A Tale of Two Cities: Craft Revolution

This weekend I ventured out to two very different Holiday Craft shows in two very different cities.

On Saturday my daughter (Little Missy) and I visited the Salem Saturday Market Holiday Market which is touted the largest handmade holiday market in the Willamette Valley. The rain was pouring outside and Little Missy and I eagerly chatted about what we hoped to find. Ornaments, stocking stuffers and last minute gifts for loved ones topped our list. As we approached the event, traffic was at a standstill. I took this as a sign that the event was going to be epic…”if this many people are going to this event, it’s gonna be good!”

After finding parking we entered the Jackman-Long Building. The friendly staff greeted us and we followed the path of least resistance to the right of the building. 10X10 foot booths displayed woodworking, jewelry, crafts and edibles in typical trade show fashion. Handmade goods were abundant and there was a live choir that we watched while taking a break from the hustle bustle crowds.

Little Missy and I decided to maneuver through the entire building to look at each booth. Many vendors were selling the same stuff that I’ve seen at craft shows for years. However some vendors did stand out from the crowd. One vendor was selling amazing copper sculpted rain chains. Another sold whimsical painted artwork and furniture. And one booth really did catch my eye with a beautiful booth design. Selling beaded jewelry, this booth stood out draped with cream shears and cream antiqued displays.

The highlight was the Kid’s Quarter where Little Missy had her face painted and got to pet brave animals from Friends of Felines.

Flash forward to Sunday. Towing my family of four to the Portland Convention Center we headed up to PDX for Crafty Wonderland’s Super Colossal Holiday Sale. As I entered into Hall C, I see an enormous mustached baby face staring at me. It is the sign from my friend Katie Foote’s booth smack dab at the entrance. She sells incredibly adorable mustache pacifies for wee ones. What I adore about Katie is that she is amazingly talented and has a heart of gold. I greet her and her mom and then head the family up and down the isles to take in the sights.

Lined up on the edge of the hall is an area for children to sell their craftiwork. And the larger booths are dedicated to cutting edge arts and crafts with booths as cool as the products themselves. Shoppers and vendors were interesting to say the least. Tattoos, piercing, sharp angle haircuts and gnarly facial hair was the trend. I looked at my plain boring white-bread family feeling very uncool. Hmm, should hubby have not worn his Oregon (Ducks) sweatshirt…bit too commercial isn’t it? Shouldn’t we all be wearing earth tones with boots and stocking caps? Gosh, we so aren’t hipsters. I digress….

But the arts and crafts! I droll with envy! The professionalism of the booths, business cards, catchy sayings, lovely colors, it was truly a feast for the eyes. And the crafts, although cool, were made of traditional materials, simply hipped up a bit. But what I liked the best was the way the crafts were displayed. Each vendor took great care and thought to the presentation which in my mind elevated the products to a new level. When I was buying the cute felted squirrel ornament, I felt I wasn’t just buying that ornament, I was buying something from that person, that company and I was buying something special.

So I come home and evaluate. I’m a craft person, where does my art fit? How can you give a customer the same sense of buying something special but not be too shocking? How can we elevate the perception of crafts in Salem while also making customers feel valued? And most importantly, do we even have enough people to support the handmade market? Let me hear your thoughts.

And to you the crafter, I say…aspire to be bold and free yourself from craft repression! Forget the rules, throw them out the door and mix it up. Take your craft to the next level and show the world. For now is time for a Salem Craft Revolution!