Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Project: Priceless Craft Tour, PART 2: supporting indie artisans by behaving like groupies.

This is part 2 of our Christmas 2011 season Craft Tour. We attended about a dozen shows in the Ottawa area, and have reviewed them over two blog entries. This is part 2 of 2. At the end of these reviews, we've posted some advice for crafters and shoppers alike. This tour was absolutely exhausting, even for two craft fiends. We hope the info in part 1 and part 2 will help you connect more effectively with Ottawa's craft shows, while helping you to narrow down the ones that might most interest you.

And so, on with the reviews.... 


UNIQUE PART: A lot of craft in a small space. This tiny show seems to pack more handmade into a single room than any other show of the season. Here’s the Idle Hands blog.

VENUE: St Luke’s Anglican Church on Somerset. It’s  lovely church, and it’s a treat to visit it, but the consensus from these seasoned craft show groupies is that the show has outgrown the venue. Brian was nearly frantic with claustrophobia, between tables grouped tightly together and frantic shoppers who were eager to get their hands on the right Christmas gifts. This show has a reputation for being good, so it attracts a crowd…it seems like it may be time to find a bigger home, or a second room to branch into.

Annie Bananie!
Mad Mother Designs
VENDORS: Idle Hands also has a reputation for trying really hard to have a rotation of crafters so that the show is not identical every year. We give the organizers a thumbs-up for this, though it does require the savvy shopper to be aware so that you don’t wait all year to pick up an item from a crafter who isn’t there. At Idle Hands this year, we particularly enjoyed seeing Annie Bananie of the Green Toy Box, a multi-talented crafter who also runs a Singing Tree day care. Her felted creations warm my heart, and I want an army of her mushrooms. You can check out some of her wares on her new Used Ottawa seller’s list, . We were also pleased to see Mad Mother Designs, a very cool artisan who makes these hilarious and wonderful prints of Victorian women, with a modern twist. We have a couple of her greeting cards at home that we plan to frame for our living room.

NOTES: Definitely a good show, with a low admission cost of $2.00. But given the wealth of shows to choose from in Ottawa, especially if there’s another Craft Crawl next year organized by Urban Craft, we both agreed we’d skip this show unless we knew it had expanded its space. There were a lot of cool vendors that we just weren’t able to enjoy as we got pushed along from behind by the crowd. But they do have Art Is In bread on site. Hmmmmmm.


UNIQUE: The vibe. This was my first time at this show, and I just fell in love with it. The vendors were a mix of the ‘usual suspects’, with plenty of lesser-travelled talent. Down in the Hintonburg community, this show has lots going for it.

Brian with Sarah of Purple Urchin
VENUE: The Hintonburg Community Centre, at 1064 Wellington St., is a great locale for a craft show, albeit less showy than, say, the Glebe Community Centre. The vendors had tables set up all around and throughout the basketball court, so there was plenty of walking room and even room for further growth in future years. Easy parking, plus a kitchenette on site, means convenience for shoppers as well as crafters, who need parking and food, too!

Jordan with Liebchen Designs! Cutest bags around!
VENDORS: We enjoyed this show because it was a more eclectic mix than some of the others. There were the tried-and-true craft show troopers, like Purple Urchin and Liebchen Designs, but interspersed were all sorts of other, less established artisans. We particularly liked the clever jewellery and trinkets created by Indie.go,  a newer face in the Ottawa craft market for us, and a favourite of the show…though Liebchen Designs has some of the cutest vinyl bags and accessories around town, and her work always steals the show for me!

NOTES: If you’re looking for smaller production, more kitschy creations, this is a great show. If you’re looking for the finely-crafted ceramic vases and giant welded metal garden cranes, stick to the bigger shows. Though who knows what next year will bring! I like shows where I can find a range of items well under $20, and this was one of those craft shows. I’m certain you will see us there again next year.


UNIQUE: Ottawa’s only monthly craft market. Continuously rotating crafters. No entry fee, and an easy way to keep stocking up on handmade throughout the year, regardless of craft seasons (Nov/Dec, and Apr/May). Urban Craft’s site: click here.

