Carmen Dykstra was inspired to create when she moved to the South Cariboo.
It wasn’t just the view of Irish Lake from the back of her property, but the nature all around her.
“I fell in love with the area as time went on,” she said. “The stuff you could pick. The wood, the moss, all the things you can find.”
Dykstra used that nature to create a Christmas wreath, adding items from the local Share Shed, and “it just blew up from there,” she said. She started attending craft fairs and meeting new people. Today, she runs Carmen’s Cariboo Crafts out of a cabin at the back of her property.
She is just one of many people in the South Cariboo whose side hustles have become nearly full-time gigs as people look to shop locally or find unique gift ideas, either at summer markets or at Christmas time. Despite in-person craft fairs being curtailed as a result of COVID-19, crafters are finding alternate ways to sell their unique wares, be it online or through appointment-only sales.
“It’s become my full-time hobby,” said Dykstra, who makes all sorts of Christmas crafts and baskets as well as jewelry and other handmade gifts. “My entire house is full of work stations. I don’t make a lot of money but it’s fun and just a way to keep busy.”
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Jim Williscroft, past-president of the 100 Mile Cruzers Car Club, sells his unique wrought-iron designs, mostly through word of mouth.
A former police officer, he found his niche in 1986 when he made his first piece and “it was an instant hit,” he said.
His business, Cariboo Custom Designs, is run out of his garage, where his work is hung on the walls for prospective clients, or where he works on specific requests.
It takes him about a month to design and create his projects, which includes cutting, grinding, finishing and painting them. He never makes the same thing twice.
“The designs I do are original, one of a kind,” said Williscroft, who moved to 100 Mile in 1980. “It feels good. It’s a very gratifying feeling to know somebody thinks enough of your work, your ideas, to purchase them.”
Although Williscroft relies a lot on the U.S. market for his sales, others like Dykstra focus on local buyers. Jenny Giesbrecht, who moved back to the 100 Mile House area three years ago, tends to use craft fairs as the best medium to sell not only her homemade baking but the rest of her family’s handiwork. This includes her father’s hand-tied flies, her niece’s drawings and embroidery or her mother’s knitting or crochet work.
“It’s great. Everyone is so helpful and so kind,” Giesbrecht said. “When we’ve got tourists coming through everyone is so excited to check out the markets.
“Kids love it. Kids come up with $5 and they can choose a fly and go fish.”
Dykstra would like to see an outdoor area strung out along a street in 100 Mile House where vendors can sell their Christmas art, food and crafts in a physically distanced way, to brighten up the season. “Business has been a lot harder for everybody.”