News from the Tennessee Valley Living Today

Roy Henderson makes waterwheels and other wooden crafts. The large one with running water is outside Crafter-Corner, the consignment craft shop he and his wife opened in Decatur.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Roy Henderson makes waterwheels and other wooden crafts. The large one with running water is outside Crafter-Corner, the consignment craft shop he and his wife opened in Decatur.

Crafting a revival
Skilled artisans now have local corner to sell their wares
Couple opens store to share passion of crafts with others

By Patrice Stewart · 340-2446

They are determined to help keep American craft traditions alive.

Donna and Roy Henderson are new to both Decatur and running a business, but they know crafts.

Between them the couple has 60-plus years of experience in hobby-type crafts, and they dreamed for a long time of starting a shop for displaying and selling crafts.

“The younger generation is not learning how to make crafts from the older generation, and competition from imports has destroyed the enthusiasm for making things yourself,” said Roy.

Some interest still exists. About 40 crafters have brought more than 1,500 consignment items to Crafter-Corner since the Hendersons opened the shop two months ago at 1825 Sixth Ave. S.E. (next to Steak-Out in Decatur).

“We created this store to allow local craftsmen to sell their products, so we don’t allow any imported items or flea market look-alikes,” he said.

“I knew there were a lot of talented people out there, but I saw that talent wasting away with the number of imports,” he said. “We’re already hearing wonderful stories about people who had about given up on crafts but are getting back into them.”

Roy, who served in the Air Force, is a disabled veteran who “can’t remember a time when I didn’t do crafts.” The waterwheel and the coffin holding a skeleton outside are among his wood creations.

Inside, he displays a 1-foot wooden rocking horse that took honors in 1982 in Good Housekeeping magazine.

“It’s wonderful therapy to be creative and someone ooh and aah over your work,” he said.

Donna shows her specialty, too: fancy potpourri “cakes” for birthdays, babies and weddings. They are decorated with lace trims and daisies, roses or other silk flowers, then scented to match. “I’m developing an autumn apple-spice potpourri cake right now,” she said.

She didn’t have much time for hobbies until she retired as a technician for General Motors in Shreveport, La. Soon afterward, the couple came through the Tennessee Valley and visited a niece and nephew in Athens on their way to the Smoky Mountains.

“We fell in love with this area and how clean it is and how polite the people are,” Roy said. They moved here last year and began working toward a store.

Donna said they are “growing daily” with new crafters. One of their goals is to allow the customer to “meet” the crafter by posting an information sheet with photo near their work. They have a board for announcing festivals and workshops, and they would eventually like to offer classes, too.

Fused glass and more

She pointed out Christmas ornaments and other items by a fused glass artist whose work was featured on TV and requested by the White House.

“It’s amazing to see what people will make,” Donna said.

One woman paints delicate designs on rose petals, another creates Native American designs and others make whimsical belts made of soft-drink can tabs woven together with braided cord.

Most crafters are senior citizens who use the extra income to supplement their Social Security checks. About half are male and half female, and the Hendersons know their stories.

A Falkville man reclaims old items and gives them new uses, such as part of a pot-bellied stove turned into a coffee table.

Two sisters from Hillsboro work together, with one making soap and another dishcloths.

A young woman attending college helps pay expenses by turning old silverware and beads into wind chimes and bookmarks.

One woman fires her pottery-type creations in her kitchen oven.

Other items include crocheted and knitted afghans and prayer shawls, baby booties and caps, Swedish embroidery, wooden walking sticks, casserole holders and lawn furniture.

Gourd people

People and businesses have been buying entire families of yard art by D.A. Ray, who turns gourds into scarecrow people sporting hair curlers, beards and corncob pipes, or animals with cow, bear and other faces. He grows gourds and also makes them into pumpkins, turkeys, airplanes, birdhouses and more. Ray was their No. 1 seller last month.

“He’s very well-known with a strong following around here,” said Roy. “He’s likely to wake up at 4 a.m. with an idea and go to work on it, and he brings in things that make people laugh. And selling through a store gives him more time for his real love, gospel and bluegrass music.”

Donna recalled that when Ray pulled up with a horse trailer full of gourd people, “It nearly stopped traffic on Sixth Avenue, and I was out there dancing around with them.”

Lately she’s been getting ready for Christmas, with the shop tree and mantel loaded with handmade ornaments and Santa door hangers with team logos.

Donna explained that at their consignment shop, the craftsman gets 60 percent and the shop keeps 40 percent of the price. They keep up with their inventory with a computer and bar codes on tags. Then, along with checks, they send out statements and let crafters know what is selling and what needs replenishing.

The shop owners visit with crafters who drop by, as well as demonstrating items for customers.

“What we love most about this is the people behind the art,” Roy said.

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