15 Sunday Dec 2013
No tags :(
So it’s holiday market time again. Because of the unprecedented earliness of Hanukah this year, I was finished with about 90 percent of my holiday shopping in Thanksgiving. Still, I love a good market, so off I went.
I did wonder whether the glut of markets would lower the quality of the merchandise. This Saturday alone we had
- Bust Craftacular
- Degenerate Craft Fair
- Etsy Handmade Cavalcade
- Plus the little holiday market in Observatory/Morbid Anatomy.
This list is not meant to be exhaustive. There are a metric ton of markets this month, sort of the commerce version of the plethora of food trucks now trundling around NYC streets.
Even though it was snowing, I resolved to go to as many as possible! How’s that for a perky attitude in the middle of a snowstorm?!?eleventy
I like the Bust Craftacular because, while they do charge $3 for admission, you can also nab several back issues of Bust Magazine, which, while I like Bust in a vaguely nostalgic, zucchini bread kind of way, I do not like Bust enough to pay $5 an issue. This year, it was once again in the Metropolitan Pavilion, which is clearly a superior place to have a fair space-wise (I shudder at anything crammed into the netherworld of 82 Mercer.)
I got there around 12 (I had to work on something unrelated in the morning) and breezed in after paying my $3, dredged up from the bottom of my purse. Perhaps because of the snow, it was pretty empty. And I hate going to markets when they’re empty.
OK, here’s why. I think I have an overdeveloped sense of empathy. Overdeveloped because it can go haywire and make me feel shitty about things I should probably not worry myself about. For example, when I play a Choose Your Own Adventure game (or a video game where you make moral choices, like Walking Dead or Mass Effect) I find it almost impossible to choose the endings that reveal “me” to be an unethical jerk, even though I know it’s just a game and I’ve already done my usual runthrough as a responsible citizen. Other thing that bothers me are the hopeful looks on the faces of vendors as you approach their little booth. They’re small makers! They’ve worked so hard on the handknit cowls/quirky stuffed animals/original prints/handcast jewelry/plastic jewelry/handmade soaps and they make so little money. Here’s their big chance! The holiday market! And you glance for 5 seconds at their booth and walk on. See, now I’m the asshole in the CYOA game.
You see a vendor, her array of hand-beaded and feathered necklaces and quirky cat and octopus earring laid out in front of her. Do you
a) purchase an item. You have money, and you’ll find someone who wants a pair of plastic squid earrings
b) Talk to her about her items – you’re interested in her creative process
c) Glance at her stuff, mentally shrug, move on.
I did a lot of c). Admittedly, I have a pretty refined visual filter when it comes to items, honed over many years of flea marketing, so I can suss out whether there’s anything of interest pretty quickly. But I did end up buying a few things:
A travel pouch with a spiky leather(ette?) handle, made from South African material printed with Nelson Mandela’s face (RIP Madiba). This was $30, and the sellers informed me that the material was no longer being manufactured due to complaints from the Mandelas. A perfect gift for my friend who travels a lot and is deeply involved in African humanitarian projects.
Two metallic leather ornaments, a silver whale and a gold manatee. OK, you might have detected a slight dig at the move to aquatic animals from owl/bird fetishism (I am as guilty as any – the jellyfish is the new octopus!) I got them from a woman who seemed genuinely delighted that I was so interested in her adorable merch. Other animals included the criminally underused narwhal, a horseshoe crab, and a few land creatures like porcupines. Her (also adorable) site is theoneswholoveusbest.com
There were also some beautiful and snuggly scarves and hats from Hortensia Handmade, all in silky soft alpaca wool. The woman there, Michelle, was really helpful. and the handknits were the most stylist and comfortable I saw at the fair. The hats were about $70 and adorable and those big chunky infinity scarves that even dumbasses like me can manage to put on were about $85, if I remember correctly. (I looked at their site and they cost something like $140 there. Plus they’re sold at pricey stores and most likely are even more there.) I couldn’t really justify getting yet another scarf, but now I kind of regret not taking the plunge. Oh, and she had a box of samples/one-offs that ran from $20-$40, great value!
I then moved on to the Degenerate Craft Fair. Last time I went to this it was in that loft in Dumbo. This time around it was in what looked like a moldy basement in Chinatown. Last year or whenever it seemed more shopable somehow – I found Life With Tigers, creators of severed leg/tail catnip toys (cuter than it sounds). This time it was a weird mix of zines, kids t-shirts and art. Also particularly uncrowded. I left pretty quickly and realized that I was near the Rachel Comey sale!
Yes, I know this post is about holiday fairs, but bear with me. OK, so the Rachel Comey sale was at 233 Mott. As it turns out, there was a little popup market at 233 Mott too. Not knowing if the two were connected, I went into the fair first. It advertised vintage and craft. And it was almost completely empty. I felt awful for the vendors. At one point I took 2 seconds to look at some guy’s scarves, and he practically begged me to buy one. They were photoprinted with used tea bags and started at $90 – I felt for him, but I’m not that charitable. ( I finally found it. It’s apparently the Hester Fair holiday market but their site seems to say that they’re at the Eventi Hotel, so who knows. Oh wait, it’s now the Box market. These guys need better PR)
I ended up stopping by Morbid Anatomy briefly (lots of skulls and eyeballs, some vintage) but I was pretty much done by that point.
Moral of the story: if you are looking for a handknit wool hat or a piece of jewelry, go to the markets. (Most inexpensive jewelry is made of base metals there, probably because silver is so much more expensive for individual craftspeople.)
I might try to make it to the Cavalcade today, and maybe back to Bust to buy a Hortensia scarf.