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Crafty kids get creative, earn some cash

Gather up your ones, fives and change, because the All-Kids Craft Fair returns to the portico of the downtown Modesto library Saturday.

For well over 30 years, the October fair has let children express their talent, learn some basic business skills, make some money and have fun. And it’s given shoppers a steal on some creative, genuinely well-made gift items as the holiday season approaches.

About 125 children ages 6 to 14 have signed up to sell crafts they’ve made, all priced at $5 or less. “We ask families to keep crafts under $5 because people who shop want to do so at as many kids’ tables as they can,” said Amber O’Brien-VerHulst of the Stanislaus County Library’s children’s department, who organizes the fair.

One of the aims of the fair, which runs from 9 a.m. to noon, is to help children learn about pricing, advertising, customer service and handling money. In pricing items, the kids are encouraged to think about how much the materials cost, how much their time is worth and how much a person might be expected to pay for the craft.

The rules are few. The key one is that children should, as much as is safe, make the products themselves. If there’s sawing or drilling or hot-gluing, it’s OK for an adult to do that work.

O’Brien-VerHulst said she understands parents wanting to help kids make nice-looking items, but there have been some cases in the past where clearly crafts were largely adult-made. “If it looks plausible that the kid could have done it, fine,” she said. “But if it clearly is an adult-made craft appealing to adults, we’ll ask them to put it away.”

The fair draws some truly talented crafters, she said, but younger kids sometimes make things that simply aren’t as desirable to customers. Still, library staff and goodhearted shoppers try to make sure each child sells at least a bit.

“It’s not perfect, but we try to keep it as even as we can because it can be frustrating to go there and sell little or nothing,” O’Brien-VerHulst said.

Who keeps tabs on how well tables are doing? “That would be me, visiting tables, keeping an eye on things.” If she notices children getting no business, well, “I spend way too much at craft fairs,” she puts it. And she’ll suggest to other staffers that they might help out a kid a bit.

One neat thing that’s happened organically at the fair, O’Brien-VerHulst said, is that if children haven’t sold out, they often barter with fellow crafters. “It’s sort of, ‘This is how much I think my craft is worth, what do you think yours is worth?’ ” she said, so, perhaps, a couple of bookmarks are swapped for a greeting card.

She said she tries to make clear to kids that it’s an opportunity but not an expectation. “Some kids might feel pressured if they spent a lot of time and money on their craft,” she said. “As long as both kids are happy about it,” that’s what matters, and “each group should have a responsible adult there.”

What should shoppers expect at the fair? “It’s always held this time of year, which is perfect for stocking stuffers, so a lot of kids do cards and bookmarks. Some kids do art. ‘Minecraft’ is going to be big this year,” O’Brien-VerHulst said, knowing that because she asks applicants what they anticipate selling.

Children from all over Stanislaus County – and even beyond – are participating. “I have somebody signed up from Pinecrest,” O’Brien-VerHulst said. “Mostly it’s Modesto families, but we have a lot from Riverbank and a nice contingent from Patterson.”

Here’s a look at what kids from three families have in store for their stores:

Abby Reyes

Riverbank resident Abby, a 6-year-old second-grader at Summit Charter Academy, is making three crafts: tiny succulent planters from drilled-out wine corks, glued to magnets so they can go on a fridge; bookmarks of ribbon and paper clips; and hair clips of colorful yarn glued into spiral designs.

What has she learned? “That you have to pay attention to who’s showing you how to do it,” she said.

Abby’s also been taught some business basics. Figure out what you spent on materials, she said, and how much time you spent making the craft, then “add them together to see what price you get. … You’re trying to make money.”

Materials didn’t cost much – nothing, really, for Abby, since mom Rebecca Ramirez bought everything. Even then, Ramirez said, she got all the corks at a yard sale for a total of $1. “And we try to do a lot of upcycling in our house anyway,” she added, noting that the tin cans used in a craft last year were simply from food already consumed.

Abby’s likely prices at the fair will be $1 for bookmarks, $2 for planter magnets and $2 for hair clips, which were the most time-consuming because she had to get the yarn spirals just right before gluing them.

Abby is doing as much of the work as she can. Her grandfather drilled the corks and her mom operated the hot glue gun.

The Frey family

Five of the nine Frey siblings of Modesto plan to enter crafts in the fair. The oldest hadn’t settled earlier this week on what she’ll sell, but younger brothers and sisters had projects well underway. The children all are home-schooled.

▪ Maggie: The 11-year-old is making craft-stick dolls decorated with gel paint and adhesive fabric tape with patterns on it. She’s also used craft sticks to make catapults that launch paper wads, and she’s made slime from glue, corn starch and yellow food coloring, then packaged it to resemble the popular Minions characters.

Maggie expects to charge 50 cents for the dolls and $1 for the Minions slime. She’s undecided on the catapult price.

▪ Michael: Craft sticks have been painted by the 10-year-old into bookmarks with popular characters from “Star Wars,” the Avengers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Pokémon. He’s well on his way to making roughly 150 of them, which he’ll sell for 50 cents. The bookmarks sell well, Michael said. Last year, he sold all but a few Avengers sticks.

▪ Brigid: The still-hot Disney movie “Frozen” is the theme of the 8-year-old’s two crafts. She’s painting craft-stick bookmarks of royal sisters Anna and Elsa and using heat-fusible beads to create ornaments of Anna, Elsa, Olaf the snowman, a snowflake and the title “Frozen.” She plans to make a total of 50 and charge $1 apiece.

▪ Brendan: The family’s youngest crafter, 6, is making squishy jack-o’-lanterns using orange balloons and homemade play dough. He’s making the dough from corn starch, water and hair conditioner, and also drawing the faces. But getting that dough into the balloons is a two-person job, so mom Michelle’s been helping with that. Brendan plans to sell his works for 50 cents.

The Scheg sisters

▪ Anna: The 12-year-old sixth-grader, who is home-schooled through Great Valley Academy, is making candleholders decorated with glass beads. The craft fair first-timer found the idea on Pinterest. She may charge $5 for the crafts, given that the holder, beads and hot glue add up to about $2.50 in materials for each, and it takes her up to 40 minutes to make one.

“This is the first time I’ve actually done crafts,” Anna said. “... My sister is more creative than anyone in the family, I think.”

▪ Adeline: The 7-year-old GVA second-grader loves to draw and paint, and the framed pieces in the family home are beautiful. But the time that goes into that work doesn’t make it suitable for the low-price fair.

So instead, Adeline is submitting folded “Minecraft” animals and building blocks she created from a kit. Some are more complex than others, but she and her mom, Christy, hope to settle on one low price for each. They hadn’t yet decided what that would be.

Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327

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