Kelly Wynns has always been a crafter. She grew up going to the O’Connell Center’s Craft Festival every year with her mom. When she was a student at UF, she continued attending the event.
“I always came and just shopped, but also dreamt of someday being able to be a vendor and sell my craft there,” she said.
Wynns, 39, is a former teacher turned substitute and owner of The Details by KMW, a monogramming, embroidery, applique and vinyl decals business. She will be selling her items at booth 1093 for her second year, after the 2020 event hiatus due to the pandemic.
“For me, it’s a little bit of like a dream come true, being a vendor at the at the O’Connell Center craft show,” Wynns said.
Wynns is one of the over a hundred vendors selling their work the O’Connell Center Craft Festival, a place to showcase handcrafted and homemade crafts and products, and for creators, makers and businesses owners to share their products with the community.
The annual event is hosted by the O’Connell Center, located at 250 Gale Lemerand Dr. This year’s festival will take place on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Wynns said she takes product orders mainly through Facebook and Instagram, and through a circuit of events she sells at. She sells primarily in the Gainesville area and around the state but has expanded her audience across the country.
“I love to see actual people in real life, not just on a screen, and so that’s the one thing that I look forward to at every show, but even more so now after the pandemic,” Wynns said. “What I look forward to most is seeing my current customers and then also meeting new customers.”
Wynns’ business took a small dip in sales due to the pandemic, but since August she said she has felt business increase with events like Gator football games, birthday celebrations and fall holidays like Halloween. She said the winter holiday season is usually busier than the rest of the year.
Nancy Searles, owner of Nancy’s NicNacs, will be debuting her three-month-old business at the festival at booth 2212. Searles, a lover of thrifting and vintage items, had started collected vintage china for her granddaughter’s wedding when her daughter mentioned an idea: to use the dishware to make candles and grow plants.
She repurposes each mug, teacup, bowls and dishes with handmade candles in different colors and scents. Some house little succulent plants.
“Each one is kind of an inspiration in itself,” she said. “Then, I add a little trinket like I call my NicNac to kind of make it special.”
As a grandmother of six grandchildren, Searles is most looking forward to spending time with her grandkids, who she’s planning to teach the ins and outs of running a business so they can help her out.
“It’s all about learning experience for them as well,” she said. “It’s really kind of adventure. I don’t know that I’ll make any money, but I’m having fun.”
The Writers Alliance of Gainesville will have a booth for the first time this year, where they will sell around 30 of the members’ and authors’ books as well as the organization’s 2021 Bacopa Literary Review, which was released in October.
Jess Elliott, president of the alliance, said the organization sells their member’s books at multiple festivals around the city and state, and sponsors their own annual book festival at the Sunshine State Book Festival. But the Craft Festival is an opportunity to meet new people and spread the word about the alliance, Elliott said.
“It’s always exciting to connect with authors who are starting up and they’re like, ‘Oh, wow, there’s actually a writers group in this town?’” Elliott said. “It’s always fun to encourage new people or even seasoned authors if they want a support group.”
Elliott will be selling her recently released book “It’s a Haint Blue Christmas” which she said is a “a funny, feel-good story with a hint of mystery,” alongside her other novels.
The booth will feature a wide variety of genres, from children’s books to young adult novels to memoirs to poetry collections.
“Buy local; we are local authors,” Elliott said. “You don’t have to wait for the shipping container.”