Three years ago, inspired by the independent entrepreneurship and creative talents in Nevada County, a group of local young crafters and artists got together to organize the first Nevada City Craft Fair, held at the Miners Foundry Cultural Center.
“Craft is officially cool and it is not just something that your Granny or weird Aunt does. The indie/DIY/new wave/whatever you prefer to call it, craft movement has been gathering momentum over the last 10 years, predominantly in the U.S., where most major cities now have their own indie craft fairs filled with wares by local makers and shakers,” wrote cultural critic and author Jo Waterhouse.
Six craft fairs and more than 5,000 attendees later, the Nevada City Craft Fair has grown to be the premiere event to showcase the region’s top Etsy vendors, artisans, do-it-yourself crafters, and their unique, handmade, original and repurposed art, clothing, accessories, jewelry and housewares.
The next event is from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at Miners Foundry.
“The Nevada City Craft Fair is the best place to check in with your local artists and makers,” said Carabeth Rowley, the craft fair’s event producer and owner of Lay Swing Boutique.
“With such a rich community to draw from, we have a great variety of hand crafted bath and body products, woodwork, clothing, knit items and even chocolates!”
Some of this year’s featured vendors include Cello Chocolates of Nevada City, with handcrafted products from bean to bar using Certified Fair Trade and Organic beans; Poppy Hill Papers’ line of handmade paper made from 100 percent recycled materials, with handpicked wildflowers and grasses; Full Circle Press’ offering of letterpress printed items that they have designed and printed on vintage presses in their shop outside of Nevada City; Krista Tranquilla’s handcrafted jewelry from sterling, stones, repurposed and found objects inspired by her hometown of North Lake Tahoe and from travels afar.
Attendees of past Nevada City Craft Fairs will find an array of new vendors, while newcomers will be introduced to not only local artisans but also local food vendors, such as An Honest Pie serving both sweet and savory pies; and Fable Coffee, a specialty micro-roaster producing fresh, small-batch, single-origin, coffee varietals of superior quality.
For many of the crafters and artists involved, the contemporary craft movement is as much about keeping craft traditions alive while embracing emerging artists, crafters and designers, as it is about creating an economy that promotes buying and supporting independently owned businesses and local artisans.
When it comes to crafting, the personal is the political.
The term “Craftivism” has been coined to describe the idea of “making your own’” as a statement against consumerism and the homogeneity of mass production.
Etsy, the online marketplace website described as an online crafts fair, connects makers of handmade goods — usually individuals or small businesses — with potential buyers around the globe.
Last year, the site sold $62.8 million worth of goods (after refunds and cancellations) in just the month of March, up 41.5 percent from the same time the previous year.
Today, Etsy sells more than 15 million unique handmade and vintage items from 800,000 independent creative businesses in 150 countries.
“I think consumers, particularly since the recession, have become more selective about their purchases. They want to know who made what they are buying and where it came from. They want it to be personalized,” said Jesse Locks, one of the craft fair’s original organizers.
“And they want to know that their money is going towards supporting someone’s craft, passion or art, not the shareholders of a corporation.”