Vancouver's creative community clicks at Fall For Local

From leatherworkers to jewellery makers, local small businesses find the biannual fair is a great place to converge and connect

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      Vancouver’s calendar of fall and winter markets kicks off early this year with a brand-new addition, though we wouldn’t be so quick to label the biannual Fall For Local your typical browse-and-buy.

      “I like to think that we’re like the ‘uncraft’ fair,” Kelly Turner, Fall For Local’s founder, tells the Straight by phone. “Rather than just rows and rows of crafts, we bring together small businesses in Vancouver and its surrounding areas to set up shop.

      “They could be sharing service or they could just have a product they’d like to get out to the public. Either way, it’s an opportunity for them to kind of get together and showcase what they’re doing.”

      Created in 2012, Fall For Local places explicit emphasis on a concept that locally produced markets and fairs have been fostering for years: community. It’s an unsurprising focus, given the origins of the event.

      The Fall For Local popup market makes its autumn debut in North Vancouver next Saturday (October 22).
      Fall For Local

      Sensing a disconnect in the small-business sphere while heading her own graphic design and communication firm in her hometown of Ottawa, Turner organized a celebratory soiree that saw local entrepreneurs getting to know one another while sharing their products and services with the public.

      The event went so well that Turner decided to bring it to Vancouver when she felt a similar rift in the small-biz scene upon moving here in 2013. Three years later, the one-night affair has evolved into a biannual marketplace—plus a series of monthly talks at the Aviary, a Fraserhood coworking space—that offers a platform for emerging and established entrepreneurs to connect in person with others.

      “Our genre is ‘If you’re a small business doing something awesome, then come participate in Fall For Local,’ ” explains Turner. “You don’t typically have to be a maker or artisan. If you founded a small business but you’re getting products from somewhere else, that’s totally fine—as long as your brand was founded in Vancouver.”

      Fall For Local’s openness to people doing cool stuff in the city may be somewhat responsible for the fair’s popularity with creative types and consumers. (This month’s debut autumn iteration includes handmade natural hair-care line Coast Beauty Co., textile and surface designer Kaiko, and dress rental service Flaunt Fashion Library.)

      Local entrepreneurs Joe and Justine Sones handcraft repurposed leather goods that are designed to last a lifetime.
      Blindsheep Productions

      But Turner stresses that the environmental and economic benefits of shopping close to home are driving more and more Vancouverites to produce and buy local, too.

      “I think there’s just this global movement and people are becoming a lot more educated about purchasing quality products, rather than ones from huge corporations,” she says. “People are realizing that, ‘Hey, you know what? There is a need and desire for local goods’, so I think that some of them are definitely making that transition from working a 9-to-5.”

      For Joe Sones, cofounder of Blindsheep Productions, it was the flexibility in hours that ultimately convinced him and his partner, Justine, to ditch their respective day jobs and commit to their leatherworking operation full-time. The duo now handcraft a range of repurposed leather totes, belts, and wallets in a studio space in Maple Ridge, where they split their time between Blindsheep, freelance projects, and caring for their one-year-old son.

      Although Sones notes that popup shops and local craft fairs can be hit-or-miss for vendors, he says that they serve as a viable “middle ground” in which up-and-coming artisans may build their brands. He also values the connections he’s made with other ardent makers through the events.

      Jewellery maker Anne Fleet's designs are inspired by emblems of the Pacific Northwest.
      Birch Street Studio

      “There are a lot of creative people who are just lovely individuals to interact with,” he says. “There’s not a whole lot of ego that comes along with them.”

      Anne Fleet, jewellery maker and owner of the Squamish-based Birch Street Studio, echoes this sentiment when describing her experiences at local markets. “I really like the saying ‘Community over competition’, and that’s big with a lot of people in the maker community,” she says. “People will just message me and say, ‘Hey, I think your stuff would look great in this store’ and they’ll share opportunities.”

      Not unlike the Soneses, Fleet turned her passion project into a full-time gig when she left her position as a dental-office receptionist in 2014. She’s known for her laser-cut wood stud earrings, pendants, and rings, many of them decorated with flashes of colour and etchings of mountaintops, bears, and other emblems native to the Pacific Northwest. The woodworker showcases her pieces primarily online, so she’s appreciative of any event that gets her into the community and outside her comfort zone.

      “It forces me to talk to people,” adds Fleet. “I’m sort of an introvert and it’s so easy to just stay home and focus on what I’m doing. But when you do these markets and get chatting with your neighbour, you realize that you have a lot in common.”

      The Littlest Fry carries a range of eccentric goods from local and international designers, such as this coloured napkin set by San Francisco's Shapes & Colors.
      The Littlest Fry

      “It’s kind of a weird lifestyle to have an online shop and only knowing people through social media,” reflects Gillian Fryer, owner of the Littlest Fry, an e-retailer that offers a curated selection of “Californian meets European” goods. “So to have the chance to actually get to know them face to face—I really like that aspect.”

      In fact, Fryer—a jewellery maker herself—meets many of the local artisans she stocks, including ceramist dahlhaus and stationery producer Think & Ink Studio, by attending popup markets and craft fairs around the city. “I try to carry as much local work as I can because I just really like to promote creative people in Vancouver,” she says.

      Fryer, Fleet, and the Soneses are among the 75 local vendors appearing at the Fall For Local market, where they’ll undoubtedly become acquainted with one another—if they haven’t done so already—as well as the many shoppers expected to walk through the doors. They’ll be joined by an eclectic group of independent designers and small-business owners, including those specializing in hip concrete planters, goat’s-milk soaps, glittering party supplies, and more.

      “I love seeing local entrepreneurs thriving within the city and just growing,” Turner says.

      Fall For Local takes place on October 22 at the Pipe Shop Building in North Vancouver. For more information, or to purchase tickets, click here. Kelly Turner was photographed in the Aviary, a coworking space for designers and creatives at 637 East 15th Avenue in Vancouver.

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