Indiemade Craft Market A Celebration of Handmade Art

Indiemade Craft Market A Celebration of Handmade Art

No matter which winter holidays you celebrate, exchanging gifts is part of the traditions. But if your recipient’s taste is apart from the mainstream, shopping can be tough. You’ll often find shelves loaded with mass-produced merchandise that essentially copies-and-pastes itself.

There’s a better approach – the eighth annual Indiemade Craft Market (ICM) on December 5. This day-long show is like a craft party with friends, not a nerve-fraying dash from store to store.

D-I-Y at its finest

ICM was the brainchild of Teri Sorg-McManamon and Ann Biernat-Rucker. Both have backgrounds in marketing, Teri as advertising director at BioCycle magazine, and Ann at Follett Corporation, the Morning Call and other businesses.

They also share an interest in jewelry-making. As owner of the former Bluestem Studio, a web-based jewelry artists’ collective, Ann often took her and other jewelers’ work to sell at regional craft shows; eventually, she realized that everything she saw there was pretty much mainstream.

“There was really no outlet around here for the kind of work we both liked,” Teri said, “crafts that are functional and environmentally conscious, as well as fun and a bit edgy.”

In 2008, Ann read a New York Times article about independent alternative craft shows and convinced Teri they could create their own.

“Alternative” crafts? Ann explained that such artists express themselves by creating truly unique wearable goods, paintings, artistic prints and photographs and other media. “Many times, crafters work from patterns or templates, and produce several copies of the same item. With alternative crafters, no two pieces are ever exactly the same,” she said.

The first Indiemade Craft Market was a sellout, and it’s been packed with vendors every year since. The 2015 edition will be no different.

Not your mother’s craft show

Over 50 vendors – creating everything from handmade soap to traditional metalwork, hand-painted baby clothes, porcelain and stoneware jewelry, to offbeat t-shirts – will appear throughout both floors of the Fearless Fire Company’s Starlite Ballroom in Allentown.

Here’s a partial list:

  • Annie Pod Press – Philadelphia-based Diane Podolsky offers various forms of hand printing – wood cuts, rubbings, etchings and the like.
  • Emmy Bean Jewelry – Emily Kitt turns reclaimed silver, conflict-free raw diamonds, rose-cut stones, cabochons and even found items into distinctive accessories.
  • Claudia Gill – Representational and abstract art collages, mail art, and artist trading cards in mixed-media processes; hand-built clay figurines, sculptures and relief tiles; mosaics, and concrete/tile sculptures.
  • Parrot Designs – Polly Kendrick reimagines and repurposes existing materials to create “extreme pincushions,” watercolor renderings, and picture frames embellished with vintage/retro wallpaper.
  • Geek boy Press – Louie La Palombara III expresses his love of pop culture through totes, T-shirts, hoodies and other artwork featuring highly stylized renditions of Ghostbusters, Daleks, the Beatles, Walter White/Jesse Pinkman, and other iconic characters.

Potential exhibitors are screened before acceptance – not just in terms of quality, but of fit with the show. “We don’t want our visitors to come in and see practically nothing but jewelry,” Teri said. “Instead, we want to have a good mix of different crafts.”

Ann added that they must sometimes decline really good work – simply because that medium’s slots have already been filled.

An artist-friendly environment

Anyone who’s worked the craft show circuit will agree that ICM’s entry fee is extremely reasonable – just $50 for an eight foot table.

ICM features another unusual twist. Vendors keep every nickel they bring in; there are no additional fees, and no commissions paid to the show.

“Typically, the craft show environment is one of ‘sell, sell, sell’ to cover all of the artists’ costs,” Teri explained. “We wanted them to have a kind of ‘mental health day,’ one where they can have fun themselves.”

She added that exhibitors are encouraged make items on the spot, both as a way to engage visitors and to network with other artists.

Fun for everyone

“After the first few years, we realized that we were really throwing a big crafts party. People don’t just walk through and leave; they enjoy the art, the music, the food, and our activities,” Ann said.

Teri concurred. “You’ll see vendor tables around the perimeter and along a middle aisle,” she said. “Upstairs are more vendors and an art installation from the Alternative Gallery. There’s live, low-volume music on both floors, as well as full bar and food service. In fact, some of our guests spend the day with us.”

Visitors can get crafty, too, at the popular “makers’ tables.” These stations provide materials and instructions for creating your own make-and-take piece. The projects are simple, but intriguing. In past years, they’ve included tiny gift boxes made from paint-sample cards; Christmas ornaments; even ‘drawdios,’ – pencils that generate electronic tones as you use them.

Community involvement

A portion of each year’s proceeds is donated to the Baum School of Art’s scholarship fund (the balance is applied to the following year’s event). And the duo has partnered with the Alternative Gallery, which will again have an art installation on-site.

This day-long show is like a craft party with friends…

Brandon Wunder, the gallery’s director, said this year’s 6’ x 6’ exhibit will be an interactive display of vintage electronic gear, such as old CRT televisions, combined with public-domain Christmas-themed video footage. “You won’t just look at it,” he said. “You’ll be able to play around with it, too.”

In keeping with the show’s philosophy, “We try to be different, a little unpredictable, every year,” Teri said. “But we also want to maintain the show’s intimacy and small footprint.”

It’s a classic win-win situation. “Our reward is seeing the artists sell their goods, enjoying the crowds of happy visitors, and knowing that we’re supporting the Lehigh Valley arts community,” Ann concluded.



Saturday, December 5
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Starlite Ballroom (Fearless Fire Company)
1221 S Front St • Allentown

$3.00 for adults
children 12 & under are free

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