Still Alive and Very Much Kicking

Take a shopping trip almost anywhere these days and you’ll see nothing but mass-manufactured items.  Commercially produced foods and housewares line the shelves, each one a carbon copy of the next.

You would think that the days of handcrafted goods are long gone.

I beg to differ.

Artisan crafts are still alive and very much kicking.  And they’re not just hanging out on Etsy or in Grandma’s parlor.  They are all around us, close by, within easy reach.

You just have to know where to find them.

The most obvious place to shop for handcrafted items is at your local craft fair.  These are often listed on the calendar pages of city websites or in your neighborhood or local newspaper.  Facebook is an excellent place to search for craft fairs.  Start by clicking on the Events link, which then takes you to options for narrowing your search down to the date and location.  Websites such as www.craftmasternews.com and www.fairsandfestivals.net also offer an impressive database of craft events.  I’ve used all of the above many times over to look for shows to get into as a vendor.

Craft fairs may sometimes go by more creative titles such as “Strawberry Festival,” or “Whaling Days,” or “Rusty Scuppers Pirate Daze.”  Don’t get thrown off by the names or themes.  You’ll find that many of these shows, no matter what they’re called or what their theme, include a broad mix of craft vendors.  If you have a particular craft item in mind, like handmade ceramic soap dishes or hand painted greeting cards, you can always check the event’s website.  Many of them post a list of participating vendors.

Here’s the tricky part.  Some of these fairs allow vendors to sell commercially-made products.  Others invite only artisan crafters into their show.  Still others have a mix of both.  When in doubt, feel free to ask vendors if their items are handcrafted.  “Do you make these yourself?” is a question I get asked all the time when I’m selling at a fair.

If you’re looking for handcrafted goods and have run out arugula at home, then head to your local farmers’ market.  Just about every town has one, and many of them include vendors who sell artisan crafts.  Washington’s Tilth Alliance maintains a list of in-state farmers’ markets on their website at http://www.pugetsoundfresh.org/markets/list.  The Washington State Farmers Market Association provides similar information on their website at http://www.wafarmersmarkets.org/washingtonfarmersmarketdirectory.  Interestingly, with the exception of Seattle’s Pike Place Market, you won’t find a Monday farmers’ market anywhere in the entire state of Washington.  I’m not sure why this is so, but I like to think of it as the day of rest for market vendors.

Most farmers’ markets in the Puget Sound area run for a few months of the year and wind down by September or October.  There are some exceptions.  A handful of Seattle-area markets, including the Ballard, Capitol Hill, West Seattle, University District, and Pike Place Markets, run 12 months of the year.  So does the Proctor Farmers’ Market in north Tacoma, although it operates on a reduced schedule during January, February, and March.

If it’s a cold wet winter day, or, if you live in western Washington, a cold wet day in the middle of July, and you’re wondering if the market or fair will still be open, 9.999 times out of ten, the answer is yes.  In my two years as a vendor, I’ve only ever experienced one cancellation.  And that was partly because the air quality had been deemed hazardous to health due to ongoing wildfires at the time, but mostly because vendors are a hardy, enthusiastic  bunch who hate to ever miss out on a market day.  We like to carpe whatever diem we can.

With no shortage of craft fairs and farmers’ markets to choose from, and the number of people who continue to attend them, it’s safe to say that the world still has plenty of room for things that are crafted lovingly by hand.  Either that, or everyone has just run out of arugula.

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