Circle Craft Christmas Market ready to blossom

It's an ideal destination for those looking for unique gifts in advance of the holiday season

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      People go to craft fairs primarily for two reasons.

      One is the chance to find unique and high-quality products at shows such as the Circle Craft Christmas Market, which runs at the Vancouver Convention Centre West (1055 Canada Place) from November 10 to November 14.

      “The excitement is you’re not walking into Walmart or Gap or most big-box places where you’re buying everything that everybody else is buying,” Peter Harbic told the Straight in a phone interview.

      Harbic describes himself as a show producer with Signatures Shows Ltd. His company has taken over the management of the annual Christmas fair through a licence agreement with Circle Craft Co-operative, an artist-run organization based in Vancouver.

      “You’re buying something really cool and nobody else has it,” Harbic said about the allure of shows featuring handmade items.

      The second reason people go to such fairs is the chance to meet the artisans who create distinctive products.

      “They have a story about where they’re from and what inspired them to do their creative work, be it, you know, fine arts or fashion or what have you,” Harbic said.

      He noted that such a person could be the “eclectic artist that lives on Salt Spring [Island] or Gabriola [Island] or Courtenay or over in Tofino or in Prince George or in the middle of Saskatchewan”.

      “They come out of their caves once a year to sell their stuff. They go on a tour for two months, and they spend the year getting ready for this,” Harbic said.

      Cosman & Webb Townships Organic maple syrup comes straight from Quebec.

      The first Circle Craft Christmas Market took place at The Cultch in East Vancouver

      in 1973. It has since become a tradition in the city, kicking off shopping for the holiday season.

      The fair had a hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19. Harbic noted that the economic impact of the pandemic on artisans has been “horrible”.

      With its return this year, the Circle Craft Christmas Market will provide makers from all over Canada an opportunity to showcase their products. “It has been a quiet, dark time and we’re blossoming once again,” Harbic said.

      This year’s show will feature 200 artisans, of whom 40 are new exhibitors. As Harbic noted, artisans come in different forms, be they clothing designers, potters, jewellers, wood and metal workers, glass blowers, candle and soap makers, or culinary artists.
      Speaking of artisanal food, the Christmas market will include a so-called gourmet alley. Harbic said that visitors can find everything from salsas to sauces, chocolates, and pâté.

      A Taste of the Okanagan's gourmet condiments and savory spreads are available at Circle Craft.

      The Circle Craft Co-operative states on its website that it made a decision in 2020 to focus on its artist members and the group’s store on Granville Island.

      The organization sought a partner to manage its Christmas market and found Signatures Shows, a Canadian company founded in 1980 by glass blower John Ladouceur and jeweller Casey Sadaka.

      Many members of Circle Craft Co-operative are participating in the show, like potters Gordon Hutchens and Cathi Jefferson, both of whom will be doing demonstrations on the pottery wheel.

      Proof of full COVID-19 vaccination is required for visitors. 

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