Shop Small, Shop Local at Crafty Mart

Head out to Crafty Mart this weekend and get your holiday shopping done locally.

Celebrate Small Business Saturday this entire weekend with Crafty Mart’s 8th Annual Holiday Show! Visit Summit Artspace, Musica and Akron Art Museum Saturday, November 26 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, November 27 from 12 – 5 p.m. You’ll be able to choose from nearly 100 vendors selling handmade items, custom jewelry, graphic tees, locally roasted coffee, yummy treats and more.

In the November box, Unbox Akron members received a Crafty Mart tote bag and an Early Bird ticket to not only get in an hour early at any of the three venues, but also a free cup of coffee, a raffle ticket for their charity auction, a swag bag, and a drink ticket good for a Bloody Mary, or craft beer or soda. So spend a few hours at Crafty Mart to get the perfect holiday gift. (Or maybe even something for yourself — you deserve it.) If you want an Early Bird ticket, purchase one for $7 online.

To learn how Crafty Mart got started and to find out what we can expect for some upcoming events, we caught up with Brit Charek, Crafty Mart’s executive director.

UNBOX AKRON: When did Crafty Mart get started?

BRIT CHAREK: Crafty Mary was founded in 2009 by two Akronites, J Hudson and Juniper Sage. They were sick of traveling to Cleveland and beyond to check out indie craft fairs like Bazaar Bizarre. Last year The Devil Strip did a great story on our origins. Check it out!

UNBOX: How do you select the vendors that are at each event? Are they all from the Akron area?

BRIT: Over the years, the jurying process has become much more competitive. For our big shows, we assemble a team of jurors: local business owners, art educators, volunteers, etc. to choose which applicants we can invite to the show. Even though we’ve expanded to three venues and have more space than when we started, we still can’t accept everyone who applies.

We tell applicants up front that we favor Akron-based artists, but we also strive to invite new vendors and include at least 10% who are out of town. We’ve found that by inviting successful regional artists, this elevates the quality of work locally and helps connect Akron to the national crafty community.

UNBOX: Craft Mart offers a lot of art workshops. Why is it important to offer people the ability to make their own fun stuff?

BRIT: Our workshops embody the DIY spirit that Crafty Mart was born out of! It allows people to appreciate the effort that goes into making handmade goods, which is a core part of our mission.

UNBOX: The locations of Crafty Mart seem to move around the city. Is there a reason you try different locations?

BRIT: We have so much fun creating partnerships with like-minded organizations all over the city, and that includes our venues. It’s so fun to bring our people to a new venue and activate spaces that might go unused at other times. We hope that it gets Akronites thinking about the limitless potential this city has!

Crafty Mart’s new pop-up market for the 2016 holiday season will be hosted at The East End / Goodyear facility. (photo courtesy of The East End)

UNBOX: What can we look forward to at the December Crafty Mart?

BRIT: We’re so excited to show off the East End Building! There’s a lot of energy around that side of town right now, and Crafty Mart is excited to be a part of the buzz. And since it’s two days before Christmas, it’s your very last chance to get all your gifts!

UNBOX: Can you tell us about The Maker Sessions

BRIT: Crafty Mart serves the public by throwing markets where people can come out, shop, and have a good time. We also have a second side to our mission: to serve the makers that vend at our markets. We offer these classes to help them build their business. Even the artists we work with that are formally trained in their craft often didn’t have to take a single business or marketing class, so we’re striving to do what we can to connect them to the resources they need.

UNBOX: Is there anything else we should know about Crafty Mart?

BRIT: I’m particularly proud of the growth that Crafty Mart has made in the past two years. We’ve tried a lot of things, and not all of them have been successes. Now that we’re figuring out what works, we can make our events even better.

When I took over Crafty Mart, it was really a one-woman ship with a lot of great people volunteering their time. Now we still need a lot of volunteers to make these events happen, but we’re currently employing five women part-time. Since we work remotely, we have the flexibility to live the lifestyles we want, whether it’s pursuing other artistic projects or spending time with our kids. Between our hardworking board of directors and our kickass staff, I couldn’t be prouder of Team Crafty Mart.

For more information on Crafty Mart, visit their website.

And if you’re sad you missed out on the last Unbox Akron box, sign up now to receive the next one!