One afternoon in 2013, when she needed a break from working on her graduate degree in anthropology – and a dissertation on drug trafficking in Latin America – Seana Monly Rodriguez found herself making a terrarium.
She grabbed a covered glass jar and added soil and moss, brightening up her workspace in the process.
Then she made another.
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Terrariums started crowding her mantel and cluttering her tables.
“They’re everywhere!” she said.
Suddenly she had a roomful of terrariums and no shortage of ideas in sight: planters with thimble-sized cactuses, jars with moss and tiny dinosaur and unicorn figurines, hard-to-kill succulents in cat-shaped pots.
Family and friends suggested she start selling the terrariums online, so Tierra Sol Studios began.
Rodriguez works out of her home studio in Durham, North Carolina, making terrariums and growing moss and cactuses with her husband, Yair. The business has been so successful that she now does it full-time. (“It’s more fun than writing about drug trafficking.”)
Tierra Sol Studios will be at Crafty Feast on Sunday, Dec. 11 and is this year’s Best in Show.
Now in its eighth year, Crafty Feast is a market of original handmade goods from jury-selected vendors across the Southeast. More than one-third of this year’s 98 vendors are new to Crafty Feast; 78 are from outside of Columbia, and 35 are from out of state.
Crafty Feast is organized by Flock and Rally: Integrated Communications for a Brave New South. In addition to shopping for everything from small-batch pimento cheeses to button bouquets, attendees can sip mimosas and wine, snack on popcorn and listen to tunes spun by “DJ Dr. P” Scott Padgett at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
“We feel really honored to be chosen out of so many people. I’m so completely shocked,” Rodriguez said of the Best in Show win.
In addition to Best in Show, Rodriguez also has the title of top seller of moss terrarium kits on Etsy. The DIY terrarium comes with a unicorn figurine and was included in Buzzfeed’s “26 Magical Unicorn Things You Need in Your Life.”
“I thought at first people would think it’s really weird. But people really liked them,” Rodriguez said.
All of Tierra Sol Studio terrariums and planters can go six to eight months without watering – great for plant-killers, she added.
“We want all our plants to make people happy and be long-lasting.”
1st Runner-Up: Bone and Ink
Jennifer Allen, a Crafty Feast newcomer, is a fine artist who creates vintage-looking pen and ink drawings. By utilizing cross-hatching and hard contrast, the Pendleton resident likes for her drawings to have the appearance of old etchings. Skulls and tattoo-inspired images often find their way into her work for Bone and Ink as well.
“What really inspired me about tattoo design is that there really aren’t any rules as to what it can be,” she said. “One of my first pieces, for example, included a fox skull, a light bulb and a mustache. Since then, I’ve worked on more complex drawings combining Greek mythology, circus performers and skeletons.”
The use of skulls and skeletons in her drawings isn’t to be morbid, she added. “It’s to honor the animal from which they came by breathing new life into them … and show their beauty.”
Allen’s drawings are so detailed they can take upward of 50 hours each to complete.
“When you spend so much time with a piece, I love that it can bring so much joy to another person,” she said.
2nd Runner-Up: Titanic Alley
Four years ago, thrift shopper Rusty Sox got the idea to turn some of his gently used bargain finds into one-of-a-kind bow ties. A frequent bow tie wearer himself, Sox decided to try his hand at making his own. So he found some patterns online, bought a cheap sewing machine from Walmart and got started.
“It was a lot of trial and error,” he said, admitting that he had no sewing skills at first.
But what began as a few dozen extra bow ties has become several hundred and a business he calls Titanic Alley.
“A bow tie is a very individual statement,” he said. “Someone who wears a bow tie gives off an air of self-confidence.”
The name reflects Sox’s interest in an early 20th century neighborhood in Columbia, where a complex of closely packed, tenement-style homes called Titanic Apartments once stood.
Sox recently retired from the South Carolina Arts Association and is focusing his increased free time on Titanic Alley. His studio next to his home in Cottontown is cluttered with fabrics waiting to be transformed into bow ties. He has expanded to making pocket squares and scarves as well.
Sox has been a vendor at Crafty Feast for the past four years, but this is his first as a Best in Show contender.
“It’s really flattering,” he said. “It’s beyond anything I ever expected.”
If you go
WHEN: Noon-6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11
WHERE: Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, 1101 Lincoln St.
COST: $3; kids 10 and under get in free
WORTH NOTING: Children can get creative at the kids’ craft table, led by Columbia Museum of Art and themed for the museum’s current exhibition, “Cut! Costume and the Cinema.”