Vendors and shoppers fill Costello Sports Complex on Sunday for a craft fair at the University of Southern Maine. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

GORHAM — Artists and shoppers filled the University of Southern Maine’s vast Costello Sports Complex on Sunday for the school’s annual fall craft fair fundraiser.

Over 100 vendors offered everything from paintings and custom signs to knitted hats and mittens and handmade foods.

As Christmas consumers begin their shopping, this weekend and the next few weekends are huge for craft shows throughout Maine, said Whitney Gill of the Maine Crafts Association. Shoppers love the crafts, and artists have found selling what they make is a good way to earn extra money from a hobby they enjoy.

To be in the USM fair, the sellers have to make what they’re selling.

“They like to come and talk about their craft. There’s some very interesting people,” said USM field hockey coach Bonny Brown-Denico.

The school started the fair in 2008 as a way to offset athletics costs. This year, about 8,000 people were expected to attend.


“It’s grown from 60 vendors to more than 150 vendors,” Brown-Denico said.

One booth, Windows to Nature, featured paintings by husband and wife team Paul and Susan Boucher, of Lewiston.

One of their most popular paintings was of a cow in a barn next to Christmas greens tied by a red ribbon.

Paul and Susan Boucher of Windows To Nature laugh while talking to customers at Sunday’s craft fair. The Bouchers, of Lewiston, have been creating paintings and selling them at fairs for 40 years. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“Right now, everybody is coming to see the cow,” Paul Boucher said with a smile. Other favorites were of birds and dogs.

“That was our dog, Star,” he said of a painting of a brown dog with his owner in falling snow. “She was the best dog we ever had.”

The Bouchers are retired and create art because they enjoy it, though it does make them some money. His patrons have told him their animal paintings seem to have personalities.


“I’m smiling when I’m painting,” he said. “I talk to my paintings when I paint.”

Sue Burgess, of South Portland, bought a painting on wood of a male and female cardinal on birch trees for $65.

Someone close to her lost her husband, Burgess said, and the painting made her think of the couple. “They loved birds and fed the birds together.”

Customers browse at wildlife photographs by Compass Rose Images at Sunday’s craft fair at the University of Southern Maine. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Another shopper, Emily Lewis, of Windham, came to support local businesses and because she enjoys meeting the artisans.

“I want to support local, and at fairs, you find these little hidden gems that you don’t get in big box stores,” she said. “You hear the stories of how they started and how they’re keeping themselves going. That’s what I want to support.”

Lewis was buying a large leather bag as she spoke. “It’s beautiful. It threw me,” she said.


Ann and Dana Rand, of Buxton, were selling a large array of dog collars and leashes at their Urban Collar Creations booth.

They started the small company when they had a Great Dane who needed a wide collar, and “it went from there,” Dana Rand said.

Business is good, Ann Rand said. “People will buy anything for their pets, I think.”

At Custom Birdhouses by Kevin & Lisa, Kevin and Lisa Thompson, of Buxton, explained they are more hobbyists than businesspeople.

“We’re not TV watchers,” Lisa Thompson said, so after dinner they go into their workshop and build bird feeders and birdhouses covered with recycled license plates. “We do it to be together, and we both have a passion for birds.”

Allan Sackey, originally from Ghana, waits to talk to customers about his handcrafted baskets and other wares Sunday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Sisters Shelley Lance-Fulk, 72, and Jacklyn Amtower, 76, were selling metal prints, tiles and the books they’ve authored. The Newport residents travel the world getting close-up with all kinds of animals and meeting interesting people.

“We do a lot of shows all over New England and do talks at schools and libraries,” Lance-Fulk said. “We’ve been to over 138 countries. This year, we were in Madagascar, Botswana, Zambia and South Africa.”

Gill, with the Maine Crafts Association, said this year’s holiday season is especially important because outdoor summer crafts were canceled due to so much rain. And two big shows were called off due to a hurricane in September and the Lewiston mass shootings in October.

This weekend, even with other craft shows in Augusta and Windham, “people were calling to see if there were cancellations” at USM, Brown-Denico said. She had 300 vendors on the waiting list.

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