The Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador is just wrapping up its 45th annual Christmas Craft Fair – a high-quality, juried exhibition and marketplace of fine craft from almost 100 local vendors ranging from weavers and ceramic artists to culinary creators and botanical wizards.
It’s a craft, design and foodie haven, for folks with discerning tastes who like to shop for one of a kind or handcrafted items just before the holiday season. It’s been going on for 5 days now at the Jack Byrne Arena, ending this evening at 5 p.m. (but if you miss it, later in this post I’ll give you some tips on where to findmany of these fine craft vendors at other high quality craft events here in St. John’s before Christmas comes knocking).
A few years back, I used to be the marketing and communications director of this fantastic organization, but long before and after that role, I’ve been a Buy Local advocate and fine craft addict. I rarely miss this ultimate, annual craft fair so when my good friend asked me to join her for her first Craft Council Christmas Craft Fair experience, she didn’t have to apply much pressure.
After several hours of browsing and chatting with the craftspeople at their booths, we emerged with our finds into a snowy night sky – an added bonus to spark that Christmas vibe! So let’s get straight into it with my fave finds this year.
MY 5 FAVE FINDS AT THE FAIR
1. Natalie Jewellery
Intriguing and thoughtfully-designed using reclaimed copper to create non-traditional one of a kind jewellery — that’s what this vendor entices her customers with. Natalie has been recognized by the Craft Council with several Best New Product wins at the fair.
I treasure my Natalie ‘Valkyrie’ piece from last year’s fair – it’s my go to piece and gets a lot of compliments, including from Swedish people who immediately recognize the Norse-inspired design.
She’s come up with some new stunning collar pieces that caught my eye this year – especially the Blue Jasper Mountain collar. It combined natural stones and geometric copper for an abstract and stunning statement piece.
We spent a very long time at this booth and my friend picked up a gorgeous necklace. There was so much interest in her wares that we had to carefully guard our finds from the reaching hands of other excited shoppers who wanted to buy these uniquely shaped, embossed and fused necklaces, earrings and bracelets.
In the blink of an eye, one of her stunning, featured OOAK signature pieces was purchased, to the dismay of others ogling it. I love watching the interactions at craft fairs – people watching and fine craft? Perfect combo.
The Natalie Jewellery customer experience is always a pleasure with this humble and soft spoken professional designer. You can find Natalie’s work here.
2. East Coast Glow
With queues two and three people deep lining the entire booth’s perimeter, East Coast Glow’s booth was the busiest by far when we attended on Saturday. Their company, brand and products are highly sought after and their story is well known. East Coast Glow is one of the entrepreneurial success stories that emerged during the wonderful Bonavista revitalization period.
Stunning botanical creations sourced from local ingredients are brought to life by iceberg water (something that never loses its novelty, stirring wild glacial magic in the minds of locals and visitors alike). The locals behind East Coast Glow make luxury creams, soaps serums, salt baths, body scrubs, salves and milk soaks that people just can’t seem to get enough of.
For someone with allergies and sensitive skin, it’s rare to find a product I like and won’t react to. East Coast Glow has become a staple in my everyday household use and self care. I especially love their gorgeous serum that glows beautifully in the light with its blue tones and floating botanicals arranging themselves into a natural, miniature art display on my window sill. I chose it because its fragrance reminded me of the smell of walking through the old railway line in Ferryland – the marsh, the berries, the wet leaves of Autumn.
East Coast Glow’s online customer service is excellent and, in person, they’re even lovelier, providing plenty of helpful details about the botanical magic they make. Being a rather selective buyer, I took a long time sizing up and choosing the items I wanted. After all, when buying craft and artisanal products, the entire process is an experience – especially when it is a product that ignites the senses like East Coast Glow understands intimately.
3. Wild Island Tea
Stand back, people! If there is organic, artisanal tea in sight, I forget all of my manners and make a mad dash. The owner of this local company (another Bonavista entrepreneurial darling) promotes the brand as ‘wildcrafted’ — as opposed to hand crafted. Using naturally-sourced ingredients like wild river mint and pineapple weed, their teas are not only gorgeous to look at but the packaging is cute as a button and eco friendly.
