Hand-built bikes are a new addition to Marshall Handmade Market’s repertoire of craft

NICE RIDE: Handmade bikes by Capricorn Bicycles are a new addition to the Marshall Handmade market. Photo courtesy of the bike company

“Buy local, buy slow,” is a holiday tip from the organizers of the Marshall Handmade Market. The annual event offers locally produced wares that are made “through slow, labor-intensive processes in studios, barns and backrooms across the region.” It is a chance to purchase finely crafted objects, while also slowing the holiday shopping race to more of a country-living pace.

One newcomer to the market, Brad Wilson of Capricorn Bicycles, is practiced at moving to the speed of his own pedaling. Having relocated himself and his business to Marshall this summer, he says the town “attracts really interesting people: artisans, artists, organic farmers, musicians and idealists. We all find meaning in tradition — in working to preserve something that’s relevant, even if it may never again find a way into the mainstream.”

Of his hand-built, steel bike frames and racks, Wilson says, “Fabricating a bicycle is where industry and craft can converge.” Making a bike by hand pulls from knowledge of machining, metal properties and engineering, he explains. “The end product shows the work that I put into it — the torch work, the hand-filing and sanding, the finish. It’s all intentional.”

Stuffed animals by Canoo.
Stuffed animals by Canoo.

Marshall, in Madison County, is well-located for scenic bike routes. Wilson says that moving his business positioned him in the Southeast, where there is little competition from cottage industries, relative to the number of cyclists in the region. Of course, the competition from the large manufacturers is pervasive, but Wilson says there are reasons to choose handmade. “Big bicycle companies are doing a good job of delivering new products to a lot of people. By comparison, frame builders are the stalwart, stubborn artisans of the cycling industry,” he says. “We want our customers to get 10 or 20 years of use out of something that we made for them. Cyclists look into handmade bikes when they want something distinctive, custom-tailored and built with a lot of soul.”

Wilson is just one of the 55 exhibitors at this year’s market. “The main focus of the selection committee is to showcase true handmade craft, selecting artists who employ labor-intensive and traditional techniques to create their works, whether they are jewelers, 2-D fine artists, fiber artists or potters,” says event organizer Maggie King. This year’s vendors include the 15 resident artists of Marshall High Studios, five of whom are new. Other exhibitors are culled from applicants in Madison and surrounding counties.

“You have to be creative to make a life here,” says King. She loves hearing the reactions of visitors to the town and to the event, and recalls comments such as, “When we rolled into Marshall to come and see the studios, it was like entering a snow globe,” as one visitor put it. “It was like [the TV show] ‘Northern Exposure,’ but instead of lumberjacks it was full of artists, musicians and unique personalities.”

WHAT: Marshall Handmade Market
WHERE: Marshall High Studios, 115 Blannahassett Island, marshallhandmade.com
WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 22, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Free.

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