So, like many heirlooms, it sat in the closet.
Wagner offered to turn it into a couple of teddy bears and that was the start of her journey.
Her shop is on the third floor of one of the Front Street Buildings, home to artists and artisans off East Third and Keowee streets in Dayton, where she and a
few other assistants work.
Maybe 10% of her business is from in-state but most of her business comes from pockets of wealth out in places like south Florida, New York or Massachusetts through her business at fairygodmothercreations.com.
It’s hard to set the right price point for her creations -- she estimates she makes about $12 an hour but would also have a hard time raising the price any higher for the already high end handmade items that take time to craft.
She said some stories behind the projects are very emotional. More than half of the projects she works on are connected to people who have died several years ago. A couple outfits came in after 9/11 for her to repurpose that were connected to people who died in the World Trade Centers.
“We had one woman who had stage four cancer, and when she only had a month left to live according to her doctors, she sent her wedding dress. She wanted a few things including a christening outfit made. We made them and sent t
hem and she died the day after she received them,” Wagner said.
The oldest wedding dress she ever worked with came from 1903, though most come from the 1970s and 80s.
However, people don’t just send in wedding dresses to be repurposed. She’s gotten swim suits, tutus, dog beds, and, in one case, a life preserver (“His favorite thing was boating”).
She makes a lot of memory bears from love ones' old clothing. The projects help people have something to literally hold onto.
“It makes a huggable memory. It’s something you can hug during your grief process. We see orders from counselors for family members who are dealing with loss,” Wagner said.
The projects can even help families figure out how to divide up important memory items after a death.
“If you’ve got three siblings all fighting over the fact that you’ve got mom’s wedding dress, but you’ve been hauling it all over the place for the past 15 years, why not turn it into Christmas tree topper angels for everybody in the family?” she said. “Then mom is with you every Christmas.”