Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Project: Priceless Craft Tour: supporting indie artisans by behaving like groupies.

When holiday craft season first started, we had plans to attend as many as humanly possible, then write one big review at the end. As we find ourselves half-way through the six weeks of shows, we’ve realized we really need to do this in two parts. It’s been a lot of fun, but to be honest, this may be the first year I manage to completely overdose on craft shows. I’ve never tried to hit so many in one season, and I’m not 100% sure how many more sock monkeys and baby bibs I can handle…but there’ve been some treasures that I’m glad we didn’t miss. But enough intro…on with the shows!

Handmade Harvest is an annual show held out in Almonte, Ontario. $2.00 admission.

UNIQUE PART: They offer a swag bag to the first 50 shoppers each year, with has swag from any vendor who chooses to participate. Last year’s bags were a bit more exciting than this year, but I’ll try to get there early again next year, in the hopes that more vendors participate in this. It’s a great marketing scheme: I remembered and revisited the vendors who contributed to the bags last year.

VENUE: Pretty! Almonte’s old town hall is a gorgeous historical building, and the space was well set-up, with tables even up onto the old stage. It did get crowded to the point of weirdness around mid-day, but that’s to be expected. I hope next year they can expand into the basement.

VENDORS: A good mix of new and returning vendors and price points. We like the mix of traditional and more ‘youthful’ crafters at this show. There’s baked goods, too, which is a must for a happy craft show. Some of our fravorites include Annie Bananie, Morganna the White, and Crazy Fox to name a few.

NOTES: This year, HH was also open Friday night. I hear it was rockin’, and I hear it’s when a lot of the best stuff sold. If we don’t try for the bags next year, we will definitely be coming Friday night…what a great date night option! (If your sweetheart is a craft nerd, anyway.)

URBAN CRAFT—NOV 5TH 2011 (Yes, we did two shows in one day. Yes, we are hardcore.)

Urban craft is the new monthly craft market, held at the GCTC the first Saturday each month. Free admission.

UNIQUE PART: It’s monthly, with a good rotation of vendors. It’s also free, which means we have been going every month and leaving more money in the hands of the vendors!

VENUE: The venue is gorgeous of course, in the new Irving Greenberg theatre building, spanning two floors of foyer. Bright, spacious, and never crowded…though we’re always in favour of a few more booths at the expense of some elbow room.

VENDORS: We gotta be honest: this particular month was a little heavy on the baby/kids stuff, and the paper/stationary. But it’s an ever-changing show, and I know there’s tons of paper geeks out there who drool over these things…and of course, tons of kids and babies. What we did love and buy was Koko Chocolate’s Movember truffle box, with the infamous bacon truffles. Brian loved them; I couldn’t mentally handle that there was meat in my chocolate. But really, the box was his for his Movember efforts…and I still stole both AMAZING scotch flavoured chocolates!

NOTES: We will continue to come every month. I have started budgeting money into my monthly expenses to be able to come and take something home. What’s nice about this: I have noticed that I have reduced my mall excursions to almost nothing. A new pair of earrings or a body butter per month seems to satisfy a lot of my shopping cravings!


Signatures is one of Ottawa’s BIG shows, with 200 vendors, many of whom are well-established commercial artisans. Admission $10, or $5 with mailing list coupon.

Cool bags from Anemone
UNIQUE: The sheer size. It’s also more traditional works (mostly), for an older generation, which can be good for gift buying. It tends to have a rep for being a big more hoity-toity, and if we weren’t sure if we agreed, we do after this show: this was the first show where we had a vendor tell us to bugger off when we tried to take his picture for this blog entry.

VENUE: This year Signatures was back in the much-beloved new Convention Centre attached to the Rideau Centre. We liked it. The aisles were super wide, which meant I got through an entire show without a single elbow in the ribs!

VENDORS: Listen, I know there’s other craft junkies out there who hit this show every year, and every year I know you junkies see the exact same booths. It must be the added space, because this year there were a few newbies there, notably Anemone with these wild bags, and Marcelo Glass who made some very pretty upcycled glass jewellery pieces. I think there’s still hope for this show, and it’s worth the admission (if you get on the mailing list for the 50% off coupon) just to get at the culinary artisans: Hawberry Farms, Henderson Farms jams, and the sweetheart ladies and Kitchen Connaisseur all are super friendly and make some of the best products around. We wait to see these vendors every single show, and Hawberry is why everyone walks around smelling like an anti-vampire device: they have the most incredible garlic infused oils. If you get a chance, try their new coconut butter…it’s like marshmallow Fluff without the stomach ache.

