Jenny Scarborough
Handmade on Ocracoke
Original work by Elizabeth Parsons

The Homegrown, Handmade Market gives creative islanders an outlet for their wares.

Handmade on Ocracoke
Cheryl Despo Jewelry

Anyone can include their work at the market in the Community Store, but it has to be something you make on Ocracoke, said jeweler Cheryl Despo. Over 20 local artists are represented, and the work ranges from cheeky T-shirts to elegant felted scarves, and includes painting, photography, ceramics, woodwork, decoupage and cute fabric pins.

This year, volunteers are hoping to keep the market open Tuesday through Saturday. "Hours will vary," noted Despo.

Like many of the artists, Despo's work is inspired by her island home. She hand casts pendants of shells and sea life, and uses pearls in her delicate earrings and dramatic necklaces, which have the palette of the ocean and sunsets.

Despo has been making jewelry for 25 years, and learned from other island jewelers like Kathleen O'Neal, owner of Island Artworks.

Handmade on Ocracoke

In addition to her larger pieces, Despo offers a line of affordable glass bead and sterling silver earrings ($12 - $25) that are colorful yet classic enough to wear for years.

Many of the artists are largely self-taught. "I think we all just kind of wing it," laughed Despo.

Vibrant oil paintings of waterfowl and song birds by Sharon Justice are displayed in an old deli case. Justice captures the busybody energy of a house sparrow, and the idle lethality of an egret.

Shelves once stocked with groceries showcase bright decoupage bowls by Barbara Adams. I couldn't decide if I preferred her butterfly and floral bowl, or the one featuring local musicians Martin Garrish, Jackie Willis and Lou Castro. Prints of Adam's paintings are also available.

"Della's going to bring in some fig preserves at some point," said Despo.

Handmade on Ocracoke
Paintings by Sharon Justice

Young artists are represented, with a selection of work by Ocracoke School art students. Their teacher, accomplished artist Kitty Martin Mitchell, offers her work as well.

Some of the artists, like Adams and Mitchell, have shows at Down Creek Gallery and other island venues. Many sell their work exclusively at the Homegrown, Handmade Market.

Ceramic artist Maria Logan is opening Salt Creek Studio, after originally showing at the market, which began last spring as a monthly event in the Community Square parking lot.

Artist Elizabeth Parsons sells her primitive paintings and Ocracoke T-shirts both at the market and in her shop on Lighthouse Road.

Merle Davis organized the market to bring energy to the square and to celebrate locally made, caught and baked items. The first market had about eight participants, and included Greek pastries, layer cakes, fresh local seafood, and fruit juices in addition to art and crafts.


Handmade on Ocracoke
Hand crafted by Len Skinner

"When the store closed we liked seeing activity in the square," said Robin Payne, Director of Ocracoke Foundation, Inc. "Local residents were soon coming in with beautiful creations." The temperature was also rising, and setting up shop on asphalt was less appealing. Participants asked about moving the market indoors.

The market has since been open at least once a week while The Community Store awaits new tenants. Artisans decided they like the Homegrown, Handmade logo, and give a percentage of their sales to cover overhead.

Handmade on Ocracoke
Nuno Felting by Cindy Fiore

The initiative "provides awareness of all locally made things, whether grown, caught, made or cooked," said Robin, “and can promote all locally made items in shops, stores and restaurants.” The Homegrown, Handmade movement started in Western North Carolina.

"The Homegrown, Handmade movement in western NC was successful economically because travelers like having a connection to the people and the culture. It definitely makes their stay more memorable and rewarding," said Robin.

One groovy part of island culture is riding a bike for daily transportation. An inconvenience of biking in an town with frequent rain showers is a damp bum. A popular item, out of stock the day I visited, are bike seat covers by Linda Ward. Ward stitches the covers from vinyl table cloths, so they are fashionable as well as functional. Problem solved!

Handmade on Ocracoke
Carol Bullard designs

Ward also sews bohemian fabric arm and ankle cuffs, for the low low price of $7. Much of the work at the market is similarly affordable.

Artist and woodworker Len Skinner sells cheeky crow and kingfisher sculptures for $12 and $18.50, respectively. Skinner's imaginative style is visible in his winged wall hangings and lamps assembled from driftwood and found objects.

Artist Cindy Fiore loves tactile media. She's crafted memorable paper mache work and designs jewelry as part of the Red Turtle Studio team. Fiore began nuno felting several years ago, and her sumptuous scarves are offered at the market, for $30 to $70. Each piece of wearable art is one of a kind.

Parents and grandparents will want to scoop up Carol Bullard's felt tooth fairy pillows and adorable animal pins. Bullard also shows her photography at the market, in the cereal aisle, next to bird houses by Eakin Howard.

If the doors at The Community Store are open, the Handgrown, Handmade market is open. The porch rockers are available to relax in 24/7.