Crafts show to hold 40th annual event

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What's old is new again.

For 40 years the annual Christmas Gift Boutique has brought accomplished crafters to town to sell their wares. And to keep it fresh, each year the event brings in new artisans and ideas.

When it sets up Nov. 26 at the Walla Walla Community College Enology & Viticulture Center, new this year will be an artisan doing stained glass pieces as well as a craftsman who makes furniture out of wine barrels.

This show has been a Valley tradition for about 40 years, with many long-term vendors as well as customers. It owes its longevity to a focus on quality and enthusiasm. The show combines traditional crafts and innovation, featuring handmade items and reflecting a resurgence in popularity of the traditional handcrafts.

In was started by a group of women doing crafts and it just evolved, said event coordinator Judith Fortney, a Providence St. Mary Medical Center communications specialist who will be selling her decorative paintings on wood, fabric, glass and porcelain at the show.

Coordinator Alene Morasch, a retired nurse who volunteers at the medical center and sells her needlework at the show, said she just kept attending the Christmas boutiques and pretty soon she was helping to organize it.

Through the years the show has gone through some changes.

"It used to be held in the foyer of Cordiner Hall," Fortney said. "It started as one day and then for awhile was two days. We realized the sales were the same as it was for one day so we changed back."

Holding it over the Thanksgiving weekend also helps, with many families coming back to town to visit relatives and do some Christmas shopping.

"We have some come every year from Seattle and Portland," Fortney said.

Tasteful quality is emphasized. The show is juried by a committee so every vendor has to be approved, which ensures a high caliber of craftsmanship.

"We have close to 25-30 vendors, all different," Fortney said. "Many of these people are supplementing their retirement income. And it helps the local economy."

It's also a celebration of the reawakening of many traditional crafts, like crocheting, quilting, woodworking and others.

"It just means a lot more to me to receive a hand-made gift," Fortney said.

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