Handmade Market: Crafts and Cocktails in Chicago

On a recent 80-degree Saturday afternoon, Chicago's Empty Bottle bar was transformed into the Handmade Market, one of the city's most popular craft fairs. Shoppers mingled with sellers over beers and mimosas, and even a dog or two was spotted wandering past the crafters' tables or snoozing by the bar.

The Handmade Market

The Handmade Market runs monthly from October to April each year. It was launched in December 2005 by Erica Coslor, and other than a few summer outdoor festivals, has had a permanent home at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., Chicago.

Current organizer Heather Flett says the Handmade Market is a great starter show for new crafters. "The goal of the market is to offer sellers a low-cost, regularly scheduled event to sell at. It offers a low-risk opportunity to see how their items will be received," says Flett, adding that many other Chicago-area shows typically have high fees and may only take place once or twice a year.

New to the market, Angie Cornelius of Lonesome Road Studio was impressed by how well the market was organized. "Everything is exactly as the organizer said it would be," she says.
Angie Cornelius of Lonesome Road Studio

Left: Handmade Market organizer Heather Flett, who owns Damsel In This Dress Designs, makes handmade purses, totes and accessories "for women who don't need to be rescued." Right: Angie Cornelius says her handmade resin belt buckles, featuring her original and digital art, are "virtually indestructible -- I've had people drop them on tile floors before."

"It's a very comfortable, easy show to do," agrees Rebecca George of purpleandlime, who frequently sells her handmade jewelry and women's wear at the market.

A popular show among Chicago's handmade vendors, tables are sold on a first-come, first-served basis and typically sell out quickly. Crafters value the Handmade Market as much for its camaraderie and laid-back vibe as for the opportunity to sell their work.

"It's always been a great social experience to do this show," says Sally Ulanosky of Nothing Simple, who has been selling her wire-wrapped gemstone jewelry at the Handmade Market for five years. "It's a fun Saturday afternoon thing to do, and I always meet a lot of interesting people."
Sally Ulanosky of Nothing Simple
Left: Rebecca George shows off her handmade necklaces in the shapes of states and breakfast foods. Right: This intricate wire-wrapped pendant by Sally Ulanosky of Nothing Simple took a day and a half to complete.

"It's great to mingle with all the other vendors," agrees Kylia Kummer of Lavender in Brown.  "The vendors often change (from month to month), and it's great to see what else is happening in the craft world."

Sarah Celio, who co-owns Celio Designs with her sister, Katie, was enjoying the market's laid-back vibe as a first-time seller.  "It's a very easygoing shopping experience. You can chill at the bar and have a drink and mingle with the sellers," she says.

Sarah Celio, who co-owns Celio Designs

Left: Kylia Kummer of Lavender in Brown creates hats, accessories, and clothing from upcycled fabrics. Right: Celio Designs' handmade journals and sketchbooks are made from layers and layers of deconstructed books, paint, found objects, and inspiring images and phrases.

Flett believes the Handmade Market's motto of "Sustainable Crafterness" is an important one in today's economy.
"I think that our choices about consumerism are some of the most important that we make, and we do so daily," Flett says.  "Our fast-food, the-cheaper-the-better consumer culture is based on oppression and exploitation.  Buying handmade helps to assure that the artisan was paid a fair price for their labor and their creativity.  It also creates a personal connection between the buyer and the sellers."

Upcoming 2011 Handmade Markets will take place from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12 and Saturday, Dec. 10. Tables for those two shows are sold out, and January through April's tables will go on sale, on a first-come, first-served basis, in October.

As it takes place at a bar, the event is 21 and over, although children accompanied by their parents are also allowed into the show.

For more information, visit www.handmadechicago.com.


Lonesome Road Studio

Thanks so much for the great article, Darlene! Angie Cornelius @ Lonesome Road Studio

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