Megan Hutchens makes one-of-a-kind giant

Toymakers take centre stage at Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair

The Denman Christmas Craft Fair goes Saturday, Dec. 6 and Sunday, Dec. 7

Thanks to our culture’s burgeoning interest in all things handmade, artisanal and eco-friendly, the Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair – a tradition that has been around for decades – has evolved.

Most craft fairs today offer a cornucopia of sophisticated, high-quality art and craft items in a multitude of genres, and their busy aisles are a prime destination for discerning design mavens.

This is all quite wonderful, but let’s never forget that the heart of the Christmas season surely lies with children. Any modern craft fair that doesn’t provide a tempting selection of toys for kids is in danger of losing its connection with the holiday spirit.

The Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair, one of the region’s most established fairs, features an enthusiastic contingent of toy-makers, and a range of toys from fancy to simple.

These toys are designed to be fun, but like everything at the fair, they are also handmade, artisanal and eco-friendly. There’s no plastic, no excessive packaging, and no movie or TV tie-ins. Instead, there are toys made from all-natural materials, each and every one unique, reflecting the vision and the skilled work of the person you’re purchasing it from.

Denman Island’s Megan Hutchens makes one-of-a-kind giant, huggable stuffies, all inspired by the West Coast marine environment. Her collection includes a seal, sea urchin, squid, turtle, starfish, killer whale, humpback whale, giant octopus, narwhal and even a life-size piece of bull kelp!

Hutchens loves textures, and her stuffies offer a rich tactile experience.

“There’s a lot of fuzzy, a lot of shiny, and lot of corduroy. There’s fur and wool and silk,” she says.

Much of the fabric is re-purposed – an old kimono became a turtle, and used jeans became part of a whale.

Like a lot of toymakers at the fair, Hutchens is inspired by her own three children.

“I was hand-sewing some starfish with my kids and it evolved from there into a whole ocean-inspired line. There’s an educational element because they get kids interested in the environment we live in.”

Christine O’Neill and Christiane Brown both make toys from natural fabric, mostly wool, using needle-felting techniques. Brown is a former Waldorf teacher and her work evokes the fairy tales of Old Europe, magical realms, and dreams. O’Neill’s pieces are cute and playful – a tiny mouse knitting, a kitten with a ball of yarn. She also sells do-it-yourself home needle-felting kits suitable for kids or adults.

Susan Cain’s hand-puppets are remarkable art creations full of character. Bright colours, fabrics with striking prints and rich textures, buttons, beads, sparkles and feathers combine in pieces that seem as if they’ve sprung from a magical world. Children love these, but adults also buy them to display as an artistic centrepiece.

Rebecca Apter makes cute little stuffies out of children’s socks, just the right size for a toddler’s hand. Woodworker Werner Karsten makes wooden spinning tops that are not only beautiful, but also spin really fast. Check out these and other toymakers at the Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair.

The Denman Christmas Craft Fair goes Saturday, Dec. 6  and Sunday, Dec. 7, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., at the Denman Community Hall and Activity Centre. Delicious lunches and decadent desserts available at both venues. Walk onto the ferry and take the free shuttle up the hill. More info: 250-335-2148 and/or find us on Facebook for a sneak preview.