As holiday shopping season kicks off with Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, Eastern Iowans may want to add a third day to their calendars: Dec. 7, when craft fairs and holiday markets will take over the Corridor.
Here are a few in Cedar Rapids: Very Cherry, the Old World Christmas Market and Bohemian Betty Holiday Market, (all part of Deck the District celebrations in the NewBo and Czech Village Main Street District), plus Nature’s Noel at Indian Creek Nature Center. In Iowa City, there will be Not Your Mother’s Craft Fair, the Eastside Artists Show and Sale, the Arts and Crafts Bazaar at the Iowa City Public Library and the Holiday Art Market at the Iowa Memorial Union. Plus more: a Christmas Craft Show at Lindale Mall, a Howliday Bazaar and a Holidog Bazaar, two separate events to raise money for animal welfare organizations, and probably additional events that have escaped our notice.
All of this means more than a chance for locals to shop ‘til they drop: these fairs and bazaars are major fundraisers for some local nonprofits and a big part of the year’s business for small local makers.
Kaitlyn Bohan is diving into that world with her handmade jewelry and fiber arts business, Fiber and Vessel. She’ll sell her handmade jewelry, ornaments and more at Not Your Mother’s Craft Fair as a first time vendor at the annual fair.
Bohan launched Fiber and Vessel in April from the small one-bedroom Coralville apartment she shares with her husband. She uses polymer clay to make jewelry, which she can back in her kitchen oven, and sands down and finishes her pieces in her bathroom. She hand mixes the colors for her chunky geometric earrings and necklaces and makes her own cutters to stamp out shapes from the clay.
She went to school to be an art teacher and taught for a year before realizing her heart wasn’t in it. She wanted to get back to the art itself.
“Teaching wasn’t bring me joy. I’ve been a maker forever. I love creating,” she said.
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So far, she has mostly sold her work online through her website, fiberandvessel.com, as well as at a few stores in Des Moines and Revival in Iowa City. This will only the second craft show for her slowly growing business.
“I want to do more shows,” she said. “For now, making connections is the biggest thing for me.”
She’s been working on the pieces for Not Your Mother’s Craft Fair for some time.
“I’ve always been a person who said, ‘Wait until after Thanksgiving’ to get ready for Christmas, have one holiday at a time,” she said.
No more. In the maker and crafting world, “You start thinking about the holidays way earlier than other people,” she said.
Kathy Severson, president of the Friends of the Indian Creek Nature Center, understands that mind-set. The organization hosts Nature’s Noel at the nature center each year.
“We have our first meeting for it in August or September,” Severson said.
The event involves over 100 volunteers on the day itself, the culmination of months of preparations, from baking and freezing cookies, appetizers and soups, to picking up fresh greenery in Minnesota and coordinating deliveries from Wisconsin. Volunteers also make green decorations sold at the festival, from wreaths to centerpieces, often collecting their own pine cones and other natural items for the pieces.
Severson, a retired teacher, got involved when a friend invited her to participate and hasn’t looked back.
“The day I started working with the wreaths and the greenery, I loved that, she said. “You think you aren’t creative, but it’s just really great to make something from nature, and when you see someone buy something you made — oh, you love that.”
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Bond Drager, senior library assistant at the Iowa City Public Library, has a similar experience with items like handmade bags, fabric book marks and pocket warmers she contributes to the library’s Arts and Crafts Bazaar each year. She’s been knitting for about 20 years and started sewing more recently.
“I enjoy making things. It’s nice to be able to give to the library, which is really important to my family,” she said. “
She said the bazaar, which features all donated items primarily made by library supporters, is a good fundraiser but also a good community-building event for the library.
“It’s really lovely how proud people are of their work, and how excited people are to help the library is really wonderful,” she said. “Every year, we’re so moved by peoples’ generosity, and the amount of time and work people are willing to contribute is so wonderful to us. We really love showing off the incredible talent of our community.”
She also emphasized that supporting local crafters has a compound financial impact on the community: those crafters often buys their supplies locally; she shops at Home Ec in Iowa City, for example.
“If people are shopping, shop local, shop small,” she urged. “You know who is making your goods; you are supporting them and their family.”
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Get your craft on
l What: Bohemian Betty Holiday Market
l Where: 95 16th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids
l When: 1 to 8 p.m. Dec. 6, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 7
l What: Nature’s Noel
l Where: Indian Creek Nature Center, 5300 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids
l When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 7
l What: Very Cherry art sale and open house
l Where: Cherry Building, 329 10th Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
l When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 7
l What: Dogs Forever Holidog Bazaar
l Where: Ideal Social Hall, 213 14th Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
l When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 7
l What: Old World Christmas Market
l Where: National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, 1400 Inspiration Place SW, Cedar Rapids
l When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8
l What: Christmas Craft Show
l Where: Lindale Mall, 4444 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids
l When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 7, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 8
l What: Cookie Walk and Howlidog Bazaar
l Where: Kirkwood Linn Regional Center, 1770 Boyson Rd., Hiawatha
l When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 7
l What: Iowa City Eastside Artist Show and Sale
l Where: Masonic Building, 312 E. College St., Iowa City
l When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 6, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 7 and 8
l What: Not Your Mother’s Craft Fair
l Where: Merge, 136 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City
l When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 7
l What: Arts and Crafts Bazaar
l Where: Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., Iowa City
l When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 7
l What: Holiday Art Market
l Where: Iowa Memorial Union, 125 N. Madison St., Iowa City
l When: Noon to 6 p.m. Dec. 7, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 8