People go to craft fairs primarily for two reasons.
One is the chance to find unique, high-quality products at shows like the Circle Craft Christmas Market, which runs at Vancouver Convention Center West (1055 Canada Place) from November 10 to November 14.
“The excitement is that you don’t go into Walmart or Gap or most big boxes where you buy everything that everyone else buys,” Peter Harbic said. Just in a telephone interview.
Harbic describes itself as a show producer at Signatures Shows Ltd. His company has taken over the management of the annual Christmas fair through a licensing agreement with Circle Craft Co-operative, an artist-run organization based in Vancouver.
“You buy something really cool and no one else has it,” Harbic said of the allure of shows with handmade items.
The second reason why people go to such fairs is the chance to meet the artisans who create distinctive products.
“They have a history of where they come from and what inspired them to do their creative work, whether it’s you know, art or fashion or whatever you have,” Harbic said.
He noted that such a person could be the “eclectic artist living on Salt Spring [Island] or Gabriola [Island] or Courtenay or over in Tofino or in Prince George or in the middle of Saskatchewan ”.
“They come out of their caves once a year to sell their stuff. They go on a tour for two months and they spend the year getting ready for this,” Harbic said.
The first Circle Craft Christmas market took place at The Cultch in East Vancouver
in 1973. It has since become a tradition in the city that sets in motion shopping for the holiday season.
The fair had a break in 2020 due to COVID-19. Harbic noted that the economic impact of the pandemic on artisans has been “terrible”.
With its return this year, Circle Craft Christmas Market will give manufacturers from across Canada an opportunity to showcase their products. “It has been a quiet, dark time and we are flourishing again,” Harbic said.
This year’s exhibition will feature 200 artisans, 40 of whom are new exhibitors. As Harbic noted, artisans come in various forms, be it clothing designers, potters, jewelers, wood and metal workers, glassblowers, candle and soap makers or culinary artists.
Speaking of artisanal food, the Christmas market will include a so-called gourmet alley. Harbic said visitors can find everything from salsas to sauces, chocolates and pâtés.
Circle Craft Co-operative states on its website that in 2020 it made a decision to focus on its artist members and the group’s store on Granville Island.
The organization was looking for a partner to run its Christmas market and found Signatures Shows, a Canadian company founded in 1980 by glassblower John Ladouceur and jeweler Casey Sadaka.
Many members of the Circle Craft Co-operative participate in the show, such as potters Gordon Hutchens and Cathi Jefferson, who will both be doing demonstrations on the pottery wheel.
Proof of full COVID-19 vaccination is required for visitors.