NOTES: Grab the free map they offer you. Bring a pen. Circle the booths you like on the map and write down the item you liked with the price. Then when you wrap up at the end, go back and make your purchases. It means less time carrying heavy jars, and it means you can be sure you bought your true favourite treasures.

GLISTEN! –NOV 19th, 2011

The GCTC’s in-house craft show. Free admission.

UNIQUE: The only craft show held by the GCTC.

VENUE: It took place in the same lovely space as the Urban Craft show does, so it was of course gorgeous.

Brian with our Urban Fete cards
VENDORS: Good vendors, though we’d hoped for a few more. Regardless, our highlight for the day was meeting Urban Fete, a lovely handmade card company; the owner, Christine, is a fan of our blogs and a sweetheart of a woman. I told her that every year, my mother-in-law makes me a card and I forget to get her one, so this year I would have one of Urban Fete’s to give her! Christine gave us a couple more to be sure we’d be set for the holidays. The designs are very fresh, bright, and with just a hint of retro. If there’s a shop out there looking for an indie card company with beautiful work to sell on site, we strongly recommend Urban Fete.

NOTE: We hope this show will grow next year, especially with its close ties to Urban Craft to help it along. In the heart of Wellington West, this is a great spot for walk-in traffic. We can’t wait to see this show expand until it spills into the theatres!

And a special shout-out to My Stow-n-Tow, a nifty tote bag company, for helping us find some retro owl fabric! I almost forgot to mention this, but it's a LIFESAVER, so thank you! They have some very cute drawstring bags in owl fabrics, for those other retro geeks out there!


This show is a homey, eclectic show held at the Sandy Hill Community Centre. Free admission.

UNIQUE: A free lunch buffet. With pierogies. Yeah, ‘nuff said.

VENUE: Not as glamorous as some of the others, but spacious and bright, with lots of street parking and a kitchen for that wonderful cooking; it was great.

VENDORS: What a mix! People I’d never seen before, some really traditional old-lady crafts (like, crocheted Santas and handmade washcloths), then some really nouveau artisans as well. Our beloved Morganna the White was on site with her incredible upcycled textile jewellery, this year offering a wide array of multi-stranded bracelets that are to-die-for. Oh, and earrings that look like those nesting dolls, that I forgot to buy before we left and now I’m kicking myself. There was even a booth selling artisan vanilla extract, though I didn’t get a card—if you know who this was, please post their business name in a comment. I enjoyed the wild mix of vendors.

NOTES: Because we have been to so many shows already this season, I didn’t end up dropping much cash here because I was seeking only very specific things. But I loved this show, the vibe and the vendors, and will be back for sure next year.

THE GLEBE ARTISAN AND CRAFT SHOW—NOV 20th, 2011 (Another double show day.)

This show is three days long, and quite popular. Free admission.

UNIQUE: Three days long, it’s one of the longest indie craft shows in town.

VENUE: The incredible Glebe Community Centre on Third Avenue. God, it’s gorgeous. I always think I would have loved to get married here…one day I’ll have a reason to hold a giant party here.

The Koko Chocolates sweethearts!
VENDORS: A mix of vendors, though after the absolute potpourri of the Sandy Hill show, it seemed much more subdued. There was a fabulous little pottery company there called Yakety Yak, with a lovely lady at the helm who joked with us as we perused her wares. I lament not grabbing something from her booth, but she’ll be at the Ottawa Artisan Guild show on Dec 2 & 3 at St Francis Xavier High School. And much to my delight, Koko Chocolates was on site here, as well. Can you tell I have an addiction? But I felt justified in another purchase, as my bestie MJ was with me, and she has never had a Koko. I bought her one and she loved how smooth the centre is—that’s one of Koko’s best qualities, actually. I also got to try their holiday ‘candy cane’ flavour: rich, almost smokey, with a whisper of mint that politely introduces itself to your palette in a way that makes a Junior Mint seem like a slap in the face in comparison. I saved mine til after dinner and am now pining for more.

NOTE: It’s probably a good idea to hit this show on the first day or maybe the second morning. I felt like some of my regular favourite vendors had been pretty picked over by the time we arrived, with only four hours left of the weekend. Still, any excuse to go to that gorgeous building!

We’ve got a bunch more shows to visit in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for more reviews. If you want to see a list of coming shows, check out Apartment 613 for a pretty great list. We acknowledge we haven’t been able to keep up and head out to all the local church bazaars, but we may attempt to cover that circuit in the spring, and really you gotta cut us some slack. When over half the vendors at every show know your name, I’m pretty sure you’re officially a groupie.

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