by Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff
DEDHAM — Donna Soper of Dedham has taken her lifelong interest in painting and crocheting and turned it into a small at-home business she calls Who Hollow Hideaway. It allows her to create craft items at a pace that fits her lifestyle.
“I only do two craft fairs a year,” she said. One is the Dedham Church Fair and the other is the Bucksport High School Fair, both in November. She has been a vendor at both fairs for the last 10 years, “long enough to become a fixture,” she said. She also sells the work of her hands through the H.O.M.E. Co-op store in Orland during the Christmas season.
Soper, who grew up in East Millinocket, said her grandmother taught her to sew and crochet when she was 9 or or 10. “When I crochet,” she said, “I can feel her there inspiring me. Crochet is an art that is going away,” which is one of the many reasons she loves it.
Soper focuses her crochet skills on fashioning bears and toys, sweater and bootie sets, scarves and shawls. She chooses soft, baby-friendly yarn in traditional colors.
But, she said, “Painting was my first love. I always liked to dabble in paints.” Though she is largely self-taught, she did take a painting class many years ago, in 1995, at the Ben Franklin store in Bucksport. Since then she has gone her own artistic way to come up with her own designs.
She confines her painting to plaques, Christmas ornaments, boxes, plant pots, cards, and sometimes slate. Her painted boxes usually hold an tree ornament of her making, and the plant pots often hold garden related items such as gardening gloves.
“I can’t sell an empty box,” Soper said. “It has to have something in it.”
From September through February, Soper works at building her Christmas-item inventory. From March to September she works on other items, such as cards adorned with painted images of insects, flowers, and butterflies. She also creates hand painted cards for special occasions such such as Mother’s Day, birthdays, or other events.
Soper has established a base of painting operations by a window at one end of her living room. A semi-circular table is equipped with dozens of bottles of craft paints in as many colors. Forests of paint brushes with bristles ranging from ultra-fine point to an inch in width are corralled in glass containers. A goose neck lamp gives extra light.
Although she spends some part of every day painting wooden boxes and other items with designs of her own invention, she said she often finds herself painting from midnight to 1 a.m.
At the urging of a friend who is a Grange member, she has entered her work in Grange fairs and has at least a half dozen blue ribbons to prove it.
For those toying with the idea of becoming a vendor at a local craft fair, Soper said, “Try it. You have nothing to lose. The cost to rent table space is $10 to $20. That’s a good deal. It’s a great way to get your work out there. And who knows, someone might want you to make something special for them.”
For information about her work or to inquire about placing a special order for a particular item, call Soper at 843-5466.