How bazaar: Holiday craft fairs abound

Published 11:21 am Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Snowmen made by by Hilke Stone were for sale at the craft fair. Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN

Snowmen made by by Hilke Stone were for sale at the craft fair. Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN

As egg nog and stockings start covering the shelves at the department stores and bows and wreaths begin lining the streets, another new trend is popping up all over Michiana.

“There are a lot of different craft fairs out there, and there really is something for everyone when they come here,” said Margaret Reule of St. Joseph, Mich., an artist and writer who was exhibiting her work at Lake Michigan College’s annual Holiday Bazaar on Nov. 9. “I offer paintings with collage, so they are one-of-a-kind pieces.”

Craft bazaars have grown increasingly popular over the last several years, serving as fundraisers for various non-profit organizations, churches and festivals all over Southwest Michigan.

Candy McClung, owner of C M Fusion in Lawton, Mich., agreed, although . While she was at the fair primarily to sell her own unique fused art glass creations, she also noted,.

“I’ve actually gone shopping twice already today….,” she said. “There’s something for everybody here. There’s all price ranges; it’s just good entertainment.”

Shoppers shared that sentiment as well. Kori Snyder and her daughter Jaylyn of St. Joseph, Mich., found “lots of food … and some good hair stuff for Jaylyn.”

Touching on a few other popular reasons for attending craft fairs, Snyder added that “it’s nice to get out and enjoy being together. We love to shop around and see what we can find–good deals and some interesting things that you can’t find in the stores.”

The next several weekends offer a variety of opportunities–big and small–for shoppers to support local businesses in Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana. And, most of the vendors who were present at LMC plan to sell their wares at more fairs in the near future.

One show that sounds like it will have a variety of arts, crafts, and food vendors will be held on Saturday, Nov. 16, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the New Life Church, 3265 S. Cleveland Ave., St. Joseph, Mich.

Retirees Carolyn and Bob Schneider of Benton Harbor, Mich., owners of The Bag Lady, plan to be there, selling their popular, handmade quilted fabric purses. The Schneiders say Craft fairs are a way of life for them, providing them with year-round opportunities to “keep our hands busy and active and (be) out amongst the public.”

Elisabeth Giegerich, of South Haven, Mich., plans to be at the New Life Craft bazaar, too. Ample opportunities abound for gift-buying, and Giegerich offers handmade tags for those gifts. She also makes bookmarks, magnets, and “tamari, which is a Japanese art (of making) decorative balls.”

Independent vendors of well-known brands, such as Tupperware, the Pampered Chef and Mary Kay, will also be selling their wares at the New Life Church.

Many of the vendors at craft shows come from surrounding communities, so shopping at those fairs helps to support local economies. That’s also a reason that some vendors choose to participate in a particular show.

“I like to support the local community. That’s where I’m from… Buchanan, so I wanted to participate there,” explained Carol Ritzke, a retired executive. She will be selling painted and embellished boxes at the First United Methodist Church’s craft show in Buchanan, Mich. on Dec. 7, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ritzke is new to the craft fair circuit this year, but her experience is one shared by many of the vendors.

“I took early retirement, and I closed the business and said ‘I’m staying home,’ but I couldn’t stay at home very long,” she said. “ … I’ve had fun. It’s been therapy for me.”

Still others, like Fawn Arren, a ceramics artist from Dowagiac, Mich., are students who have found their calling earlier in life.

“I’m still a full-time student … at Southwestern Michigan College right now, but I’m hoping on next year … doing this more full-time.” Arren will be showcasing her ceramic mugs, Christmas ornaments, and jewelry at The Old Bag Factory in Goshen, Ind. on Dec. 7.

Another creator of jewelry, Jacy Shuck, owner of Jacy’s Jewelry Box of Valparaiso, Ind., is studying to become a social worker. Her beautiful and affordable “bracelets, earrings, and Pandora-like stuff” will be available for purchase at the Plainwell Area Arts & Craft Show on Nov. 16. She said her business started out in 2004, “just for my own personal use … and it just kind of expanded from there, and I love doing it.”

Despite popular belief, tThere i’s more to purchase at these craft bazaars than just holiday gifts. With the passage of the Michigan Cottage Food Law in 2010, it became easier for shoppers to purchase locally produced food items for their holiday tables.

Phyllis Taylor, owner of Something Sweet in Benton Harbor, Mich., has been producing muffins, cupcakes, holiday pies, and other baked goods under the Cottage Food Law since she graduated from a Nevada culinary school in May 2013. Her sales at craft shows and bazaars have carried her along as she works toward getting her license and moving into a permanent space at the Orchards Mall in Benton Harbor around Thanksgiving-time.

And, even though many farmers markets are now closed for the season, you can still find some of them selling preserves and other items at craft fairs. For example, Piggott’s Farm Market & Bakery will be offering a variety of locally-sourced products at 12 Corners Vineyards’ Artisan Market on Nov. 16, from 12 -7 p.m. Allissa McManus noted that Piggott’s will remain open through Dec. 24 at 3824 E Napier Ave, Benton Harbor, Mich., with Christmas trees available for purchase starting the day after Thanksgiving.

Listings for the craft fairs mentioned here, as well as others, can be found in this week’s OTW events calendar.