Thursday, November 30, 2023
After many happy years of painting and crafting together, the group still enjoys hosting their annual craft show. Pictured above, from left to right in the front row, are current group members Nancy Kepka, Patty Hocking, Mary Trautman and Deb French. In the second row are Mandra Peterson, Rose Halla and Melanie Teders. In the back row is Nancy Penning. Nancy Nelson, Katie Ladwig, Becca Penning. Kathy Grenier and Denise Running are not pictured.

Friendship keeps local craft show going strong for 20 years

What began with a shared love of painting has now grown into a multi-generational event that’s garnered a loyal following. 

This year, the Creative Crafts show celebrates its 20th anniversary. 

The Creative Crafts event will take place on Saturday, Nov. 7, from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Warsinski Chalet in Owatonna’s Morehouse Park (350 West School Street). A group of friends hosts the event, and each person brings their own creations, which are all homemade, to share and sell. In addition to free coffee and bars, visitors will find an impressive assortment of crafts, ranging from painted pieces to jewelry, and a little bit of everything in between. The group also hosts a “make and take” class during the show, inviting guests of all ages to join them in making a fun craft that they can take home. There will even be hourly door prizes. 

“Over the years, crafters have come and gone,” said Patty Hocking, one of the original six crafters who began hosting the event. Five of the six original crafters still attend the event each year. The group has fun getting together, sharing their creations and simply enjoying one another’s company. 

“I can never remember any of us having arguments or words with each other, even after all these years,” said crafter Nancy Penning, another original group member. 

The original six women began meeting on a regular basis to take painting classes with artist Nancy Nelson around 1993. Some of the women were co-workers, while others had children who attended the same school. Together, the painters would practice “pattern painting,” or painting wooden cutouts, step-by-step. Painter Eunice Seykora began to enlist help from her husband, Al, to cut out the wooden pieces they needed. 

The group soon found that they enjoyed their monthly classes so much, they decided to continue meeting longer than they originally planned. The original group included Nancy Penning, Nancy Nelson, Deb French, Patty Hocking, Eunice Seykora and Denise Running. 

“We would meet once a month at Nancy Nelson’s house,” said Hocking. “She had this small room in her basement with a painting table, and she would have all our cutout patterns for us and then she would show us how to make the brush strokes, shading, floating… all the different ways of painting.  It was only supposed to go on for a short time, and all these years, we’ve never stopped getting together. We don’t get together to paint projects any more, but we still get together to do craft shows.”

After about two years of painting together, Nancy Nelson suggested that the group hold a sale together because they were producing so many nice things. (Patty and Nancy Penning, however, are quick to note that they still felt like novices when comparing their own work with Nancy Nelson’s.) 

The group hosted its first show in 1995 at the “community building” at the Steele County Fairgrounds. The group hosted the event there for around three years before relocating to the Chalet at Morehouse Park. 

One year, a flood drenched the city, and the group held its event at a golf course, instead. The next year, the group returned to the Chalet once again, and have held the annual event there every year since. “The atmosphere of the Chalet is warm and wonderful,” Hocking said. “It’s cozy and rustic.”

 Over time, the painters progressed from “simple” pattern paintings (even the simplest patterns still require finesse and great attention to detail) to more elaborate works. Many of the original painters have now learned to paint freehand or have branched into new mediums. 

Nancy Nelson now makes a variety of items, including blankets, aprons and jewelry. Patty Hocking and Nancy Penning enjoy repurposing pieces of wood and other items and turning them into new works of art. An old chair, box or even a discarded window screen might become a source of inspiration for the two artists, who are constantly taking on new challenges and projects. 

“What one person might throw away, we will be quick to grab to make it into something,” said Hocking, with a laugh. 

As the friends have grown in their craft, they’ve also worked to use their talents to help others. “We firmly believe in giving back to the community,” Penning said, explaining that the crafters are happy to make pieces for silent auctions, benefits and other causes. 

“Whether it’s individual benefit for cancer or group, if there’s a need and we know how to fill it, we’ll help,” said Hocking. “Our group is very giving.” The group also volunteers its time to help with events, like the upcoming Festival of Trees, whenever possible.

Some members of the group are still working, while others have retired. Still, each crafter believes that it’s important to devote time giving back to other people in need. 

Over time, the group has also made other small adjustments to the show. At first, the ladies counted all the money by hand and later began using a cash register. Now, they can even accept credit cards, using technology that connects to their iPads or cell phones. Penning and Hocking reminisce about when their young children helped out with the cash register, adding that these children have since grown into adults. 

Although the artists do sell their crafts, they also admit that the event’s purpose isn’t to make money. “I don’t think, for any of us, that it’s proven to be about the money,” Penning said. “We just like to show our work and we love when people buy it.” Admiring each other’s new creations, she said, is just as much fun as sharing their art with the customers who visit the show. 

This year’s show takes place during “Widow’s Weekend,” or the firearm deer-hunting opener. Many other shows and events are also scheduled for this weekend in Owatonna. Hocking said the show is a great way to kick off the holiday gift-shopping season and encourages visitors to check out some of the other events happening in Owatonna that day, as well. 

Over time, the original group has welcomed new members. Some are related to other group members, while others are co-workers, neighbors and friends. New group members include Nancy Kepka, Mary Trautman, Mandra Peterson, Rose Halla, Melanie Teders, Katie Ladwig, Becca Penning and Kathy Grenier. 

At this time, Hocking and Penning believe their group has reached its maximum capacity, at least for now. Although they would love to welcome more artists to join the fun, they also admit that the Chalet is usually overflowing with items on the day of the show. Every nook, cranny and surface of the Chalet is adorned with crafts of all kinds, making for a unique shopping experience that’s sure to offer a little something for everyone. 

Still, the group adheres to one rule: all items at the sale must be hand-made. While they may incorporate a “manufactured” item into the artistic process, the finish product must be something they’ve created themselves. 

Through the years, there’s also one other aspect of the show that hasn’t changed: the group still loves getting together. “That is the bottom line: we love each other,” said Hocking. “We love each other’s company. We’ve been there when there have been some tough times and some losses. It’s just a wonderful pasttime.”

The group also enjoys seeing familiar faces return to the show each year. The event’s make and take class has also gathered a loyal following. As they celebrate their 20th year of the Creative Crafts show, the group hopes to see a few new faces visit the Chalet this Saturday, Nov. 7. 

This year’s show will feature garden art, sewn fabric snowmen, greeting cards, wine and cork button art, painted windows and screens, planters, many fall and Christmas decorations and much, much more. Every piece is one-of-a-kind and is hand-made by local crafters. 

“We enjoy the day so much; it’s so much fun all the time,” said Penning.

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