Dinnise Felder’s frost-tipped evergreens were shimmering. When the sponsored programs research administrator at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) combined her greens with Diane Starkell’s brilliantly burning noel candle, they formed a welcome sign to the 11th Annual UMB Holiday Craft Fair.
The aroma of clove and balsam fir radiated between the Elm Ballrooms and the lobby at the SMC Campus Center at the 3½-hour event on Nov. 30. It was either that or Theresa Carrington’s You and Me Soaps, whipped shea butter, and fragrance oils.
More than 60 vendors — faculty, staff, students, and friends of the University — displayed their unique crafts at the fair. In addition to UMB, a common vein that connected them all together was not only the passion for what they do but also the love and support for their Baltimore community.
Starkell, owner and creator of Terra Verde, remains active in the community through her participation in farmers markets and local events such as the UMB Craft Fair.
After wrapping up a soy candle housed in a copper Mason jar, she said, “You can also find me at the farmers market underneath the Jones Falls Expressway, every Sunday from 7 a.m. to 12.” This was a common refrain heard among vendors and even the cacophony of shoppers testing out samples.
In front of Infused Spreads, a family-owned business specializing in handcrafted preserves, jams, and fruit butters, Emem Moody caught up with one of her regulars. They exchanged narratives of when Moody participated in the Baltimore Herb Festival back in May and when the habanero plum butter is expected to make its return. “I did not bring any with me this time,” Moody said.
She later mentioned the JFX farmers market and assured the customer that she will have the habanero plum butter then. Asked if she made and packaged the jams herself, Moody, who was joined by her husband and daughter, said, “My husband and I both make the jams and butters.”
The tart and heat from Moody’s jam sample turned this shopper’s attention to the assortment of olive oils and vinegars at Dimitrios Komninos’ table. The olive oil and vinegar bottles were aligned evenly on top of a dark blue tablecloth. The scene was set for casual taste testing, but the flavors and products were anything but.
As one of the descendants of the Dimitri Giannakos family, Komninos’ products brought the UMB community back to his olive farm in southern Greece. “My family grows and harvests the oils,” Komninos said. “We have a farm at the foothills of Mount Taygetos, where we have been producing olive oil for over 100 years.” While Dimitrios’ olive oils are featured in several Baltimore restaurants, shoppers also can find a taste of southern Greece at the Waverly farmers market on Barclay and East 32nd streets.
Starkell, Moody, and Komninos are just some of the many vendors who go beyond the storefront and bring their craft directly to the community. Whether it is at the UMB Craft Fair or beyond, face-to-face interactions are one of the core values that drives many of these local vendors. For the UMB faculty, staff, students, and friends who participated in this year’s Craft Fair, they had an opportunity to showcase their skill and craft that goes beyond their schools and departments, whether that was an artistic craft or baked good.
For the local vendors, their roots within the community collectively paints a unique portrait of Baltimore that goes beyond its sports teams, geography, and policies. It is precisely the owners of these small businesses that make the contribution to go out and build narratives that gives Baltimore a unique story.
— Jennie Rivera
See more photos from the UMB Holiday Craft Fair.