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Liz Sutter shows off her hand-knit hats to Maj. Joshua Hicks
Photo Credit: Michael Lucibella
Liz Sutter shows off her hand-knit hats to Maj. Joshua Hicks.

McMurdo's Crafty Side

For one afternoon in December, McMurdo’s dining hall was transformed into a small bazaar of handmade wares.

Amy Pashov demonstrates how she spins wool into yarn.
Photo Credit: Michael Lucibella
Amy Pashov demonstrates how she spins wool into yarn.

At the annual December Craft Fair, station residents gathered to display and swap the arts and crafts projects they’ve been working on during their off-hours. Tables were piled high with colorful knit hats and scarfs, crocheted water bottle holders and hand-made necklaces.

“There are a lot of ‘crafty’ people here,” said Kim Bowyer, a supply supervisor who helped organize this year’s fair. “It’s been going on since I’ve been in the program, 15 years.”

It’s a tradition that’s been recurring for as long as anyone can remember. The one held in December is the largest of three fairs held annually at the station. There are also smaller ones during the winter and Winfly.

Small woolen penguins made by Lisa Gacioch are one of the many Antarctic-inspired contributions to the craft fair.
Photo Credit: Michael Lucibella
Small woolen penguins made by Lisa Gacioch are one of the many Antarctic-inspired contributions to the craft fair.

How many people participate and what they contribute varies from year to year. Eighteen people reserved tables for their wares this season, but in the past as few as 12 and as many as 30 people have.

“It changes every year. It’s very fluid,” Bowyer said, adding that though knitted items are always perennial favorites, this was particularly popular year for them.

About half of the displays at the fair featured knit hats or scarves that the artisans had made during their off-duty-hours. The prevalence of knit items is a reflection of how popular of a hobby it is on the station.

“I do it more as a meditative thing,” said Shandra Cordovano, an inventory data specialist. “It’s really fun to pick out the colors and put them together and make it really pretty.”

Amy Pashov, the Chalet senior administrative coordinator, also spends many of her off-hours with knitting needles in hand, though she starts with the unspun dyed wool and then spins it into yarn herself.

“I learned to knit and spin down here,” she said. “It’s a creative process… It’s the love of fiber and the love of color.”

Sandra and John Loomis admire some of Harry Fishel’s necklaces he creates while teaching his jewelry making class.
Photo Credit: Michael Lucibella
Sandra and John Loomis admire some of Harry Fishel’s necklaces he creates while teaching his jewelry making class.

She gets all of her wool from the local Christchurch guild, in part to help them recover after the 2011 earthquake.

Different media appeal to different residents. Henry Fishel sits behind a table of colorful necklaces and earrings with stones that he polished and set himself.

“I’m a welder and I also teach a jewelry class,” he said. “It’s fun, I like to come down here and watch people learn.”

His evening classes are usually full, and some residents have taken them multiple times. He’s been coming to the ice for ten years since he retired and been a part of the fair for nearly as long.

“There’s just no place like it,” he said. “It’s just such a fun place to be.”

For Amanda Crawford, a passenger services representative, it’s her first time at the fair. She’s showing off the water bottle holders she crocheted from fabric scraps leftover from quilts she’s made.

“It’s so exciting,” she said. “I didn’t know it was going to be so crowded and busy.”

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Curator: Michael Lucibella, Antarctic Support Contract | NSF Official: Peter West, Office of Polar Programs