From the archives: 5 tips for shopping at your local craft fair


Local is the new black

As I'm sure you've noticed with this whole website and magazine, I am passionate about local artists and craftspeople and what they make. I love buying locally made things for many reasons (local economy, beauty, connection to people, culture, etc) and think it is worth the extra effort and expense. Christmas is the perfect time to buy local, and we have such a plethora of artists to choose from! Since the From Human Hands Christmas Craft Festival opens tomorrow at the Marco Polo Cruise Terminal in Saint John, (where I will have CreatedHere magazines for sale!) I thought it would be a good time to share some tips about shopping at craft fairs.

If you’re interested in buying local but struggle with finding it, craft fairs are a great way to go find tons of quality local made stuff all in one place. Also you get to interact with the makers themselves and support them by buying directly from them. However, going to a craft fair can be a real grab bag. Sometimes you leave with your arms full of amazing finds and sometimes you wander around aimlessly wondering if you’re seeing the same stalls twice. There are many factors that make for a good craft event including the quality of the vendors, the venue and the organization of the event. Those factors aside, you can definitely get the most out of your experience by being prepared. That way you'll maximize a prime opportunity to buy local AND support your friendly neighbourhood artists! I've done a lot of shopping at craft fairs, and I have observed a lot of people when I had my own booth. Here are some tips I've put together.

Steve Jones

Steve Jones

5 tips for shopping at craft fairs

  1. Think ahead. What special events, birthdays or dates are coming up? Is someone retiring, getting married, having a baby? This time of year you can write down possible Christmas gift ideas for friends and family. Ex: Uncle Ted, ceramic mug, Grandma, artisanal earrings of some kind

  2. Set a budget. Give yourself a ballpark of what you might spend, on yourself and on others. It’s a good idea to have a low and a high number in case you find all your Christmas gifts in one go (provided your cash flow can allow it). And if you do, nice work. When everyone else is frantically Christmas shopping you can sit back and sip apple cider in peace.

  3. Walk around once before deciding what to buy. That way you’ll have a good idea of what’s there, and can go back to see the things that stuck out to you. This helps prevent impulse purchases too. Don't jump on the first pair of earrings you see! If they still stick in your mind after seeing the rest of what's available, you know they're special.

  4. Talk to the artists when you come up to their booths. Many people hesitate to even make eye contact because they don’t want to feel pressured to buy something, but in reality, artists know that not everyone who looks will buy. They want you to really see their work and appreciate it for what it is, evidence of years of experience and passion and hours of labour. Craft shows are actually a very social time for artists, many of whom work alone, and most of whom love talking to the people coming through their booths. Of course they want you to buy their stuff, but only if you really want to. So make eye contact, ask them about their work, take one of their business cards. Or else you’ll wish you did later when you’re home and wanting to check out that cool artisan’s work online and you just can’t remember their name! (That or try…) Chances are, once you get to know an artisan, you're that much more inclined to support their work.

  5. Give yourself lots of time. There is *literally* nothing worse than rushing through a beautiful display of quality craftsmanship. Allow at least an hour to browse the displays at your leisure and to give yourself time to do #3 and #4.

There you go! Now you are psyched and ready to enjoy the best your local artisans have to offer. You've set yourself up for success so you don’t come home wishing you’d bought that gorgeous purple butter dish because who knows when you’ll come across one like that again!