SANFORD – Jeanine Taylor hears it a lot around the holidays: people have been to all the major stores but just can’t seem to find a holiday gift that is unlike anything that the big box stores are stocking on their shelves.
Naturally, she welcomes them in.
“They just want something unique,” Taylor said, “and we try to strive for the hand-made.”
What Taylor operates in historic downtown Sanford, though, is not a department store with specialty items. At her business located on 211 E. First St. in Sanford, she owns and operates Jeanine Taylor Folk Art, which is part-gallery, part-art shop.
“Art is always appropriate for the holidays, especially folk art,” she said.
But these days, it’s also folk art with a holiday-themed twist.
Jeanine Taylor Folk Art just opened its new seasonal exhibit, “Be Good for Goodness Sake,” which puts a spotlight on the very creative things that folk artists have come up with — right in time for the Christmas season. Some of it is nostalgic, some of it is environmentally-friendly, a few items are comical – but they all cry out, ‘Tis the season in their originality.
And they are all hand-made, she added, often from common household products that most people wouldn’t think would be particularly useful for artwork.
“I specialize in folk art, and most folk art is whatever is at hand,” she said. “They make rather unique ornaments.”
Take, for example, the Christmas tree made entirely of recycled cardboard.
“It is eco-friendly, made in the U.S.A., and 100 percent recyclable,” Taylor said. “How much better can you get?”
There’s also a raindeer made of corrugated cardboard, and special kits that allow folks to make their own tree or snow people.
“These Make Your Own Snow People kits, those have been very popular,” Taylor said.
And, of course, some of the best hand-made items are those created in the kitchen. Taylor’s gallery has an Aunt Nee Nee’s Pantry with canned goodies that include Green Tomato Chutney, Strawberry Pepper Preserve, Peach Chutney, and Peach Cardamom Ginger Pie Filling.
“The holiday show starts here, in our southern pantry,” Taylor said. “I have Sweet Potato Butter, and Oprah put that in her magazine as one of her favorite things. We don’t disagree with Oprah.”
There’s a torn paper garland Christmas tree, winter scarves made from recycled coats, and vintage television music boxes made to look like television sets showing a program with a holiday theme. When you wind them up, it plays holiday music.
“They were so popular last year, we got a couple of special ones in this year,” Taylor said.
Taylor first opened her gallery in Winter Park 15 years ago, then moved it to downtown Sanford in 2005, where she’s been ever since. The holiday exhibit, she added, has been a staple of the folk art gallery ever since.
“We do this every year, as well as other shows,” she said. “With the holiday art show, I always call it a lyric from a popular Christmas song. It’s holiday décor and gifts, not necessarily art. But it’s all a little more arty than K-Mart.”
Jeanine Taylor Folk Art is a great spot not just for downtown Sanford’s residents and visitors, but also for artists themselves, said Debbie Abbott. She moved from Syracuse, N.Y. to Sanford last year, and decided to use some of Taylor’s space for a gallery.
“We have a space in our house, but there’s not enough room,” she said.
It’s great to have a location like this to practice something she long ago developed a passion and talent for, Abbott said.
“It just was something that I did, and thought I was good at,” she said.
Jeanine Taylor Folk Art can be reached by calling 407-323-2774. The hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. “Be Good for Goodness Sake” runs through Dec. 30.
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