Put a little island flavor under the tree

It all started with a few artists selling their wares on blankets.

And it’s grown into one of the most coveted venues for artists in the county.

The Artisans Faire at Odd Fellows Hall is celebrating its 20th year of offering a place for artists and craftspeople to showcase their work during the holiday season. For the first 10 years it included San Juan and Lopez artists, but it was then restricted to Orcas and Waldron, as it became too crowded.

This year’s event, on Saturday, Dec. 5 and Sunday, Dec. 6, will feature more than 40 island artisans. Faire hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

New this year is Janis Mattox, who is selling folk dolls, watercolors, and calendars of her art, and woodworker Scott Schmidt. Other vendors include Zach Leck, who will be on the stage with his iron work, Susie Frank and her gingerbread houses, Tina Brown and Geoff Schilling, who are selling fabric and wall art, Rob Kirby with his coffee, Tracy Oniya selling her raw chocolate, and Holly Dennis of Harmony Chai.

Jewelry-maker Carol Anderson, who has sold her pieces at the event every year, was part of the original group that started the tradition 20 years ago.

“It was very casual,” she said. “There were 12 artists and we sold our goods on blankets at Odd Fellows. We had wreathes, jewelry, baked goods, crafts, and cards. I remember being surprised at the turn out. I don’t remember the exact number, but it was great.”

In addition to Anderson, local artists Brenda Bailey, Robin DiGeorgio, Brenda Harlow, and Nancy Bartholemew were part of the founding group.

“The community response was great,” Anderson said. “There weren’t a lot of fairs at that time, and everyone loved it.”

Eliza Morris, owner of Island Thyme, joined the fair in 1992, selling her soaps, body lotions, and cream. She says the quality of the displays have become better and better each year. Anderson agrees that the event has become much more professional. Organizers have to turn down artists each year, as the spaces fill up fast. The Odd Fellows has room for 33 booths, and some craftspeople share a table.

“We have every inch in the hall mapped out,” Morris said.

Hundreds of shoppers pass through Odd Fellows during the two days. Morris and Anderson say there are times when it is standing room only.

“We have great loyalty because it’s truly for the artisans,” Anderson said.

The fair also gives back. Any left over proceeds from booth rental fees are donated to an island non-profit. This year, it’s Salmonberry School. Previous recipients have included Orcas Animal Protection and Orcas Montessori.

Anderson and Morris say one of their favorite parts of the event is the raffle.

“Each artisan contributes an item, and we make three or four big raffle baskets,” Anderson said. “Everyone who purchases something at the fair gets a ticket. It’s our way of thanking the community.”

Food at the faire

On Saturday, Jounetsu will be serving up sushi in the Odd Fellows kitchen. On Sunday, Soul Flour will offer soups, pizza by the slice, and desserts.