Sarah Bennyhoff sculpts stiff cloth into bunnies or moose or frogs, creates wall hangings with yarn and paints pigs, snowmen and saltbox scenes on whatever’s handy.
“I will paint anything that sits still long enough for me to paint it,” the Spokane Valley woman said. “It’s just using a little bit of your imagination.”
Bennyhoff just finished working Shadle Park High School’s craft show last weekend. The 45-year-old is preparing for the region’s two largest craft shows: the Central Valley High School Craft Show, which is the largest in Spokane Valley, and Custer’s Christmas Arts & Crafts Show at the county fairgrounds, the largest in the region.
This is her busy season.
November and December weekends are filled with local and professional crafters showing off their talents and selling their work to make a living or help donate to a good cause.
Bennyhoff is doing a little of both with her tole paintings, soft sculptures and punch needle pictures.
“I do the high school craft fairs because the (booth rental) money goes toward a good cause,” she said. “I like the fact that I know the money is going somewhere to help kids do something they enjoy.”
Central Valley High School’s Craft Fair is a fundraiser for the school’s band, an event that’s been around for decades. It started around a kitchen table with a mom who wanted to help her children raise money for the high school band.
Most of the items are homemade, and there will be a little more than 285 vendors, said Debra Long, a Central Valley school board member. Not only does it raise funds, “it’s a good opportunity for kids to work with adults. It teaches responsibility, respect and accountability – all that CV stands for.”
Bennyhoff has participated since 2003.
Monday, as Louis Armstrong played in the background, she worked on her inventory. Bennyhoff has a room she calls her studio, and works during the day while her son is in school.
“My stuff isn’t stuff you can just sit down and get a bunch done, like someone who makes soap or candles,” said Bennyhoff, who works on her crafts year-round.
Much of what she paints is found at garage sales, such as old cookware. Sometimes it’s items found around the house.
“I paint on the outside of a suitcase so people can use it for storage. I paint on dead light bulbs,” she said. She’s painted on paint sticks, wooden spoons and the bottom of iron skillets, too.
Sometimes “I might paint something into reindeer,” she said.
Bennyhoff will have a one weekend reprieve before her next gig. Custer’s Christmas Arts & Crafts Show, the “granddaddy of all” craft shows, starts on Nov. 21.
She will be among 300 artists, some from as far away as California and Minnesota. Landing a 10-by-10-foot booth in the show is not easy. There is a waiting list of 125 artists, said Cheryl Custer-Branz, Custer’s promoter.
“It’s professional arts and crafters who have been juried and screened – people who do this type of work for a living,” she said. “The best of the best are asked to join each year.”
Shoppers will find a large variety of work, including pottery, photography, fused glass, soft sculpture, woodworking, metal art, jewelry, handcrafted soaps and candles.
There are no commercial items. All the artists show their own work, Custer-Branz said. “Some people will literally do all their Christmas shopping at this show.”
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