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Holiday Fair

Melissa Meyers works with stained glass in the basement studio of her home. A featured artist at the upcoming Holiday Fair, Meyers makes gift bags from recycled materials and a variety of stained glass items.

Melissa Meyers sees birds in glass shards and stockings in grocery bags. For the creative crafter, most any odds and ends have the makings for Christmas magic.

Friends of the La Crosse art enthusiast know to save their wire hangers, ribbon scraps and indistinguishable but intriguing objects, which Meyers treats with a dose of whimsy to make the popular decorations and wares she sells at the annual Holiday Fair.

On its 55th year and running Nov. 15 through 18 at the La Crosse Center, the fair draws around 10,000 people annually with its grand selection of candles, jewelry, refurbished furniture, decor, ornaments and knitted accessories, most handcrafted and one of a kind. The 2018 fair will feature 130 booths with both new and returning crafters. Door prizes will be awarded hourly, and Santa and Rudolph will make appearances and pose for photos.

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Holiday Fair

La Crosse crafter and artist Melissa Meyers uses five layers plastic from shopping and grocery bags and reused decorative ribbon to make her unique gift bags.

“The Holiday Fair is near and dear to my heart,” said longtime organizer Sue Wieman. “I have wonderful memories while attending as a small child with my mom and siblings, and am proud to have the opportunity to offer this experience to thousands of families every year.”

Meyers, workforce engagement specialist for the American Red Cross, has “been doing art since you could put a crayon in my hand” and dedicates about 20 hours a week to her creations, her crafting supplies and works-in-progress filling the garage and infiltrating several areas of the family home.

A stained glass artist of four years, Meyers has branched out from wall hangings to make decorative boxes, lamps and her trademark “Chirpies,” fashioned from leftover pieces of cut glass and adorned with wire hanger legs and eyes made from solder drippings.

“I really had no idea they would take off,” Meyers said of the hand sized birds, all distinctively unique in their color and shape. An avid environmentalist, Meyers makes the most of materials both expensive and cheap.

“We live in a time where we need to be kind to mother Earth,” Meyers said. “Why not use what we already have and make something different with it?”

Meyers, known at Festival Foods for her request to take used bags out of the drop off bin, delights over plastic bags from Quillin’s, coveted for rich green color. In preparation for the Holiday Fair, Meyers solicited friends for their grocery bags, already using up 275, which are are ironed into panels between sheets of parchment paper and sewn together to create gift sacks and stockings. Meyers also peruses the Habitat ReStore for random pieces — a table leg can be converted into the torso of a dragonfly, she notes — and sees the craft potential where others see junk.

“People will say, ‘I have this thing and I don’t know what it is. Do you want it?’” Meyers said. “Yeah, I want it!”

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Holiday Fair

Salvaged stained glass is used by La Crosse crafter and artist Melissa Meyer to make her lighted gift box decorations and “Chirpies,” bird like decorations also made

Stained glass remains her favorite medium, and her glass boxes, filled with glowing battery or string lights and topped with ornate bows or glittery embellishments, sold out at the last Holiday Fair she participated in. Meyers deliberately works in a size that remains affordable to the customer, being “a firm believer everyone should have a piece of stained glass in their house.”

“It’s just such a traditional art form — timeless and just so gorgeous,” Meyers said.

Meyers, who frequently browses Etsy and Pintrest for ideas, also finds inspiration from her fellow crafters and has a special affection for the Holiday Fair.

“It’s so exciting to see what our local artists are doing. This community is so supportive of the arts and really embraces local talent,” Meyers said. “When you walk through the Holiday Fair, you see all these people who put in their time and talent. They aren’t making a living off it — they just love doing it.”

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Emily Pyrek can be reached at emily.pyrek@lee.net.

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