For glass blower Chantal Legault-Elias, attending Christmas craft fairs is a festive way to connect with people.
With musicians playing, surrounded by fellow artisans, the owner of Blown-Away Glass was happily chatting with customers at the Kootenay Artisans Craft Faire held earlier this month at the Prestige Lakeside Resort.
“Sometimes people just come to say hi. Of course, I need to make money. That’s why I am there first and foremost, but why I choose to do fairs is for that connection,” she says. “I feel extremely grateful. I have a lot of people loving my stuff. Even if they don’t buy it, they talk and they’re curious.”
Legault-Elias and her husband Timothy Elias have been working as glass blowers on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake for close to 15 years.
Their gift shop in Crawford Bay is busy in the summer, as tourists come in droves to the otherwise sleepy community.
“We see tons of people from far away and a lot of people from home,” she says.
For the Quebec native Legault-Elias, the Christmas craft fair season isn’t about stocking up on product and travelling the circuit. Though some years she takes her work to the big cities, other years, she hasn’t done a single one.
This year, Blown Away Glass only appeared at local fairs, knowing it’s sometimes hard for her local patrons to get to her this time of year with weather and Christmas bustle keeping them close to home.
“A lot of people know my store and they’re so glad they don’t have to even think of doing the trip,” Legault-Elias says.
Christmas tree décor is about one-eighth of the Blown Away Glass line. Alongside vases, jewelry and bowls, Legault-Elias’s Christmas ornaments are inspired by the traditional — simple, not ornate. She prefers classic design.
“Sometimes it’s just about the colour and sometimes it’s just about the pure form,” she says.
Of course, Legault-Elias has glass ornaments hanging all over her home all year round. But the Christmas season is the perfect time for everyone to embrace decorating with glass.
“The thing about glass is that it’s always lively because it reflects light. So, on a Christmas tree or elsewhere it has that generous quality of shining outside of the object- the colour makes is aesthetically interesting,” she says.
Giving a handmade gift by a local artisan is what brings many to the abundance of fairs in our region. Legault-Elias loves being part of such a considerate shopping experience.
“People buy them for someone else for a present so there is that emotional tie to it – this, I love to hear. People buy angels and balls and this one is going to my grandchild and this one is going to my neighbor who feeds the cat. I am so much about connection and I hear a lot about it and I value that,” she says. “It’s shiny. It’s pretty. But it’s also that little gift that you pass on with care to somebody.”
One might expect the owner of Blown Away Glass to have their own tree decorated as a showcase of their work. But Legault-Elias describes it as a bit more Charlie Brown than Martha Stewart.
“I have three kids who are getting big and all that handmade stuff from way back is on it. I have my first ornaments and my husband’s first ornaments. It’s not necessarily pretty with everything matching,” she says.
With four craft fairs under her belt this season, the artisan is happy to be back in her shop devoting energy to creating for fun.
“However great it is to connect, it’s so much energy. Not only producing but to be constantly relating,” she says. “I am happy to be just blowing bubbles for pleasure.”
As the Nelson Star contacted Legault-Elias, she was about to follow an inspiration — making an ornament that looks like the planet Saturn.
“I have no idea how to technically do it but that’s really fun — to come up with something quirky, working on it and then putting it on the tree when it’s finished.”