Never dismiss the power of hand-painted rocks, wooden cutting boards, and goat milk soap to create a day of happiness. On Nov. 20, artistic passion lured shoppers to the Crafty Chicks Road Show Craft Fair and Vintage Flea Market at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds in Angels Camp.
Over 80 artists, crafters, and vintage collectors displayed their wares in the Mark Twain Hall and along the grassy fairground path. Arts and crafts ran wild with wooden gnomes and hand-cut metal birds and bunnies. The scent of lavender candles and minty hand-poured soap mingled with the festive aroma of hot dogs and kettle corn. Happy chatter bubbled, and to judge by the parcels people carried, a fair amount of commerce took place.
The Road Show is the project of crafter and businesswoman Julie Douglas. When she moved from the Central Valley to Calaveras County, she “could not find a really good craft fair I could participate in,” she said from her downtown Angels Camp store, named Crafty Chicks & Co.
The Road Show first filled Angel Camp’s Utica Park in 2017. “It was the hottest day of the summer, August 11,” Douglas reminisced. To fill the park, she contacted crafters through social media, word-of-mouth, and personal connections. “I've been part of the crafting network for a long time. I ended up with about 45 vendors that first time. The park was full. I had live music. And people came and stayed all day in the heat. I could not believe it.”
The fair was so popular that she knew she needed a bigger venue. That November she moved the first holiday show to the fairgrounds, a choice that’s paid off. “It's an experience,” she said. “It’s a day out. They come, they shop, they have lunch, they have dessert, then they get back up and go finish their shopping. They make a day of it.”
The shops at the fair are varied and full of fun, with vendors from as far away as Nevada. About half the vendors are local. At Call Your Mom, owned by Mel Revell from Copperopolis, wooden signs painted with aphorisms veer into wry humor. “There are a lot of people who really enjoy snark,” said Revell, who calls herself “The Queen of Snark.” She looks for things that make her giggle, like a vintage drawing of a hen in pants laying an egg, or a statement of true love: I wouldn’t trade you for a box of kittens.
She said she’d always been creative, but it became a driving force in her life after her daughter left for college. “I had to do something, or I’d go crazy.” While she sells her work, she says, “It’s not about business for me. It’s all about the craft.”
Every crafter has a different purpose. For some, like Chelsea-Rose Delappe from San Andreas, her business Dose of Dirt is about creating sustainable work for women all over the world. She creates and sells crystal mobiles that combine slabs of cut polished crystals and uncut stones soldered onto copper wire.
“I teamed up with a group of women in South Africa that I met when I was there in nutrition school. I promote their products in the U.S.” According to Delappe, the crystals are sustainably sourced, in keeping with her business mission.
Sourcing materials also drives Copperopolis crafter Damien Bujwid as he searches for exotic and domestic hardwoods for his business, Bujwid’s Decorative Woodworking. More importantly, his business helps him focus on family.
Bujwid’s grandfather taught him the ancient craft of intarsia, a sort of inlay in which the wood is cut into pattern pieces, formed, sanded, then reconstructed to form a sculptural bas-relief.
The woodworking business grew from his family situation: His wife Rochelle is in the California Army National Guard. When the pandemic hit, Damien left his job in retail management to stay at home with their sons. In between providing at-home support for Rochelle’s career, he started up the woodworking business, creating U.S. flag wall hangings, elegant cutting boards, and recently learning how to operate a computer-controlled router to add text and images to his wooden creations.
Denise Wilson, owner of Old Fashioned Polly Farms (OFP Farms) and Meander Ranch Inc. in West Point has also faced a steep learning curve as she’s developed her bath and lotion products that come from her farm.
Wilson, who described herself as “a second-chance, skipped-generation farmer,” retired seven years ago from her day job, moved to West Point with her husband, started raising goats and learned to make goat-milk soaps and lotions with “donations” from the goats. Those products are now sold locally and across the U.S.
It’s not just goats that donated product to The Road Show. Vendors increased the feeling of fun as well as community by donating artwork to the popular fundraising raffle, competing to raise money for the Angels Camp Community Club to repair the Utica Park playground equipment.
According to Douglas, this year the raffle raised the most money in the 5 years the event has been running. Attendance was up, with nearly 2000 shoppers, and vendors reported their highest sales at the show.
During the event, Douglas announced that she would no longer be producing the fall Road Show in order to spend more time at her store—“my happy place,” she said—where she, daughter Natalie Ramos, and assistant Carla Santiago preside over 1400 square feet of gift items. She’d still produce the spring Road Show, but another business will take over the fall show going forward.
Artist Victoria Fout, from Angels Camp, said, “It’s a good show. I like the quality of vendors at this show. And I like the returning crowd.”
The next Crafty Chicks Road Show will be on April 9, 2022. For more information, follow on Facebook and Instagram.