Creative Crafts Bring Tradition to Christmas

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AMANA — If you’re a traditionalist, there’s nothing like giving and receiving a truly homemade gift for Christmas.

If you’re as crafty as I am, there’s nothing like Creative Colony. Here, in a cooperative of talented artists and crafters who live in Iowa, you’ll find plenty of favorite things — quilts, furniture, doll clothing, unique knickknacks — you’d be proud to put your name on. Or receive as a gift.

Most certainly, everybody doesn’t lust after a life-size replica Porsche 917 that opens to reveal a LeMans slot car raceway ($125,000) featured in my favorite catalog, Hammacher Schlemmer.

That’s why I’m at Creative Colony ( for my 18th annual list of suggestions for unusual Christmas gifts. Located in a two-story building in Amana’s main business district, it recently celebrated 26 years. Walking from room to room clues you in on the secret to this longevity.

The day I stopped, Lou Ann Dirks of Marion, a member for 23 years, was working the counter. And, within minutes, Joan Mollenhauer of Toddville, current president of the cooperative, called on the phone.

When Joan, who works with fabrics to make quilts, aprons, casserole carriers and such, joined the coop a dozen years ago, it had 50 members. Now it has about 30.

"We’re fairly low now," she says. "Part of it is the economy."

If a talented Iowan wants to join the team, call Donita Hageman at (319) 270-1112. Because, with the economy as it is, a quality homemade gift would be welcome and, I’m sure, appreciated.

Lou Ann, for instance, has dabbled in a variety of projects. Her current display features glass bead bracelets and anklets ($5.75) and yarn scarfs made of fun fur, eyelash and regular yarn ($18.75).

"These scarfs," she says, flipping through them, "are really popular sellers for me."

Also popular is a relatively new offering by Two Ladies and a Kiln (Cathy Kelley and Judi Olsen) of Muscatine — glass wine and liquor bottles melted at hundreds of degrees in a kiln to become flat serving trays ($29.95). The bottles retain their general shape and make perfect cheese trays.

Throughout Creative Colony, you find other great stuff: woolen mittens ($25.95) made by Linda Blackwell of Cedar Rapids who recycles old sweaters, drink coasters ($2.50) made from slices of Australian Banana Tree seed pods by Frank Ward of Iowa City, 3-D farm scenes ($12.95 and $54.95) by Bobbie and Kerry Deeter of Grinnell.

I’ve always been a sucker for witty sayings, so I love the signs made by Dave and FloAnn Davison of Hiawatha that hang on every wall.

The one I can’t resist, for $15.95: "I can repair anything! All I need is WD-40 to make things go and duct tape to make them stop." 

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