BONLEE — Candace Beal shared a love for arts and crafts with her daughter, Caroline. Now, Beal wants to share that passion with Bonlee’s children through week-long crafting sessions this summer, which will take place at Crafter’s HeART Studio.
“This is the first time I've done art classes for children … I will do a different thing every day with them,” Beal told the News + Record.
Beal opened the studio a couple of years ago in honor of her deceased daughter, who died in Jackson, Mississippi, under mysterious circumstances in 2017 when she was 24 years old.
“She was the sweetest girl,” Beal said. “She just was so energetic and loving. She just loved people.”
Beal decided turn her grief into action when she bought the properties at 14 and 16 Bonlee Bennett Road and created the craft studio and the Bonlee Trading Post. Both establishments are Beal’s way to leave her mark on the community and honor her daughter.
“I always say that she [Caroline] is the heart in Crafter’s HeART,” Beal said. “This is all done in her memory.”
Various crafting classes have been held at the Crafter’s HeART Studio since its opening in 2021. With summer approaching and the school year coming to a close, Beal wanted to provide an opportunity for Chatham County’s children to express themselves.
Thus, Summer Craft Time was born — four, week-long crafting classes will be held for Chatham County youth. Parents can sign their young ones up for a week of arts and crafts fun for $100, or if there’s only one craft a child is interested in, they can do the single class day for $25.
Beal said teaching people how to craft has become a passion of hers, and it’s something she never realized could have such a large impact.
“These are more heirloom kind of projects … to pass from generation to generation,” Beal said.
“It's not just the canvas that they worked on that one night … but it's something they can really keep. It's really personal.”
Some of the crafts that will be offered over the summer include:
The Summer Craft Time weeks are spread over two months, with two sessions taking place in June and the other two in July. Children ages six to 17 can participate, with six to 10-year-oldsworking from 10 a.m. to noon and ages 11 to 17 working from 1 to 4 p.m.
Beal said she’s developed a following in Bonlee, but wants to extend an invitation to the rest of the county to come to her crafting studio.
Art is often an escape for people, including Beal. In fact, Beal is working to become a certified art therapist, and she hopes to be able to use her passion for arts and crafts to bring positivity into the lives of her neighbors.
“Their mind is just focused on the colors and the project and not so much the outside world,” Beal said. “It's remarkable to watch them pick the colors, pick their brushes, sit down, prepare and then just go off into this world of creativity.”
The studio and the trading post also play a crucial role in Beal’s dreams and aspirations — she wants to rebuild Bonlee to be a place the old and young can be proud of. In a previous interview with the News + Record, Beal explained how downtown Bonlee became unrecognizable to her.
Overgrown grass overtook yards and perimeters of sidewalks. Buildings were vandalized and abandoned.
When Beal first bought the block the buildings were on, the windows were shattered and the storefront was painted a blue-green color she felt did not suit her ideas for her businesses. Since then, Beal had the windows and doors replaced, as well as completely repainted and renovated the inside and outside of the buildings.
“I was digging through my pictures, and I can’t believe all of this used to look like that,” she said. “We can now go back to the buildings, and now, our children can have memories in those buildings.”
Every craft or art piece is done in honor of Beal’s daughter, Caroline. Caroline’s presence can be felt around the studio, with her pictures spread throughout the space and the logo includes a paintbrush drawn by Caroline.
“I think she would just be right in there with me … just because that's something that she loves so much,” Beal said. “She would just be so thrilled to be here every morning. I wish she was here with me doing it in person, but I feel like her spirit is there.”
For Beal, she wants to share her daughter’s memory and help others share their passion for arts and crafts through the Summer Craft Time sessions. She said she hopes people in the community not only leave with Caroline’s memories, but also leave knowing they are capable of completing projects from their wildest imaginations.
“People come in and say, ‘I have no crafting ability whatsoever,’ and they leave with the most beautiful projects,” Beal said. “It lifts them up and they have this beautiful thing to take home with them. I love to see the happy when they go home.”
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