Sisters add creativity, bring life to crafts

By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers

Janice Lee believes a little paint can bring her hand-crafted wooden characters to life.

“I love to paint people and Santas. They come to life when you paint on their mouths, noses and eyes. You get a good feeling as the Santa comes to life in your hands,” Lee said.

Lee and her sister, Barbara Miller, are among the hundreds of vendors who will be peddling mostly homemade crafts during the 32nd annual Peanut Valley Festival, which kicks off at 9 a.m. today in the Campus Union Building at Eastern New Mexico University. The two-day festival continues Sunday. In addition to craft booths, there will also be food booths and, of course, plenty of peanuts for sale.

“I like (to make) things that make a statement!” Lee said. “I’m my worst critic. I try to do things perfect because I want things that will talk to you.”

Lee has participated with her sister in the Peanut Festival for more than 20 years. As for Miller, she has been selling crafts since the Peanut Valley Festival began in 1973.

“The first year of the Peanut Festival, my friend Peggy Miller and I had a booth with Southwest and rustic crafts. At that time, they would judge the booths and gave ribbons to the top 10 booths. We were in the top 10,” Miller said.

Miller describes their handmade novelties as decorative items for the home.

“People always go for the general country feel,” Miller said. “And we always have requests for things for teachers and men, so we make things that men can relate to, like fishing and hunting.”

Miller said other popular craft items are snowmen, bird houses and Santa Clauses while Lee said Americana, Victorian, Southwest, country and Christmas items are also popular.

The two sisters have been busy trying to squeeze in as much time as they can in the evenings and on weekends to work on their crafts before this weekend’s festival. Miller works at Plains Regional Home Healthcare & Hospice and Lee works at the Financial Aid Office at ENMU.

Barbara Miller started painting crafts in January for this year’s festival. Lee said she has been spending three to four hours a night putting on finishing touches.

“When I get home, I cook dinner and then I go out to my woodshop in the back and stay out there from about 8 p.m. to midnight,” Lee said.

While the sisters have been able to turn their handiworks into a profitable venture, Lee pointed out that making crafts is a hobby first.

“If you don’t enjoy painting what you sell, it shows in your work,” she said. “Your mood also has a lot to do with how your product shows up. Sometimes, when I’m in a bad mood and feeling down and low, I lose myself in my crafts and then I end up being really happy. It gives me an uplift on my life because it’s also a stress reliever and it’s therapeutic.”