Courtesy of Renegade Craft Fair
Just a month ago, the Porter Flea almost didn’t happen. “We knew we had to make a big decision—either cancel the event or pivot and make it virtual,” says interior designer Katie Vance who founded the Flea alongside her husband, Matt Alexander, owner of furniture company HollerDesign. Normally, it’s the premier pop-up event of Nashville’s local artisan scene. But when the city rolled back its reopening phase—from Phase 3 to Phase 2—due to rising coronavirus cases, it dashed all hopes for the expected in-person experience. What followed would be a four-week whirlwind of designing limited edition merchandise, calling and coordinating with vendors, not to mention developing a virtual shopping experience on their website.
“In the end, over 110 vendors stayed to be a part, of we are now calling Porter in Place, which was such a silver lining positive moment in all of this,” says Vance. “It’s a great feeling to see us all banding together and getting creative during such an unforeseen and challenging time.” But Vance is just one of many who have reorganized craft fairs, artisanal fleas, and promotional events for juried designers in the midst of the pandemic. And they are needed now, perhaps, more than ever. About 70 percent of small businesses are concerned about financial hardships due to prolonged closures and 58 percent worry about having to permanently close, according to the July MetLife and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Coronavirus Impact Poll. Additionally, an April survey by Main Street America found that about seven million businesses are at risk of going under for good if the pandemic continues. Four months later, coronavirus cases remain high.
In support of small businesses and your local economy, shop any one of these virtual craft fairs and marketplaces. All of them spotlight makers and encourage a sense of community that the fair brings—something we’re increasingly missing in the days of social distancing.
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The Flea, now in its ninth year, will allow you to purvey the handmade goods of their national makers, designers, and artists in a two-day virtual sale. Each of the vendors have been asked to contribute three new, limited-edition products—featuring homewares, paper goods, clothing and accessories, and more. Access to the event is free. Worth noting, says Vance, is that “for the first time, we’ve designed our own line of Porter Flea merch that will also be for sale on our site. It has an ocean theme with incredible imagery created exclusively for us by our friend Jessie Pickren of Hew & Co.”
Field + Supply
Every October, thousands of designers, editors, and other influential creatives of elite status all descend upon Hudson Valley for the famous Field + Supply. This summer marked the launch of their first-ever online kickoff of the event—including a virtual marketplace, interactive videos for customers to have one-on-one chats with the vendors, and even recipes and playlists all meant to evoke the fair’s typical ambience from live music and food vendors. Even more special, the virtual market will also spotlight a non-profit Crafting the Future, an organization that aims to create more diversity and equity in the fields of art, craft, and design. And there’s a silver lining from this experience: The virtual market has now been enabled into a permanent e-commerce platform, which you can shop at any time on their site.
Renegade Craft Fair
The creative minds behind Renegade Craft have effectively pioneered the modern handmade marketplace. It began since they got their start back in 2003 when they hosted a single event in Chicago’s Wicker Park with participating 75 artists. Today, Renegade has expanded to multiple cities across the country—Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Seattle, Portland, and Denver. And while they’ve put a pause on their cross-state tour, they are hosting a virtual fair. Click into one of the online portals where you can observe artists demonstrate their work and process from the comfort of your own home.
The League of NH Craftsmen’s Annual Craftsmen Fair
For close to 90 years, The League of NH Craftsmen has hosted their annual fair at Mount Sunapee Resort of New Hampshire—making it the oldest continually running craft fair in the United States. This year, the League’s Annual Craftsmen’s Fair turned their in-person event into their first-ever virtual fair. While you won’t able to explore and talk with these local artists on the mountain this summer, you can still enjoy a virtual walkthrough of their exhibits, art classes and workshops, and studio tours that demonstrate wood carving, blacksmithing, glassblowing, and heirloom-furniture building, among other techniques—all courtesy of its 150 juried members who are participating this year. Attendees will have the opportunity to tune into Instagram or Facebook live for a Q&A with artisans, where they can learn more about how these artisanal pieces are made.
Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands
Head south to the Blue Ridge Mountains and The Southern Highland Craft Guild showcases the region’s finest craftsmen 800 Appalachian makers—historically, they host their Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands twice every year in Asheville, North Carolina. This summer’s first-ever virtual fair recreates the in-person experience with live streams, craft demonstrations, and online booths to shop with artisans directly. The Guild includes members representing 11 different craft mediums: clay, glass, wood, fiber, metal, leather, natural materials, paper, jewelry, manmade materials, and mixed media—in other words, there’s something for everyone.