Crafty Mart 101: 6 Questions with the Folks Who Make Crafty Mart Happenby Brit Charek and Joanna Wilson
This piece first appeared in the August/issue #14 of The Devil Strip--our new, twice monthly, arts & culture newspaper in Akron. Issue #14 is now available-- go out and pick up a copy or read it online here.
Brit Charek and Joanna Wilson have been contributors for The Devil Strip, you likely recognize their names from their awesome Akron Empire blog. If you’re a regular reader of either The Empire or this mag, you probably know they’re also the engines that make Crafty Mart run. So we asked Brit and Joanna for a quick breakdown of what to expect at Akron’s crafts-centric, small-business lovin’ shopping extravaganza, now in its seventh year this November 28-29.
What kind of vendors will you have this year at Crafty Mart?
Joanna: Our makers and artists are as varied as Akron itself. We've got everything from one-of-a-kind jewelry and leather goods, to beeswax candles and locally-sourced honey, to Akron-centric tees and pillows, to crafted furniture and wooden robots, to hand-sewn bags and soaps and beauty products, to specially blended teas and artisanal caramels, to nerdy buttons and high fashion bow ties, and more! (See for yourself: craftymart.org/vendors-1/)
Has anything changed since last year?
Brit: This year, we are offering a series of workshops for folks who'd like to make their own gifts! We've done this before, but this time, due to a generous gift from the Knight Foundation, we are able to offer all workshops for under $15 (up to a $150 value!!) To check out available workshops, click here.
We're also featuring a signature drink at our 3rd floor bar at Summit Artspace: The NORKA Mule combines NORKA ginger ale, vodka and a homemade ginger spice simple syrup to keep you warm while you're shopping - YUM!
How has Crafty Mart grown, both as an organization and in attendance, over the past 7 years?
JW: As of the start of this year, we now function as a non-profit organization. In addition to the Holiday Show and the Mom & Pop Shoppe in the Spring, we now organize a monthly event at Summit Artspace during the Artwalk, as well as several pop-up markets throughout the year like the ones at Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. To give you an idea about our expansion, that first year, the Holiday Show in 2009, we had makers fill Musica. This year, we'll have artisans not only occupy Musica, but take over the Akron Art Museum and Summit Artspace as well. The Holiday Show is a 2-day event as well, so if Saturday, Nov. 28th doesn't fit your schedule, you have Sunday (Nov. 29th) to take it all in.
Where do you get your inspiration?
BC: Holy loaded question! I'm pretty well-connected to the regional and national crafty maker scene, and am always exchanging ideas with other show organizers from around the country. I'm actually working with Crafty Supermarket in Cincinnati and Craftin Outlaws in Columbus to host the Midwest Craft Con - a 3 day retreat for mid-career crafters February 19-21 in Columbus. I'm hoping that this summit will be a great place for crafty folks to recharge after the holiday season, as well as share best practices and ideas to better connect the maker community on a national level.
What is your favorite thing about Crafty Mart?
JW: One of the things I love most about Crafty Mart is that it's more than just shopping for small business artists and makers--which is important to me. But it's also about bumping into good friends, enjoying the funktacular deejays, enjoying a beer or a meal before moving on to the next venue--it's a whole day's worth of experiences that I always look forward to.
What shopping tips would you give to a first-time attendee?
BC: Since it's a lot to take in, break up the day by making sure to stop for lunch or libations, which you can do at all three locations. Make sure to grab a program when you walk in, and hit up all three venues. If you get your program stamped at all three locations and turn it in, you can enter to win some awesome gift baskets courtesy of our awesome vendors and sponsors! Yelp will be offering free gift wrapping right by where our auction table is located on the 3rd floor of Summit Artspace, so make sure to hit that up.
JW: My advice: start early. Take your time. Dance to the music. Take advantage of the free admission to the Akron Art Museum's galleries. Re-fuel with a beer or a meal in the café in Summit Artspace, the iQCafé in the Museum, or at Urban Eats next to Musica. Overall, enjoy yourself--this is what it's all about!
Come prepared with your holiday shopping list. I'm willing to bet you can do most--if not all--of your holiday gift shopping and be more satisfied with those purchases. There's a world of difference between supporting small business artisans and shopping big box stores.
If you come on Saturday (Nov. 28th) and wake up the next morning with regrets about what you missed or didn't buy, know that you can return on Sunday (Nov. 29th) and shop again.