Flights of Fancy: so many cool things!
VENUE: Urban Craft takes about 30 vendors and nestles them into the first and second floor foyers of the Irving Greenberg Theatre—home of the Great Canadian Theatre Company—offering an intimate craft perusing experience. Organizer and crafter, Krista Leben of Urbanite Jewelry, manages (with her better half, Robin, plus a melee of other worker bees) to pull together a very cool show in a relatively small space. The division between two floors makes it a comfortable stroll without too much crowding.

VENDORS: We love that the crafters are never the same twice. Well, some crafters are there on a semi-permanent basis, but there’s always something different from last time. This month, we took time to visit with Urban Craft veteran Flights of Fancy (aka Bombshell’s Closet), where we oooh’ed and ahhhh’ed over her newest fascinators. Creatrix and owner, Kate, made my fascinator for my wedding, and I have a few of her smaller pieces for everyday wear; she has a wonderful way with feathers and strong finishing abilities…which means you won’t be heading out to a party looking like you made your own hair piece in your basement with a glue gun.

We also got to try Major Craig’s Chutney, a new vendor for Urban Craft. Brian was wary when we first went up, as he’s never had chutney and doesn’t like pickled things; but he liked it very much, and ended up getting a jar of the jerk chutney to add to his dad’s Christmas gift.

NOTES: Brian and I plan to continue attending Urban Craft shows as often as schedules will allow. It’s a good small show for the craft connoisseurs out there, who don’t necessarily need 300 booths to find something they like.


UNIQUE: Last show of its type, for the season. The vendors are tired but relaxed, eager to sell, and looking really excited for a rum n’ nog.

VENUE: St Matthew’s Church, 217 First Ave. A nice little space, though if the crowd had been thicker, it would have been way too tight. Again, like Idle Hands, even a small increase in traffic or vendors would be best accommodated by an increase in space, whether that’s a change of venue or the discovery of a second room in the church to use. Here’s the Craftalicious Tumblr account.

Broken Stick
VENDORS: I liked this show because there were quite a few new-to-me vendors, and some really cool upcycling vendors, as well. A fellow with a business called Broken Stick makes all sorts of home-related kitsch out of broken hockey sticks, for example. I got a scarf from a mom-and-daughter team called PanKiMade (the mom's reiki-infused knitting) and Tweal (the daughter's eco-friendly sewing); the mom knits the most incredible stuff and totally undercharges (lucky for me), while the daughter sews fascinating fashion pieces from recycled materials. It was a good show, with a few veterans but a really reasonable price range and tons of cool stuff.

Yakety Yak pottery--love love love.
Oh, and one of my new favourite crafters of the year was at this show, as well as several others over the season: Teri Anne of Yakety Yak is a funny, cool lady with a knack for pretty pottery. Her wares are heat-safe, microwave-safe, and oven safe, and her colours are just gorgeous. Check her out, she’s lovely, and happy to do something specific to meet your needs.

NOTES: I hope to hit this show again next year, and I hope it stays as homey and tiny. At the end of the season, with our heads full of so much craft, we were delighted to find ourselves in a small venue with a modest gathering of crafters. It was also really fun to chat with vendors like Koko Chocolates and Flights of Fancy, who were clearly just counting down the hours ‘til the end of the show, when they would get to go home and turn off the double boilers and glue guns, respectively. Best part: because it was so late in the season, I could spend some cash on myself without worrying that I should be looking for presents…I was already done my shopping!


UNIQUE: Huge venue, hundreds of artisans, and a wider range of kitsch-to-classy crafts than the Signatures show held in November.

VENUE: This show takes place in the basement of the Landsdowne Park space, It’s a huge venue where the crew really knows how to set up, after so many years of putting it together. I don’t know what will happen to this show if/when the Landsdowne redevelopment occurs, but for now it’s a great space. There’s $5.00 parking, and it’s between $7.00-$10.00 for admission, but you can get a readmission pass to visit again throughout the show.

