Bonsai and Birdhouses: The Annual Arts and Crafts Sale

In the last few hours of the annual Arts and Crafts Sale in Worner, the atmosphere among the vendors was one of unhurried anticipation. 

Freddie Mercury’s voice echoed from a booth as a vendor played “We are the Champions.” In Gaylord Hall, a bearded man in a black felt hat plucked away at a mandolin and occasionally broke into song.

There were over 80 vendors represented in the show, over 20 of which were students. No sale of food was allowed due to Colorado College’s contractual obligations with Bon Appétit, but vendors displayed everything from near-photographic paintings to bonsai to ceramic birdhouses. 

In Gaylord Hall, a booth advertised “Rad Glass Trash upcycled into jewelry — strut your fabulous personality with this wicked trash.” Nearby, a stall selling mittens beared a sign reading, “The story of an old sweater … a knitten is born!” 

In the eastern room of Rastall, a woman sat near a student-run pottery stall in a small metal enclosure with two 13-week-old puppies asleep on her lap. Below the intricate pottery lamps and vases at the stall, a large sign was taped to the table: “My mom wants everything out of the house — offer me your best price.”

The Arts and Crafts Sale is always the first weekend of December. It started 40 years ago in Armstrong, back when Worner was a small square building called Rastall, as a student-run fundraiser for the Arts and Crafts program. Nearly half a century later, it’s evolved into something much bigger. 

The show is  juried now by the three Arts and Crafts staff and a panel drawn from students who work in the Arts and Crafts studio. Outside vendors must submit an application every year to get into the show, and this year, 33 vendors were turned away, said Jeanne Steiner, director of the Arts and Crafts program. 

“I advertise extensively,” she said. “Customers come here expecting quality items.” 

The sale is still a fundraiser for the Arts and Crafts program. Vendors purchase floor area or a table space for a flat fee, and the money goes towards repairing or buying new equipment for the art studio.

More importantly, though, the sale gives students experience selling their own work. Any student can sell their own original artwork at the sale without going through the jury process. And they don’t have to pay a flat fee for space, either: instead, students give Steiner 15 percent of their profits up to a cap of $125, and she helps them with the necessary paperwork and sales tax. 

“That’s what I’m really after,” Steiner said. “It’s an educational experience.” 

Not only are students able to participate in the process of choosing vendors, they’re also able to experiment with what items customers will buy and how those items should be priced in a low-risk environment.   

“I come from the basement, come here, sell my stuff … it’s a really good gig,” said Nora Watkins ’19, who has been selling her pottery at the fair since her freshman year. She’s also in her third year of teaching the beginning wheel throwing art class, so she doesn’t have to pay for studio time and materials. Her pottery skills and success at selling her work have increased over the years, too; this year was her most profitable sale yet, and unlike other years, she didn’t even lose her voice. 

Watkins intends to pursue a career in ceramics; she’s applied for several ceramic fellowships and hopes to land a work exchange program in an art studio. She’s a molecular biology major, but art is her longest hobby.

“It’s my favorite thing here at CC,” she said of the arts program. 

Photo by Daniel Sarché

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