By Sean Barron
Are you planning to buy someone a small, inexpensive Christmas gift but are tired of the holiday hustle and bustle, heavy traffic and long lines at area malls and big-box stores?
Then you might consider visiting a nondescript barn with a lake in the back that’s also surrounded by plenty of serenity and open space.
“We do most of the art here. Farmer Casey’s is considered more of the fine-arts program,” said Amy Rigby, art director and instructor at Farmer Casey’s Ranch, 4738 McCartney Road, the site of this week’s Santa’s Workshop, which is selling plenty of jewelry and other holiday-themed gifts.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today through Friday, people can buy a variety of such merchandise made by clients of the Purple Cat. Nearly every item is between 50 cents and $10, Rigby noted.
Proceeds are to benefit the group’s art program.
The 9-year-old Purple Cat agency, which runs the ranch, provides day-program alternatives to adults with physical and mental challenges by allowing them to take part in a variety of projects, vocational opportunities and classes intended to help them develop improved daily-living skills.
Examples of clients’ artwork for sale are ornaments, recycled garden skewers, decorated bottle caps, key chains and magnets, old button jewelry, small black-and-white pillows, necklaces, Christmas-card sets and numerous ceramic wall hangings, plates and ring holders.
Specialty products include jalapeno hot-pepper jellies ($6 each or two for $10) made from peppers grown on the Purple Cat property, as well as small-candy arrangements from Touch the Moon Candy Saloon, a business clients operate on South Phelps Street in downtown Youngstown, Rigby said.
One of those who had a hand in many of the artistic touches was 53-year-old Mark Gotti of Poland, a client who said he’s happy to help Rigby with her efforts.
“We make it and put it all together,” said Gotti, who also enjoys participating in sewing, jewelry-making and music classes the Purple Cat offers.
Helping sell some merchandise is on the agenda for Gotti, who also praised the Purple Cat’s staff.
Also assisting the workshop in similar ways is Richie Rich of Austintown, who lists disassembling and assembling bicycles as one of his top passions.
Rich said he plans to be on hand this week to help Rigby sell and bag items, adding that he enjoys collecting Matchbox cars and working with Lego construction toys.
If you’re intrigued by various jewelry items, you might wish to thank Brandy Burgess of Youngstown.
She was largely responsible for having crafted many necklaces and earrings from soda-bottle tabs. Similar items she had made won second place at a recent Canfield Fair gathering, Burgess said proudly.
“I like helping to paint,” said Burgess, who also plays country music, her favorite, one hour each Tuesday on the Purple Cat’s online radio station on the East Side.