LOCKHARTVILLE ROAD, N.S. — A Hants Border woman has found sweet success in making nostalgic candy ornaments.
The mere sight of Karen Price's clay candy ornaments is transporting Nova Scotians back to a simpler time when candy-making was a normal occupation and fresh, handmade treats were readily available in town.
For Price, who has been making jewellery for about 18 years, it's the first year she's offered the unique ornaments and said she's been pleasantly surprised by the response.
“They always say it looks good enough to eat,” said Price, who has been attending craft fairs throughout the region this winter.
“It just takes everybody down memory lane,” she said. “People are just nostalgic about it — mostly the ribbon candy. Right now, as far as tree ornaments go, I do ribbon candy, some candy canes and lollipops. The lollipops are fairly popular too but the ribbon candy is what people see from across the room.”
Price uses polymer clay to create the ornaments. Eight full-size ribbon candy ornaments are made per batch. They are all created by hand.
For Price, it's a labour of love — and one that brings her back to her childhood.
“This is a candy-making town. There were three or four different families that actually made the old-fashioned candy, which would be the barley toys, the ribbon candy and things like humbugs and lollipops and sponge toffee and peanut brittle. That's what my uncle did for a living,” said Price.
Price's uncle, Ken Smith, lived on Riverview Road in Hantsport and operated his own candy-making business in the 70s and 80s. The sweet smell of sugar would waft from his factory, which was located in a small building in the backyard, to those walking by.
“As a child, there was lots of child labour in there,” Price recalled, with a laugh.
“We loved every minute of it. We just lived across the street so if he needed help making a batch of ribbon candy, he would call us.”
And for one cent a minute, she says, they would diligently help shape the candies that were enjoyed by residents near and far.
In the late 1980s, Karen and Stephen Price purchased Smith's candy factory and hired him on. He taught her husband the ins and outs of being a candy maker. They operated the business until she had her first child.
Price said she has fond memories of those days, so when her cousin mentioned she should create ribbon candy ornaments, she gave it a shot.
“We still have all the old equipment, we have all the old molds and the ribbon machines and whatnot. But I don't use any of that for my clay works but I certainly draw on those experiences when I'm making my little candies,” said Price.
“Even with the candy canes that I make — I make them the same way that my uncle would make candy back in the day... He would say, 'Just three stripes and one green, and don't deviate from that – that's your standard candy cane' so that's what I do when I make my little candy cane earrings and my candy cane tree ornaments,” she said.
Where it all began
Price said she's always been crafty but her passion for working with polymer clay started about 18 years ago when her daughters received a jewellery making kit that included the popular modeling clay.
Price enjoyed working with the clay, and at Christmastime, her husband bought her a book from Lee Valley Tools on how to create intricate items using the clay that hardens once baked in the oven.
“I just pored over that book — pored and pored over that book. When the Internet came along, it was like this giant magazine had opened up and all of a sudden, it was 'wow, this is fun,'” said Price.
“For some reason, it just caught me and I was interested and I persevered,” said Price, who is a self-taught artist who specializes in earrings, pendants, necklaces and bracelets.
She said she thoroughly enjoys creating flower canes, which is far more complicated than the layering technique she uses to create the ribbon candy. Several customers have questioned if she paints the flowers. She doesn't.
“Making ribbon candy is layers and layers of colours but what I've really started to do is build flowers by laying out logs of different colours and stacking them together and then I reduce it down and slice it,” said Price. “That's what really interested me.”
Price said the process of making most designs — like flowers — is easier to show than to explain. With that in mind, she's planning to create a video to make future craft shows a little easier.
Although Price is finished with the craft fair circuit for the year, she can be reached via her Facebook page Petals of Clay, or on by Instagram. She also ships out her wares, and has sent her Christmas ornaments right across the country.
She's having an open house Dec. 14 from 6-8:30 p.m. Details and directions are available by contacting her on Facebook.