June 21, 2014

Modesto Library launches new craft fair, draws lots of teen talent

Dozens of 13- to 18-year-olds set up shop on the portico of the Modesto Library on Saturday for its first All Teens Craft Fair.

Just yards away from the Modesto Certified Farmers Market vendors peddling their produce, cheeses, baked goods and more on Saturday morning was a parallel row of young people proudly selling goods that they, too, grew or made.

“All of the food, you can buy as much as you want, and it doesn’t add any calories,” Rebekah Herink could be heard telling a couple of shoppers who stopped at her display.

“It’s a great source of fiber,” she told another.

Thing is, the fiber is yarn, and while Rebekah’s “food” is lovely to look at, it wouldn’t go down well at all.

Rebekah, a home-schooled 17-year-old from Antioch, was among dozens of 13- to 18-year-olds who set up on the portico of the Modesto library for its first All Teens Craft Fair.

On her table and an adjacent rack were a great variety of pieces she crocheted, among them necklaces, hats, footbags, little flowers and butterflies that could be worn in the hair or on a hat or top, and that adorable food. She had little bags of crocheted cookies, and stuffed fruits and cupcakes that are purely decorative or can be used as pincushions.

About 25 tables were set up for the fair, several shared by more than one young crafter. The array of items for sale, all $10 or under, included jewelry; stationery; wallets, flowers and other duct-tape crafts; knitting; customized buttons; even creatively potted plants.

The latter were offered by 15-year-old Grace Avila, a sophomore at Enochs High School. Planted in cans painted with female faces, her succulents gave the impression of Carmen Miranda-like hats and cascading hair.

Grace initially was decorating painted cans with beads and such, for use as pencil holders, and says her creative mom is the one who suggested “it would be supercool” if she began painting faces on the cans and making them into planters. A talented artist who has participated in the Central California Art Association’s Young Masters (now Young at Art) show, Grace also was selling greeting cards adorned with her illustrations.

Down the portico, another young artist was offering on-the-spot anime. Gregori High freshman Sabrina Yang, 14, would take a customer’s photo on her tablet, then draw and color their picture while they shopped the rest of the fair. She’s been drawing for much of her life but has been doing anime – she describes the style as “a cutesier, cartoonier version of a person” – for just a couple of years.

Sabrina was inspired to do the craft fair by the caricature booths that are popular in San Francisco, Santa Cruz and other tourist spots.

“I knew this day was coming, and that I’d have to be able to do it fast, so I’ve been practicing.” Less than 90 minutes into the fair, she was hard at work on her first sale. She’s able to do the sketch in about six minutes, she figures, and needs 10 to 12 more to do the coloring.

Many of the teens who participated in Saturday’s event also have taken part in the Stanislaus County Library’s long-running All Kids Craft Fair, which is held the second Saturday in October. One aim of the All Teens Craft Fair is to give youth who’ve aged out of the younger fair an opportunity to keep going with their work, said library assistant Michele Machado. “It (the All Kids Fair) ends at 14, and this starts at 13, so there’s some overlap.”

She also noted there aren’t many venues for kids and teens to sell what they make, and the library fairs are free – no charge for table space like in many arts and crafts events – so the youth keep everything they earn. The library staff also recognizes that the business half of the fairs is just as important as the artistic side. Kids take away valuable lessons on how to handle money and interact with customers. They learn how much to charge for their creations – lowering prices, perhaps, if sales aren’t good, or raising them next time around if in hindsight they were offering too much of a “steal.”

Grace, trying to raise some money to go to church camp next week, was selling her plants for $3 and $2, depending on size, and her cards for $1. “I originally came in thinking, ‘I need to make this certain amount of money.’ But I had a change of heart, to wanting people to see, ‘This is Grace’s stuff.’ I want to be famous someday,” she said, smiling broadly. “And I have so much fun making this stuff.”

Rebekah, an accomplished crocheter after taking it up just a couple of years ago (she bought a simple kit and learned from watching YouTube videos), clearly loves the craft but also is socially minded. By selling her work at her church and to fellow church youth group members, she raised $1,000 for World Vision’s 30 Hour Famine program. It sponsors children in South Sudan and other parts of the word to end hunger, she said.

As for Riverbank resident Annie Cole, who was selling duct tape and cloth wallets, bracelets and stationery, “I’m really interested in business, so I like finding good deals on my supplies. But I also really like making crafts.” The 14-year-old Connecting Waters Charter School student sells on the online marketplace Etsy, participated in the All Kids Craft Fair and has taught duct-tape crafts through 4-H.

What’s she doing with the money she makes?

“I’m really focused on college,” she said. “You’re not going to pay for college through craft fairs,” she knows, but every bit helps.

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