I’m now working night shifts, which means I haven’t been to the City Market in months.
After thinking long and hard about what to do about this blog, I have decided to leave it online and update when I can. I miss my daily trips to the market — the sights, the sounds, and the people. I miss being a part of the murmur and energy of the place.
Hopefully I will be able to get back someday soon. But given that I’m now sleeping when the Market is open, it may be some time before I wander the centre aisle again.
That was an expression Sabine Wieczorek often heard growing up in her grandparents’ home in East Germany. Although her grandmother used it to refer to people finding their soul-mates, the small sign in Sabine’s spot in the Market has a double-meaning: there is a hat for every head!
Sabine began selling her unique handmade hats at the Saint John City Market about four years ago. In the beginning, she only had a spot for two weeks, but her longest stay has been twelve weeks.
“I look forward to coming here every year.” Gesturing at her surroundings, Sabine smiles. “The Market community is just about perfect. The different vendors help each other out.”
The hats themselves are fascinating in their variety and personality. Some striped, some solid, some bright, some in more muted tones — all seem to reflect some facet of their creator.
“My work is functional,” Sabine explains. “My hats are made to be used, to be lived with, and to last. It reflects my philosophy of life, which places value on quality and considers the impact of what I do on Earth and for future generations.”
A self-described “happy hooker,” Sabine crochets all her hats. Although a friend of her grandmother’s taught Sabine to crochet a potholder as a child, Sabine wasn’t exactly drawn to handiwork. “When we came to Canada 18 years ago,” she laughs, “my husband had to use a piece of wire to try to put a button back on his pants.”
But eventually the crafting bug bit, and Sabine began making buckwheat pillows, and then fleece clothing. Finally six or seven years ago, Sabine picked up a crochet hook again and began making hats. “I am addicted to beauty,” she says, “and creating more or less practical things. It feeds my soul.”
Sabine continues. “I am a yarn collector — I have a ridiculous amount of ‘fluff and stuff.’ Only another fibre artist would understand the high.” But not all of her fibre is in her craft room. Some of it is in the fields surrounding her home — and it’s not on the first animal that comes to mind, either.
“We have twenty-two Scottish Highland Cattle as pets,” Sabine explains, reaching for a tag dangling from one of her hats to show me. “This is Abigail. The cow hair is brushed and combed, and then hand-spun by a local master spinner, and then I have it dyed. I think I am the only person in North America who crochets with cow hair!”
Understandably, there is a waiting list for the cow hair hats. Even with twenty-two of her giant pets, Sabine says that there is only so much cow hair available to her. But she is always on the look-out for new, unusual materials to add to her stash. “If green beans were long enough, I’d make a hat out of green beans.”
Sabine’s creative journey mirrors a more literal one — her move from East Germany to the Village of Gagetown, New Brunswick.
“Both my husband and I had wonderful childhoods, despite where we came from. We had the important things that have nothing to do with money. Feelings, love, and education — our souls and brains were fed,” Sabine remembers. “Hard times in life come to everyone, and at that time you need something to hold onto, and we both felt that with a happy childhood, you can survive the hardest storms in life.”
And so it was for their children they came to Canada eighteen years ago. Here Sabine and her husband would have the time and freedom to nurture their children, and to focus on the more important, simpler things in life.
“My grandfather used to say, ‘Your last shirt has no pockets.’ You can’t take anything with you. We wanted to leave behind children who were grounded, spiritual, with common sense and a good work ethic.”
The family landed in Gagetown, a close-knit community known for its artisans. The couple’s three children — one a six-month-old baby, and eleven-year-old twins at the time — have all thrived in that environment. “It is the most wonderful place to live and raise children. It’s safe, sane, and importance is placed on old-fashioned high values — caring for each other, doing things for each other. I know now what it means, that ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ The community carries the children and helps them grow. People know who they are and care about them, and that’s so important. It feeds the soul, the needs, the desires. ”
“It was just by chance that we landed in the Village of Gagetown in 1993,” Sabine marvels. “But it is a beautiful place, and it’s home. The countryside, beauty and peace in Gagetown is what feeds me. My love of nature and animals is a source of inspiration. I am happily lost in creating art.”
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Sabine and her wonderful hats will be in the Saint John City Market until Saturday, October 30. Make sure to see her while you can. Who knows? Your perfect “lid” may be waiting just for you.
As the clock struck midnight on the evening of September 15, I drew the name of the winner(s) of the City Market Scavenger Hunt. Congratulations to Rosa Robichaud and Gilbert Crevier!
It took them two trips to the Market, but they correctly identified all twelve of the images (including this one, which is a bowl of pewter keepsake tokens on the counter of Beckwith and Co.). The two most difficult ones to find were the “warrior” pictured on a can of Irn Bru on the cooler at Pete’s Frootique, and the cover of the Big Cheese Book in the cooler at Dean’s Meats.
After picking up their $25 in City Market Gift Certificates, the intrepid team strolled the aisles of the market once more — this time trying to decide how to spend their hard-won prize. At the time of my interview, they were planning on using it to purchase unique “Saint John gifts” to send as Christmas presents to friends far away.
Congratulations again on a job well done! And keep your eyes peeled for another contest before the year is out.