Using a thread and needle, UNMH nurse Loryn Udell has drawn from her interest in American monsters and folklore and crafted a monster — rather, a plush toy of Doctor Frankenstein’s monster.

Udell is the founder of Bigfoot Loves Tacos, a local company that sells pillows, plush toys, tote bags and embroidered hoops of vampires and classic Hollywood monsters. Udell is one of 70 local and student vendors at this year’s 50th ASUNM Arts and Crafts Fair.

Andrea Hart, student activities specialist, said the makers market started not long after the foundation of the University’s arts and crafts studio in 1961 and continues to grow in scope and popularity.

Contributors consist of returning stalls and newcomers, offering products like fused-glass art, wooden sculptures, jewelry and soaps, Hart said.

“We have a lot of vendors who choose to come back to our fair year after year and they are great because they provide continuity and the public comes looking for them,” Hart said.

Returning vendor Jessica Joe, founder of Uncle Joe, sells painted T-shirts and Christmas origami swan ornaments. Joe, whose main job is at local toy store Out of the Blue, said her dabble in the crafts business began after a small clothing accident.

“One of my favorite T-shirts got a stain on it and I was so mad. Then I remembered, ‘Hey, I can paint on this, I’m an artist,’” Joe said. “I made a T-shirt for myself and everyone really liked it so I started making them for others.”

Fair newcomer and Colorado native Stacey Long said she hopes to bring back an old Christmas tradition with her project Mistletoe Charms.

“We used to always have it when I was a kid and it was always something you would see. And I haven’t seen it forever and I thought it would be nice to revitalize that idea,” Long said. “A lot of people who buy it from me say ‘Oh, I’ve been looking for this.’”

Long said mistletoe is a facet of Christmas that has yet to be overdone by holiday markets.

“It’s a natural product. The holidays lately seem kind of commercialized or overdone — this is kind of old-fashioned and simple,” she said.

Jaime Tillotson, the fair’s executive director, said she became familiar with the event seven years ago when she participated as a vendor. She said she tries to emphasize the importance of arts enterprises in local communities.

“It is good for people trying to make their own businesses because they see that it is doable and it is good for customers because they get personal contact with the people they are buying from,” Tillotson said. “It broadens the exchange.”

Many of the market’s vendors look to supply products that are not just unique, but also ecologically friendly, said Alaska Piper, a five-time vendor from the artist collective Rousedaboutarts.
She said buying from local artists can also have an eco-friendly perspective as well.

“The children’s toys I make use natural resources. The feather headbands we sell use the humanely harvested feathers from our own happy chickens and some of the profits are donated to animal charities in the local area,” she said.

Artists Amy Mann and Emily Ray Reese co-run Lucca and Lenny Design, a collaborative that sells terrariums, T-shirts and jewelry, each composed of recycled materials.

“Everything is made out of recycled materials. Recycled T-shirts, recycled vessels, recycled light bulbs, recycled clock parts for the jewelry,” Mann said.

The terrariums hold cactuses and succulents, each surrounded in a layer of rocks from an old rock collection that once belonged to Mann’s fiance’s grandfather. Each terrarium is placed in a recycled container — varying from bourbon glasses and light bulbs to lanterns and tea kettles.

Ray Reese and Mann have each been involved in entrepreneurial work for the past five years — Lucca and Lenny Design is a new effort that began in September. Mann, who was new to the crafts festival, said the collaborative effort has changed the way she approaches art.

“When you make art by yourself, there’s no one there to edit it. When you work with a partner, you’re constantly editing everything you do,” she said. “Having two sets of eyes and two sets of hands … the outcome I feel is stronger if we just did it on our own.”