This summer, head out to one of these arts and crafts shows to get your hands on the works of indie makers near you.
Founded in 2005, Etsy provides a wealth of handmade items from individuals selling their wares, including art, clothing, bath-and-body products, baby items, home goods, accessories and more. As online shopping has grown over the last 20 years into a billion-dollar industry, champions have often hailed sites like Etsy as a revolutionary step in humanity’s ongoing quest to get all shopping done without ever leaving the house.
Despite millions in sales on Etsy, however, nothing beats being able to hold and feel an item in your hands before buying it, and nothing ever beats a giant fair in the summer when you can see hundreds of sellers peddle their goods in a party atmosphere. Every summer brings throngs of potential sellers to arts and crafts shows throughout various regions across the nation. Here are some of the most notable fairs that not only provide excellent shopping experiences but are truly genuine celebrations of art and creativity. These aren’t portable malls by any stretch of the imagination. Each fair is curated with a sense of responsibility, care and devotion. Oh, and fun too!
1. New Mexico Arts and Crafts Fair
Expo New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
June 22-24, 2018
Among the oldest in the county, the New Mexico Arts and Crafts Fair has been operating every summer since 1962. Besides the usual vendors from throughout that region, the fair also emphasizes young artists and features a Youth Keynote Exhibit every year. This year’s keynote exhibit is an organization called R4 Creating, which according to the fair’s website supports “STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) enrichment programs to inspire students, support teachers, and academic coaches.” Each year there’s also a silent auction of pieces donated by exhibiting artists to raise money for a charity organization in New Mexico.
2. Hudson River Exchange
Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, Hudson, NY
Summer Market: June 23-24, 2018
Hudson River Exchange was founded in 2013 by artist and designer Stella Yoon and creative entrepreneur Katherine Moore after they realized the Hudson Valley had become a haven for both local artists and expats from the city who were “seeking a more artful lifestyle,” according to the exchange’s website. Rather than simply relying on online sales, as they had for years, the cofounders launched their first fair that summer, and with over 80 vendors, it was a stunning success. The sixth annual Summer Market boasts “about 100 makers, collectors, farmers, live musicians and community organizers to celebrate creation, connection and the scenic beauty that is the Hudson Valley.”
3. Renegade Craft Fair
11 U.S. cities (plus London)
Dates from June 23 – September 23, 2018
Founded in Chicago in 2003, Renegade Craft Fair is the queen of arts and crafts shows, attracting 300,000 attendees at multiple fairs in each of the cities it serves. In Chicago alone, there are five Renegade Craft Fairs throughout the year in multiple neighborhoods, with the biggest and best event in the Wicker Park neighborhood September 8-9. It is a massive party covering two city blocks. Hundreds of vendors from around the nation as well as vendors from the host cities feature a wealth of art, textiles, body products, clothes and more. Thanks to Renegade Craft’s international imprint, these events are among the best-organized arts and crafts fairs in the world.
4. Urban Craft Uprising
Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, Seattle, WA
Summer Show: June 30 – July 1, 2018
Founded in 2005, Seattle-based Urban Craft Uprising has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 13 years, featuring over 25 shows every year (including First Thursdays in Occidental Park, their brand-new Edmonds Spring Fest, and their recently added specialty food show, Gobble Up). Urban Craft Uprising began with a winter show that has become the largest indie craft event in the Pacific Northwest, and in 2009 the organization began to offer a summer show as well. Each show features over 150 vendors with more than 15,000 people attending throughout the weekend. The organization states its mission is “to build a fun, successful showcase for indie crafters and to nurture a supportive DIY crafting community.” It has done so by expanding opportunities beyond just the show. Last year Urban Craft Uprising launched Camp ThunderCraft, a retreat in the spring and fall focused on educational sessions and round-table discussions.
5. Art Star Craft Bazaar
Bradley Park, Asbury Park, NJ
July 28-29, 2018
The Philadelphia-based Art Star Gallery & Boutique is the city’s premier indie craft shop and gallery. It has offered a spring show every May for 15 years in Philadelphia, and this July is the fourth annual show in Asbury Park. The Craft Bazaar will offer over 60 curated arts and crafts vendors. The bazaar also features live acoustic acts from local bands — including the Sunday Blues, Joe Harvard and Leevan Morris. Food trucks — Oink & Moo BBQ, Cha-Yen, Chevere Latin Food Lovers and more — will be present as well.
6. Craft Lake City
Gallivan Center, Salt Lake City, UT
DIY Festival: August 10-12, 2018
Celebrating its 10th year, the Craft Lake City DIY Festival features 250 local artisans, craft food vendors, vintage vendors and DIY engineers, as well as two stages of music and dance performances, local food trucks and about 20,000 attendees. And on Saturday, there’s Kids Row, an exhibition space for makers age 14 and younger.
7. Michigan Fiber Festival
Allegan County Fairgrounds, Allegan, MI
August 17-19, 2018
The Michigan Fiber Festival is an annual event I’ve attended twice because my wife is an avid knitter, and it’s a surprisingly spectacular event for anyone with the remotest interest in creating with a multitude of fibers. Dozens of vendors park in two giant barns in the Allegan County fairgrounds selling all kinds of fiber-related products, such as roving and yarns, handmade baskets, dyes, spinning wheels, looms, books about fibers, and more. There are also booths in an animal barn where farmers sell products and show off their alpacas, llamas, sheep and goats. Of course, there is plenty of food as well as a number of workshops during the festival too.
8. Makers Collective
Indie Craft Parade, Greenville, SC
September 14-16, 2018
Launched in Greenville in 2010, the Makers Collective was formed because its founders saw a need for artists and makers in South Carolina and throughout the South to have a place to put their work in front of their community. The first initiative, the Indie Craft Parade, marks its eighth year this September and features handmade goods in specific categories: 2D Fine Art, 3D Fine Art, Fiber Art, To Wear, Paper Goods, and Everything Else. The parade kicks off on Friday night with a VIP gala featuring live music, free food and drinks, and giveaways along with all the artists and makers selling their wares.
There are, of course, arts and crafts shows all around the country all year, and few events provide more of a sense of satisfaction than supporting these artists and makers who devote so much time and effort to create their wares.