Featured Arts and Crafts Fair Artisans

Bob and Vicki with a few of their creations

Bob and Vicki with a few of their creations

Barbara Johnson

Usually we have a featured artisan (singular), but this month we have featured artisans (plural). That’s because this month we’re spotlighting a husband and wife team – Bob and Vicki Long. They may have only lived in SaddleBrooke for two years, but in that time they have certainly made a big impression. Once you see their creations, you will understand why! Now Vicki insists that Bob is the artist and she is only the helper, but she is underestimating her part. They are definitely partners in this venture.

But first a little background information is in order. Bob is originally from Monessen, Pennsylvania – a suburb of Pittsburgh. After high school graduation, he went to Indiana University on a football scholarship, where he was a receiver and a punter. It was there that he met Vicki and later went with her to Northbrooke, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), where Vicki became a high school Physical Education teacher and coach. During this time Bob opened up and operated a gym. During the 15 years that he ran the gym, he developed an interest in history. He became particularly interested in the French and Indian Wars, and consequently began attending festivals, re-enactments and pow-wows. At these three to four day events he saw a need for making authentic-looking outfits for the performers.

That’s when he began making buckskin dresses, coats and pants, which he sold at festivals in many different states. He even began to make the capote – a coat made from Hudson blankets. The clothing line was accompanied by jewelry items, Indian dance sticks, weapons and peace pipes. For 30 years he attended 20 to 25 festivals a year. As Vicki taught for 34 years, she had limited time to attend with him, but came when she could and also helped to make some of the items for the business. They expanded to not just selling their products at the festivals – located in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Cheyenne, and Jackson Hole among others – but they also sold items in quantity to other vendors. They developed a website and even had a regular customer in Japan who would order many items to go in her shop in Japan. So what started as a hobby in 1984 developed into a huge business for both of them.

Perhaps one of their unusual requests was from a fashion magazine that wanted them to design and make a buckskin bikini for one of their models. They sent Bob the model’s measurements, and they designed not only the bikini but a few dresses as well.

They eventually became weary of packing their trailer with all their creations (as well as a multi-room tent) and traveling all over, so they closed out their business. But of course, it’s impossible to completely give up something you love, so they continue on a much smaller scale here is SaddleBrooke. They have items in our Gift Shop and they are vendors in the SaddleBrooke Arts and Crafts Fair. Come by their table on November 4 and check out their many amazing items; you’ll be blown away!