When in Poland last year, I even left behind some of my clothes to make more room for the copious amounts of organic tea my friend and I found for me at a local market. I parted ways with my favourite old jeans to stuff as much tea as possible into my carry-on bag — so much so that I raised eyebrows and suspicions when scanned at the airports. My simple response: ‘I really love tea.’
We had a lovely chat with the owner during the fair and learned a lot about their processes and ingredients.
4. Nunatsiavut Artistry
This booth has a very special place in my heart and was a delightful, new surprise to see at this year’s Craft Council fair. A collective of makers of Labrador fine craft, featuring astonishingly beaded traditional hide slippers trimmed with fur and fleece, stone carvings representing cultural icons and scenes special to The Big Land and natural, Labrador tea beauty products — just to skim the surface of the array of gorgeous handcrafted items on display. I didn’t get much of a photo because there was such a crowd (always a good thing!)
Having worked for the Association for Aboriginal Artists in another life, it was a real treat to see such a large booth of absolutely supreme quality traditional and modern products from our province’s most northerly region. These products were made from skilled craftspeople from Rigolet all the way up the coast to Nain — and some of my favourite places on earth. Some of the beadwork was truly breathtaking, with transitioning colours reminiscent of the northern lights.
You simply can’t go wrong with gifts and artwork from Labrador. The Nunatsiavut Artistry collective can be found here.
5. JACOBEAN Craft Chocolate
This craft fair vendor was my most surprising find as I dislike most chocolate. It was far superior to any local chocolate I’ve tasted, so I have a feeling they’re going to shake up the chocolate game in this province.
What impressed me most was the owner’s (and his daughter’s) passion for authentic cacao creations, the attention to detail, the knowledge they had of single origin chocolate and supported ethical fair trade of ingredients.
JACOBEAN Craft Chocolate didn’t taste chalky like other local chocolates I’ve tried. Instead, it was rich and packed a punch. And so I came away with a luxe Mayan hot chocolate sathcel that I can’t wait to try out with some almond or coconut milk.
Jacobean (pronounced Jah – ko – be – an) Craft Chocolate also featured a collaborative fusion of dark chocolate and Purity peppermint knob slivers, which we blind taste tested and recognized and the familiar Newfoundland peppermint right away.
There’s also a sweet ‘I Heart NL’ design that would make a tasty and nostalgic gift for those living away from the province. Definitely go pick up some of these two ‘home’ themed treats, people!
As we left the booth, my friend turned to me and marvelled, ‘YOU got chocolate?’ — for a person who’s not a fan of most chocolate, this was a considerable feat, so it really speaks to the quality and flavour of this company’s product. The genuine (and educational) customer service was outstanding as well. It all adds up to a successful craft fair transaction.
JACOBEAN Craft Chocolate can be found here. Chocolate bliss awaits.
Why I shop at the Craft Council and its affiliated establishments
I’d much rather spend my dollars on a local person’s wares, whether at home or during my travels. So, every year I look forward to this craft fair — it brings out the best of the best of juried Craft Council members with new products and old favourites.
If supporting local makers and growers is important to you, too, and you feel good about stimulating our province’s economy, consider a local artisan shop or studio the next time you shop.
Perhaps you’ll find yourself lucky enough to be in St. John’s for work or leisure, and want some tips about where to go? Well, now you know the Craft Council is the central and most recommended spot. Leave me a comment below and I’ll happily give you some suggestions if you have niche interests in local fine craft or artisan studios.
Missed the Craft Council Christmas Fair?
Don’t worry, you can always find them locally in their downtown location any time of the year to purchase beautiful fine craft and support local makers.
Your locally-minded purchase keeps your hard-earned money in the community, enabling our talented, hard-working craftspeople make their living bringing us beautiful, creative, functional and delicious products that enrich our lives and homes.
If you’re visiting St. John’s for a business trip or vacation, the Craft Council shop and gallery is the first stop you should be making for souvenir shopping, friends!
Source: Out of Avalon