From creamy silks to colourful lace, the fabrics Lesley Lantenhammer uses to make exquisite and detailed gowns for Barbie dolls are always top-notch.
And the place to find these hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind creations is at Creative Chaos, where Lantenhammer will once again have her booth set up during the three-day festival June 6, 7 and 8.
“I get such a kick out of the little ones who come and pick out that special Barbie outfit,” she said. “Some kids come and spend the whole day with me.
“Creative Chaos is so much fun and one thing that really sets it apart from other shows is the quality — they have really upheld the quality of crafts by having it juried.
“This is not just a craft show, it’s an artisans show and the talent is amazing.”
If you’re thinking of picking up some of Lantenhammer’s work, Creative Chaos is your last chance to do it. Poor health in recent years means she has to cut back on some of her activities, including her Barbie creations.
“And I can’t afford on my pension to do as much as I used to do,” said Lantenhammer, who moved to Vernon from Prince George with her husband, Sigi, last year. “So we’ll have a big blowout sale this year at Creative Chaos — I’m busy trying to use up all of my lace.”
For Lantenhammer, who considers herself a crafter, not a sewer, creating one-of-a-kind outfits has been something she’s always done, starting in Grade 5, when there was no extra cash for the latest outfit.
“At that time, if I wanted something I had to make my own, and then I would take the left-over scraps and make doll dresses and sell them to the neighbours.”
Lantenhammer bought her first Barbie two years ago and since then, has dressed, styled and transformed the dolls into works of art.
After picking up second-hand dolls, she gets to work cleaning them, washing and styling their hair, using hand-crafted curlers she makes out of pipe cleaners and paper.
Lantenhammer’s bright and sunny home studio is packed to the rafters with Barbies in elegant gowns, ranging from old-fashioned to more contemporary, all with head wear to complement the outfits.
“I have a ‘recipe’ I use — the top and the skirt are always the same, without sleeves, as those are too hard for small kids.
“It’s not the sewing that takes time, it’s figuring out how I want to use the scraps — I go by what the scraps tell me.”
And these are some scraps: silks and satins made from the 60 bridal gowns given to Lantenhammer by the owner of a bridal salon that was closing its doors.
The fabric scraps are neatly organized in special cabinets and drawers, along with bins filled with feathers, beads, tulle, tiny feathers, miniature “jewels” and anything else needed to create the perfect gown, hat or wrap for Barbie.
Lantenhammer turns to her trusty 50-year-old sewing machine to run up the dresses, but it’s a slightly less conventional product that is used to add the embellishment.
“I use dental floss — that is my little craft secret — and then the fun is with the glue gun — that’s where the real work is, in the detail.”
With Creative Chaos her last craft show, Lantenhammer is glad she’s going out on a high note.
“I thought I would do others, but there is nothing like it anywhere — from the food to the amazing face painting, to the entertainment, it’s just a really great weekend.”
Lantenhammer hopes to sell everything she’s made, which shouldn’t be too difficult: dresses are just $5, while a Barbie with dress is $15.
“I do this for the love of it, not the money. The point of making it is to see these kids’ faces when they carry it out.”
Creative Chaos brings more than 200 crafters and artisans from across Canada, and features everything from jewelry and pottery to wood working and musical instruments, as well as tie-dye, tattoos and face painting, and a wide variety of specialty foods at the food fair, which you can enjoy while listening to live entertainment. The air-conditioned indoor rest area features creative activities.
Creative Chaos takes place at the Vernon Recreation Complex, 3310-37th Ave., June 6 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., June 7 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and June 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free, but you are encouraged to bring a non-perishable item for the food bank.c