Shopping Handmade for the HolidaysToday I am going to talk about my favorite places and events for gift buying. While it would be great if I could make or sew every gift I give, I know that isn't practical or even possible ( I don't happen to have a ceramics studio in my garage, ya know?). Fortunately for me the Mpls./ St. Paul area is rife with handmade crafts, creative entrepreneurs, and a ton of great events and outlets that showcase them. Craft fair season is right around the corner and I am going to highlight three of the best coming events in Minneapolis this year, go over a little craft fair etiquette, and talk about a couple of brick and mortar shops that sell local crafters' goods. This post could be a jumping off point to help anyone "Shop Handmade for the Holidays".
Craft'za (more info here)is a relatively new show in the holiday market but it is put on by the lovely folks that have been bringing us Craftstravaganza in the spring for 8 years. This year they have moved the show to the beautiful Grain Belt Bottling House which features a fully heated area, better parking options, and room for three food trucks. There are workshops all day hosted by the Textile Center and others. It promises to be a good one (vendor list here) with a mix of print art, crafts, jewelry, and much more to start the holiday shopping early!
The Green Gifts Fair (info here) is hosted by Do It Green! Minnesota and is one of my personal favorites. They have over 75 vendors and information tables filling the atrium area of the Midtown Global Market with crafts and demos with an environmentally friendly slant. Recycled and upcycled gifts galore plus lots of workshops and activities for kids. A highlight of the fair is always the Eco Fashion Show featuring sellers' recycled clothing ideas. Don't forget your reusable shopping tote for this one!
No Coast Holiday Craft-O-Rama (info here) also at Midtown Global Market is probably the best known Indie Craft Fair in the metro and it definitely delivers! All of the shows I have mentioned are juried shows but this one does a particularly good job of getting the right mix of vendors (vendor links/list). They reserve around a third of their spots for new vendors every year and they always have a nice selection of those tough-to-find sectors: handmade gifts for men and teens. The very popular, local embroidery champ Penguin&Fish (website here) will have a booth and Crafty Planet usually has a table of fabric cuts as well so there will be room for a little self-gifting too. This show is very popular and can get crowded by midday Saturday so take advantage of the Friday afternoon (3-8pm) hours or come early on Saturday. Plus you get the best selection of one-of-a-kind items at those times!
A few general things to know about craft fairs.
Most vendors take credit cards with a card reader (usually called 'square') but cash is always better (card readers take 2-3% and rely on dodgy bandwidth/ cell reception).
Bring some reusable bags or totes that are comfortable to carry all day.
Please don't take pictures of goods without permission (lots of larger companies scout craft fairs to steal designs and ideas).
Talk to makers and ask questions if you are interested in an item. Getting to know some of the process and thinking behind a design is what we are all here for.
Be prepared for a higher prices than you might think. If you are used to buying things from Ikea and Target that rely on sweatshop / maquiladora labor, handmade will always cost more but it is always worth it.
Be inspired by but don't copy people's designs. Hundreds of times I have been talking to a customer about how I make my stuff only to have them tell me they are going to go home and 'steal' my pattern. I find it disheartening.
When you take a card or flyer make a note on the back as to what piece really caught your eye so you can remember which was which at the end of the day.
Don't forget to buy something for yourself!
Other options in Minneapolis for buying handmade: If you can't get to a good craft fair this year there are a few gift shops around town that have a dedication to stocking all local, all handmade items. While many of the bigger stores, like Patina, are bringing in more local artists and crafters all the time these three are exclusively stocked by locals.
i like you is a shop right across from downtown in NE that has been described as 'if etsy exploded into a storefront'. They have it all!
The Art Shoppe at Midtown Global Market is a hyperlocal boutique with a nice selection of clothing accessories, printed cards, and jewelry. Be sure to stop by if you go to a craft fair at MGM.
Gumball Collective is a relative newcomer but growing all the time. They are a small shop with a dedication to selling recycled/ upcycled clothing and accessories. A nice stop if you are in NE Mpls.