak was invited to exhibit her clocks at the Allentown Art Festival in Buffalo.
She said exhibiting there for the first time “felt like an honor. I’ve been going to the Allentown Art Festival for probably 40 years. I was really excited just to be accepted into the show. It was my best show that I’ve done in terms of how much I sold. It was so nice. Everybody was so complimentary. That was something I really enjoyed.”
Another crafter at the Grand Island Craft Fair, Courtney Stacey-Mock, was selling the wreaths that she designs. She said, “The wood comes from our family land. We recut it and repurpose it, and I use it for the wreaths. I do get the grape vines premade, but I decorate them. It is a lot of work; (it takes) probably one to two hours (to make a) wreath.”
Stacey-Mock described wreath-making as therapeutic and “anxiety relieving. It keeps me grounded.
“Wreaths are my main thing. I do hook sets, as well. Some plaques, but mostly, the wreaths. I have been doing this since 2017. I found it in an old book of my grandma’s. Then I started doing it, and I started making it my own.”
Grace Sprigg, who also was selling handmade wreaths and other crafts, said she especially likes the wreaths made from clothespins: “I like the clothespin ones because I can paint them individually. I like doing those because you can do any holiday.”
Sprigg also designs decorative trees, using beads and ornaments and other things that she collects, as well as a variety of other crafts. In addition, she brought a few Santas to display and to sell at the craft fair. She said she enjoys crafting because “It’s relaxing. I’m retired, and it gives me something to do. I used to work for a financial planner, an investment company, for 20-some years.”
Lockport resident Michelle Ebanks had skin care products for sale. She has been making them for eight years.
“I started out because my son has really bad eczema,” she said. “It was something he could use, and it smelled good, too. That’s how we became.”
She said she enjoys the process of making her products: “I like creativity. I like watching people smell them and their response. It’s just fun. I enjoy using the products because I get to make fragrances that aren’t in the store. I get to pick and choose what I want, when I want.”
Sterling Carroll, who came to the craft fair to help Ebanks sell her skin care products, said, “I like meeting new vendors and new people and having them try different products that we sell so they can get the experience of the products. I like the engagement. It’s almost like being in a store. You can actually engage with people.”
Emily Walters, who owns Island Sweet Treats, said the Grand Island craft show was her first.
“I make everything you could possibly think of,” she said. “Custom cakes, cupcakes, muffins. Cookies. Any treat. I started this year when I was at home with my newborn, and I turned it into a business.”
She said she likes “the joys of feeding people my sweet, delicious treats,” as well as taste-testing her baked goods.
“I want people to come back and say it’s delicious and that they want more,” Walters said.
Abi Walters, Emily’s sister, said, “This event has a diverse group of vendors. I love it. It’s been really good. I’m glad we’ve been able to be a part of this. I hope this continues further. There are a lot of locals here.”
Sterling Carroll and Michelle Ebanks show some of the skin care products that Ebanks formulates.
Stacey-Mock said, “Everybody’s stuff is great. I am glad that it’s on the Island. It’s very community-oriented. That’s kind of nice.”
Nowak said, “I’ve met a lot of people. I’m enjoying it. I’ve enjoyed all the people I’ve met, and I appreciate being invited to the event.”
Beard said, “It’s been so nice to meet a lot of different people – not just the vendors, but all the folks coming through with their kids and families. We have folks coming from all over the greater Buffalo area, and that’s been really nice.”
A crafter who likes to knit, crochet and paint, Beard said, “We are definitely hoping to be able to host the fair next year and invite maybe even more vendors and get the word out so (people) can come out and support these amazing makers.”