Making Memories

Margaret Haire loves to give new life to old materials. When she and husband Dennis built their East Side home nearly 25 years ago, they re-used brick, pecan floorboards, and yellow long-leaf heart pine beams (recreated as flooring) salvaged from the old Audubon Hosiery Mill in Henderson, Ky. Their sun porch is partially furnished with Margaret’s grandmother’s mint-condition, white patio set. In the den is a stained glass window retrieved from Dennis’ childhood church prior to the building’s demolition. “I come from a family that reused and refurbished,” Margaret says.

It’s no surprise, then, that this mother of two grown children would hand craft re-creations of heirloom holiday decorations. Designing at a table in the basement family room, Margaret pieces together fabric, crepe paper, antique trinkets, glitter, and replicas of antique wrapping paper found — in a dresser previously owned by her grandmother — into vintage-style objets d’art. Her scenes are based on nature, figurines, and popular traditional holiday trends — personal observations with her own twist — and almost always are accented with holly. “Holly is my signature trademark,” she says, emphasizing the importance of its religious meaning. “It symbolizes new life in the middle of winter and reminds me that spring is coming.”

Margaret attributes her inspiration to time spent crafting as a young girl with her grandmother. “That’s kind of what got me interested,” she says. She also joined her mother and grandmother on shopping trips to the German village in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, where she was intrigued by the Christmas gifts and decorations.

But the true impetus for Maggie’s Memories (named for Margaret’s daughter Maggie, a fourth-generation Margaret, and the “warm memories from the past” evoked by the collection) came in the early 90s when Margaret and Dennis bought and sold antique holiday decorations. “As they became rare and expensive, I started making my own,” Margaret says.

When her children both were in college, Margaret realized she now had the time necessary not only to create her crafts, but to market them. She anticipated others would share an affinity for her Rolled Cotton People, an art form based on the bisque-faced children with bodies of spun or rolled cotton imported from Germany between 1880 and 1920.

After seeking industry guidance, she signed a licensing agreement with Bethany Lowe Designs, a premier distributor of traditional holiday décor in the United States and Canada who also licenses the wares of Mary Engelbreit. Creating prototypes in the same manner as her personal crafts, Margaret submitted her ideas to Lowe. Maggie’s Memories’ initial offerings went on sale in 2007.

Just four years later, Margaret has been recognized by Early American Life magazine for her workmanship and mastery of heritage artistic style. “It reminds me of warm family celebrations from when I was a child,” she says of her style. “It’s charming and whimsical.”

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