Local craftspeople bring unique products to Pioneer Festival

Published 2:24 pm Thursday, August 31, 2023

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The Daniel Boone Pioneer Festival is Sept. 2-3, and a large crowd is anticipated to converge on downtown Winchester.

Two local craft vendors will be part of that crowd, and both bring a unique product to the annual craft show.

For one vendor, the festival will be the only time she will sell her goods anywhere for the rest of this year.

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Renee Bowman of Clark County owns Ms. Nay’s Creations and is a self-taught jewelry designer.

“I picked it up about four years ago and enjoy being creative,” Bowman said when asked why she ventured into the craft. “I would watch videos on YouTube and look at pictures. It was a lot of trial and error.”

Some of the inspiration lay in retail frustration.

“I couldn’t find anything in the stores that I liked that was different and couldn’t afford to buy most of the things I really liked, so I thought, ‘Why don’t I try to make some of my own stuff,’” Bowman said.

She described her jewelry style as “eclectic,” and she will make it if she sees something she likes.

Past creations include copper rings, necklaces and earrings.

Recently, Bowman began making bracelets for children.

“It is completely different than the jewelry that I make for adults,” Bowman said. “I use bright-colored beads for them.”

Bowman also uses many precious gemstones in her work and is often unable to find them in Kentucky.

An annual family vacation to South Carolina is her time to stock up.

“When my family gets to go to Charleston, I visit a bead store there and pick up several of the items I like to use,” Bowman said.

Delighting customers keeps Bowman in the jewelry-making game even as she has had to cut back due to other commitments.

“I enjoy when other people come up and they say, ‘Wow, that is beautiful work.’ They enjoy something that I created,” Bowman said.

For another vendor, his work pays homage to Kentucky’s agricultural past.

Ben Greeman has done carpentry and worked with wood his entire life, and what started as homemade Christmas presents has become a full-time hobby.

“I make charcuterie boards, cutting boards and any kind of decorative thing that I can think,” Greeman said.

What makes Greeman’s creations one-of-a-kind is the wood he uses.

“What I use for wood is tobacco sticks,” Greeman said.

Tobacco sticks were made with leftover wood from furniture making and usually are comprised of cherry, oak and pine wood.

They were used to hang harvested tobacco plants while they dried in a barn before being sold.

Greeman was not particularly inspired by using the sticks at first and used them because a friend had a pile when he needed wood for a project.

Now, he sees it as an act of preservation, especially knowing a generation of Kentuckians has grown into adulthood without knowing what a staple cash crop tobacco was for the commonwealth.

“What’s unique about it is the fact I am using something from what is more or less a dying industry and trying to reclaim something that farmers are laying to the side and cluttering up their barns with,” Greeman said.

And for some farmers that Greeman gets his sticks from, it is one way to ensure the history of their land lives on.

“One farmer told me that his family bought his farm in 1940, and some of those sticks were on the farm when they bought it. Some of them were over 100 years old,” he said.