It surrounds and engulfs, the craft show. Constant stimuli spin off handmade knickknacks and objets d'art, and the perpetually overcrowded aisles are a stroller speedway, with usually mild-mannered mothers careening from one booth to the next in search of the elusive craft bargain.
But make no mistake, this super-swirl of action and merchandise is not chaos theory in action. It has rules, governing truths that control and define it, just as surely as Isaac's apple will always fall to Earth.
Consider the Christmas Made in the South show, running through Sunday at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, a petri dish, a proving ground for what will henceforth be known as the Four Truths. There, these laws are exemplified and, because of its expansive size, amplified.
TRUTH ONE: Anything can be painted on.
Tucked away in a forest of glass, Diane Blazer juggles customers and bookings for future craft show appearances. Surrounding her are all manner of bottles, salt and pepper shakers, touch lights, and bowls, each one bearing an individual piece of artwork by Ms. Blazer. Some have musical treble clefs, others golf bags or fruit or a crowing rooster. Ms. Blazer said she has more than 40 styles in all.
"All original," she said with pride. "Of course I'm known for my bottles. You can use them for oil, detergent, anything you want. Now we're even making them into hummingbird feeders."
Ms. Blazer is not alone. Outside her crystalline fortress, other crafters have applied paint to mailboxes, slabs of slate, yard signs, clothing and, oddly enough, canvas. Ms. Blazer admitted that craft-show painting can be a fairly demanding career choice.
"Oh yes," she said with a laugh. "This past week, two nights in a row, I only got four hours of sleep."
That's a lot of roosters.
TRUTH TWO: Anything can be personalized.
In booths across the civic center, anxious customers stand in lengthy lines waiting to get their purchases emblazoned with names, messages and other missives. Marcella Picciolo spends her days bent over a Plexiglas box engraving Confederate battle flags, bears, bucks and baseball players - and names - on the blades of the knives she and her husband sell.
"Personalizing makes it a really one-of-a-kind type of thing," she said over the quiet whir of her engraving pen. "It makes it special, nice for the customer or for the people that will be receiving it."
Indeed, the booths that seem to attract the biggest crowds are those that add personalization to their products. Some are painted, some embroidered, some carved, burned or chiseled. All, seemingly, are attractive to the customer.
"It's certainly been a big thing for us," Mrs. Picciolo said.
TRUTH THREE: Anything can be recycled.
At Christmas Made in the South, one man's trash is seemingly everyone else's treasure. Discarded bottles are heated and pressed (literally) into action as wind chimes and cheese boards; doorknobs find a second career on a coat rack; and, at one particularly popular booth, ordinary aluminum cans are bent, buckled and reborn as kinetic airplane sculptures.
"There seems to be more and more people recycling," said Rick Cobb, the artist responsible for the aeronautical art. "It's something you see more and more of at these shows."
For a long time, Mr. Cobb said, using recycled items as art was uncommon on the craft show circuit, and it was even frowned upon in some circles.
"Yeah, for a while it seemed like we were the only ones," he said. "Some shows wouldn't even let us in because of that. But the numbers seem to be growing. It's a trend, I guess."
TRUTH FOUR: Ladies love the craft show.
Despite being outnumbered 20-to-1, it's easy to find men at an arts and crafts show. They'll be over by the funnel cake stand - frowning.
The last craft show truth is that the copious crowds a craft show attracts tend to be fairly female-heavy. Christy Allred, who fashions amusing figures from forks, knives and spoons (another recycler), said she's not sure why that might be.
"I never really thought about it," she said. "We do see some men, but they are usually here with their wives. I guess it might be because women are at home more, and so are more interested in decorative types of things. That, and women like to shop."
And that's the Truths.
WHAT: 22nd annual Christmas Made in the South
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, 601 Seventh St.
ADMISSION: $5 adults, free for children 12 and younger. Discounted tickets are available at Fat Man's Forest and Chick-fil-A locations. Call (704) 847-9480.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or email@example.com.
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