BY BRIAN HARTZ
If you believe the hipsters on the satirical TV show Portlandia, the secret to making ultra-cool handcrafted art is simply to “put a bird on it.”
The founders of the Bloomington Handmade Market would disagree. The event they created three years ago is a showcase for the works of some of the Midwest’s most talented artists, artisans, and craftspeople. Birds not required.
Mia Beach, Sally Harless, Talia Halliday, Jessica Near, and Nicole Wolfersberger are the Bloomington artists who are about to launch the seventh edition of the market, on Saturday November 10 from 10 am to 5 pm at the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center. It’s a juried market, meaning artists apply well in advance of the event—at least six weeks—to have their work judged.
Applicants submit links to the market’s website “then the five of us go through and look at all the work,” says Beach. “Artists discuss their process in the application so we know a little bit about how they work. A lot of what we look for is quality, but also how the various artists complement each other. We want a well-rounded market.”
You won’t find too many traditional arts and crafts—no stone geese wearing sweaters. “Unless there’s an ironic spin on it,” says Harless.
Products with labels like Bad Ass Glass and Snarky Cross-Stitch abound at the market, where artists pay $75 for a booth to display their work. Booth fees cover advertising and the cost of renting the convention center’s Great Room for the day.
“We empathize with the artists,” says Beach. “We know what it’s like for them, so our booth fees are low in comparison with other craft fairs.”
Prices are also modest, with most items selling in the $10 to $50 range.
“It’s a great place to get items for kids,” says Beach. “There are tons of children’s toys and household decorations—it’s not just fine art. There’s functional arts and crafts.”
“And you’re not going to get any of this stuff at Target, Walmart, or the mall,” adds Harless.
To help keep costs down for vendors (and thus buyers), the market relies on volunteers.