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Mairi Fleming of Mairi Crafty Creations was among the crafters and artists at the Made in Pairc Christmas Craft Fair.

"There are so many artistic people in the area. It just shows you what is in a small place."

Sitting behind a table of her resin works, Mairi Fleming, of Mairi Crafty Creations, was impressed with the other stallholders at the Made in Pairc Christmas Craft Fair. Across two days, the crafters and artists - many known to each other, but some new - had shared conversation, cake, and customers at the Ravenspoint Centre in Kershader.

Many, she added, had spent a reasonable percentage of the money they had made at the other tables, such was the quality. With 15 tables of work presented from professional artists to self-labelled 'seasonal' crafters, plus products made by the nine students at Sgoil na Pairc, there was indeed something for everyone.

Izzy de Santis and David Bartles-Smith, recent arrivals in the area, show off their work.

Yet the Made in Pairc event, in its third year, also served as an important chance for a rural community to come together.

Loku Sudirikku, who was presenting her teas and toys sourced from Sri Lanka, said: "It is really good for the community to get to know every other. We are in a 17 acre croft, we don’t have any neighbours.

"You can see how the local people are creative, with a big age group. It is very popular event in South Lochs. Plus the Ravenspoint staff make brilliant support to table owners, artists and customers."

That support came in the way of the tables, for which a donation was appreciated, and a volunteer force producing hot drinks and selling homemade baking. In this, it kept in line with the ethos of the community-run centre, which has become a gathering place post-Covid.  

The ability to showcase 'part-time' work was also important. Annetta Macleod, showing her purses, coasters, and upcycled lamps, said she had only started producing crafts after attending a sewing class in Balallan.

"My friend, a weaver, has lots of offcuts of tweed, so rather than throw it out a friend and I tried this. Very easy things.

"But it has been very good. I have been pleasantly surprised. And it is good to have somewhere people come together, and people think 'if she can do that, I can do that'."

Organiser David Simpson said craft fairs helped bring people together after Covid.

Jill Ireland of 36 Gravir, who was sharing a table with Quirky Arts and Crafts's Elaine Morrison, echoed the sentiment that markets such as these were important in promoting local skills.

"With the way the economy is going, we need to bring things close," she said.

"It is important to recognise the old ways. As a new islander, it is integrating old systems to make new ideas, to support each other, make a circular economy. You can no longer just get things in from China - it is about using local materials. By supporting each other, it is building community."

With the third Christmas Craft Fair now complete, thoughts can move onto the centre's next activities, as well as the possibility of bringing the fair back for a fourth run. 

Organiser David Simpson said: "The 15 tables is a bit of a crush, but it is great that people want to come out and participate as they have. It is difficult to say no to anybody.

"After lockdown the community needed that thing to give people the courage to meet - the craft fair is one of those things."