Anne Hailes: Crystal's fairy bright idea
CRYSTAL Millar is grateful to her three-year-old son Tommy. She calls him her quality controller, he's honest with his opinions and he has proved to be correct.
When she realised that young children like Tommy need something to focus on when they are unhappy, she decided to recruit members of the fairy kingdom and now she has developed Fairy Worry Jars and they are selling like hot cakes.
These are simple but with a magical twist. She takes a glass jam jar, draws and trims pictures of fairies, fixes them inside the jar and then illuminates them with battery-powered lights. The soothing glow is a comfort for anyone but especially for young children if they are finding it hard to settle because something is concerning their tiny minds.
"That's why I made them," she explains. "I reckoned that, if they can talk to a fairy and get it off their chest it will be easier to tell someone else, especially a parent.
"I thought about it for weeks and then decided to go ahead and see the reaction from Tommy.
"He fell in love with his fairy jar so I knew others would benefit from these too."
For instance a friend's daughter got Covid and she was frightened, so Crystal gave her a jar and the child began talking to her fairy friend and telling her how she was feeling.
It all began during lockdown when Crystal started painting furniture in her home in Ballyclare, Co Antrim. Then she found she was pregnant with her second son Hunter and because she suffered postnatal anxiety after Tommy, she needed something to keep her mind occupied.
"I painted a little table with a design on top and posted it on my Facebook page and it created great interest," she says.
Crystal developed her skills and built a craft business, initially featuring painted place mats and posters. There followed coasters, white wall tiles that become a library of classic Nor'n Irpn slang - 'Flipping Baltic', 'Boys a Dear', 'Buck Eejit' and the much quoted 'Jesus, Mary and the Wee Donkey'.
No matter what message a customer wants Crystal will create. Life never seems to stand still for this creative woman. She was busy with her coasters when she was asked to paint a full-sized bottle and a new skill developed and she was off in a new direction.
She uses recycled bottles from friends who leave them on the doorstep and, she tells me, a great source is Breckenhill wedding venue at Doagh, who give her all the empties she can use. Her garage is stacked with bottles, racks and racks holding them as they wait to be transformed.
"My boot is always full and you can hear me coming with bottles jingling," laughs Crystal.
Like the worry jars, she paints them, cuts the vinyl images to fit, somehow fixes them inside and brings the whole thing to life by hanging little fairy lights inside. The pictures shine through - local scenes, Belfast landmarks, family pictures, wedding wishes, animals, flowers and bespoke images for customers.
Now she's working on a new mental health collection where bottles will have a positive quote and a donation will be given to mental health charities.
"After Tommy was born I was housebound, couldn't go out of the house for weeks, the anxiety was crippling," says Crystal.
"When I eventually did go out I worried what would happen if I couldn't get home; even carrying him down the hall, I worried I'd bang his head off the door.
"With Hunter it's been better. I can cope with it but I still take medication to calm my heart."
Her craft work has been her salvation: "I am so fortunate to have my mum, Jeannie Murray. She minds the children while I work at her home in Randalstown."
Craft markets and online orders bring customers from all round the world. Her dream is to have her own shop but with the high street as it is, that's not viable; however, she hopes that some day she will have her own showroom at home - not just a display on the dining room table.
The worry jars cost £6 and £8 depending on size and the bespoke bottles £14. All details are on Crystal's Facebook page - search for 'Snowdrop Workshop'.
HAIR TODAY GONE TOMORROW
Thank you to the reader who asked me to find Bay Rum Hair Tonic for her partner who says it takes his hair appear thicker and better looking.
Well May, your best bet is Amazon where you will find a variety of these hair tonics at various prices. Famous is Captain Fawcett's product at £16 - it's an interesting place, an emporium no less, home to a simply delectable range of first class gentlemen's grooming requisites including Bay Rum.
It's described as "a refreshing blend infused with woody aromatics evoking the warm spiced air of the West Indies... A zesty, masculine fragrance created by steeping bay leaves in rum as did sailors of old." It has the instantly recognisable uplifting scent of traditional barbershops around the globe.
Their page gives a list of stockists but none show up in Northern Ireland so it's worth getting in touch and placing an order. If it's that effective I might even do so myself...