“This is one of my favorite events of the year because it’s all about mindfully deciding where to spend holiday dollars,” says Lindsey Mudge, communications and operations manager of HandMade in America. She’s talking about the nonprofit organization’s annual Cool Craft Market — an indoor shopping experience featuring more than 40 vendors of crafts (think jewelry makers, potters, fiber artists and woodworkers) and artisan foods. “Our customers will be putting money back into the local economy and supporting small businesses,” says Mudge. And, “Shoppers can actually meet the person who made the product.”
Craft shows are nothing new to Western North Carolina residents and visitors, but the Cool Craft Market — now in its third year — puts a spin on the idea of purchasing gifts and handmade wares from local makers. This market is a partnership between HandMade In America and Blue Ridge Food Ventures. Both organizations support small businesses by offering training, information and resources. HandMade focuses on creative entrepreneurs and craft artists, with workshops geared toward developing skills needed to be successful business owners. Blue Ridge Food Ventures helps food and natural product creators bring their ideas to market by providing use of equipment for bottling and packaging, as well as help in product development, navigating government regulations, label design and marketing.
Among the food offerings at this year’s Cool Craft Market are BelloLea Artisan Kitchen’s easy pizza-making kits, including gluten-free, low-sodium and whole-wheat crusts. Guava Love Foods will present a selection of unique fruit and butter spreads. Blue Blaze Soda Co.’s signature syrups are sure to impress holiday guests. Many food vendors will serve samples, so holiday shoppers can satisfy their curiosity and their cravings.
Plus, “A lot of functional crafts pair well with locally made food products, like a serving board and a pizza kit,” Mudge says. But the communications and operations manager’s favorite aspect of the Cool Craft Market isn’t for sale. “There’s nothing more inspiring than seeing people do what they love,” she says.
WHAT: The Cool Craft Market
WHERE: HandMade in America, handmadeinamerica.org
WHEN: Friday, Dec. 12, 5-8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 13, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 14, noon-4 p.m.