Laura Kingsbury
VENDORS: The majority of these vendors are ‘high rollers’, as I call them: swanky booth setups, custom lighting, shiny glass display cases. They allow for vendors to display for only half the days, so after the first weekend of the show, there’s a Monday when the venue shuts down and allows vendors to restock or tear down/set up. I heard from the Hawberry Farms dude that they drove all the way back to Manitoulin on the Monday to get more goodies for sale. We met a lovely painter named Laura Kingsbury who creates watercolour birds, feathers, and flowers. Her background is in wildlife biology, but she’s been professionally painting for three decades now. My father fell in love with one of her newest pieces, called The Emperor, and bought a print of it on the spot. What I love about Laura’s work is that she is unlike so many other Canadian wildlife painters: her work has brightness, vibrancy, and rich warm colours, which is very different from the usual grey, austere vibe of the average Canuck painter.
U.S.E.D. seatbelt bags

We also met Trevor Kehler from U.S.E.D. Recycled Seatbelt bags. These bags are made from—you guessed it—recycled seatbelts, and they are virtually indestructible. Made in Canada and based out West, we know you’ll be hearing more from these guys soon.

And relating to my love of glass work was the Artworx Glass Studio. Deeni and Joe make all sorts of treasures with Dichroic glass (lovely stuff), including beads that fit onto your Pandora-style charm bracelets. Mom bought herself a dragonfly-patterned bead from here.

NOTES: This is still a great show. I have a deep love for the more grassroots style crafter, it’s true; but I have an appreciation for those who have perfected their craft and are now at a point where they can sell at a premium…though there’s still a wide price range from $5.00 to $1500 at this show. There are tons of artisan edibles, and we shop for sauces, jams, and candies here every show. Given the choice between the Signatures show and the Originals, I would head to Originals. The vibe is more friendly, the vendors are more varied, and the price range is more friendly.


After visiting 11 major craft shows this season alone, we found ourselves with some key pieces of advice for both crafter and shopper alike:

-Start early in the season to avoid feeling like everything’s been picked over.
More Yakety Yak!
-Make a list and stick to it.
-Make friends with crafters; it’s easier to get in touch, and if you want custom work done, they’ll know your style.
-Bring a shopping bag.
-Just because there isn’t a price labelled on an item, don’t be afraid to ask; you may be pleasantly surprised.
-Choose your shows based on the space, not just the vendors: overcrowding sucks.
-Visit all vendors at the show before beginning to purchase. List your favourites as you go, then circle back.

-Put the prices on your items! We know it’s time consuming, and we know you’re nervous about your pricing. But you will lose out on timid shoppers who are afraid to ask you, and you’ll never know if they could have easily afforded your wares.
-Engage in conversation and be friendly. Opportunities for expansion, consignment work, or cross-promotion could be knocking at your door.
Liebchen Designs...mmmm!
-Have a business card, ideally with a photo of your goods on it. 
-Have a website, blog, or Used Ottawa seller’s list.
-Get familiar with your fellow crafters, they’ll help you keep track of show applications and they’ll watch your booth while you pee.
-Develop a nifty booth setup, and avoid cluttering with too much product, or too much variety.
-If you make edible goodies, put out samples. This is what differentiates you from the grocery store.
-Be sure you don’t put out all your coolest stuff at Show 1 of the season, leaving you with nothing for that other show you’re doing the next day.

We want to say a huge thanks to all the lovely vendors who chatted with us through this adventure, and the ones that followed our journey and offered us samples and solace as we hit our 'craft wall' around show six. There were soooo many cool crafters that we met, and we could only highlight a few here, sometimes based solely on which photos turned out. We are always happy and eager to chat with more crafters, so if you'd like to tell us all about your wares, send us an email!

And for the shoppers out there: if there's specific advice or questions you'd find helpful for the spring craft season, or any other type of info, let us know


  1. Very much enjoyed following your craft adventure. Many thanks!!

  2. Our pleasure, Shauna Rae! It was a wild ride, but was pretty cool 'homework'! -Jordan