The name of The Big Crafty says it all. It’s big, it’s crafty, and it’s fun for the whole family. We all have a soft spot for the small-town church bazaars and local street fairs where you’re sure to find fresh-baked pies, activities such as bobbing for apples and cake walks, and traditional handicrafts, but like all of us, craft fairs have grown up.
Yes, you’ll still find stuffed dolls and tote bags, but now the dolls look like cartoon monsters and the tote bags are covered with hip appliqué and screen prints. And don’t forget the free entertainment! Free local beer, music DJ’d by Whitney Shroyer (aka Dr. Filth), and sweet treats from Short Street Cakes. Big Crafty is different, but it hasn’t abandoned tradition completely. You’ll still be able to find the perfect mug from your favorite potter, paintings from your favorite folk artist, and even a woven basket or two.
This unique blend of the modern indie DIY (do-it-yourself) crafter and guild-trained artisan is in keeping with the vision Brandy Bourne and Justin Rabuck had when The Big Crafty was still just a tiny idea tugging at their handmade sleeves. Asheville has been a destination for artists and collectors for years now, but where was the representation for the blooming indie crafts community? Brandy and Justin had a larger vision for the crafts community in Western North Carolina, and they turned that vision into what even County Living magazine has touted as one of the “nation’s coolest craft fairs”(November 2012).
This holiday event—Sunday, Dec. 2—will be the five-year anniversary of the bi-annual craft fair that cut its teeth at The Grey Eagle in 2008—a venue whose capacity taps out at 550 and pushed The Big Crafty from its nest after hosting only a couple of events. Brandy and Justin quickly searched for a larger venue to accommodate the crowds and found a home at the Asheville Art Museum and Pack Place. The winter shows are indoors and fill two stories of Pack Place. It is definitely a cozy event.
Something else that makes this fair special, though, and is the duo’s ability to see potential and help growing artists thrive. For many, this show will be their first. Brandy and Justin want to do more than just showcase already successful artists—they also want to support folks who are just finding their way in the crafts and festivals scene. Several new vendors will attend this year.
Paige Duft, a visual artist, says, “The Big Crafty has made a tremendous impact on my business. Since I’ve been participating, I’ve had my work discussed on the blogs and personal websites of people that otherwise would have never seen my work.”
Courtney Leigh Johnson of Holdfast Printworks says that The Big Crafty is “serving as a direct way for artists and crafters to connect with people … [helping] us gain confidence in ourselves as artists … [it] allows us to succeed as small businesses.”
Here are some of their other picks.
GeorgeAnn Stewart is a metalsmith and jewelry maker, and a first time BC vendor. She’s a self proclaimed “country” girl, and her love of “sweet Southern comforts” often inspires her work.
Nate Barton, a visual artist, woodworker, potter, builder, and general Renaissance man combines modern architectural elements with traditional craft and is in the process of applying to be a part of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild.
Molly Reilly of Neo Granny combines her love of vintage aesthetic and kitsch color schemes with amazing attention to detail to create beautiful laser-cut birch wood brooches, jewelry, and more. She does all this “between teaching art, renovating a 60s ranch, [and] weekly thrifting” trips.
The Big Crafty’s five-year anniversary promises to be the craftiest so far and offers a great opportunity to buy handmade for the holidays this year.
The Big Crafty is from noon to 6 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 2, at the Asheville Art Museum in downtown Asheville at Pack Place. For more information visit TheBigCrafty.com.
Ryan-Ashley Anderson studied Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina-Asheville and has a background in Fine Art. She made Asheville her home five years ago and is proud to call herself a member of a thriving craft community. Find out more at frayknot.com.