Detroit's crafting community is strong. It seems like every day a new maker is popping up, a new company is born. Some of those companies remain small, a person or two pumping out quality, handmade goods that offer something unique to the community, while others are booming – shipping products around the world.
Handmade Detroit, a collective of some local crafters, has helped foster that community. Nine years ago they started the Detroit Urban Craft fair, a yearly event that has doubled in size since it first took place at the Majestic. Now the fair hosts 100 vendors and takes place inside the Masonic Temple.
We caught up with Amy Cronkite of Handmade Detroit and got a little inside information about what goes on behind the scenes of the Detroit Urban Craft Fair.
Metro Times: Tell us a little bit about the evolution of the Detroit Urban Craft Fair. It's been almost a decade now.
Amy Cronkite: This is actually the ninth Detroit Urban Craft Fair. Handmade Detroit was formed at the end of 2005 and I was not a part of that. There were some people that knew each other and they started to do, like, house-run parties, like holiday shows and this was just in a couple homes. They contacted me because my husband and I had a Detroit Craft Mafia, which is kind of a – there are different groups around the country where they put on events, so we had started the Detroit chapter. Handmade Detroit contacted me at the beginning of January 2006 and asked if we wanted to come to a gathering to talk about Detroit craft shows. So that's how I became involved. In the beginning we had a big group of people who all wanted to get this craft show going, so it kind of turned into different things.
MT: Why do you think the fair has been so successful?
Cronkite: Well, I think part of it is how much time we put into it. It's really the one event that we make sure to do every year. And although this year our group is small, we started planning it in the spring. We take a lot of time and care to keep our regulars and we aren't just picking things that we like but things that we think will sell because we want everyone to do well there. So, we look at a lot of factors: where they're from, what their price points are. We don't want anyone to be disappointed. We put a lot of care into that. We put a lot of care into the layout. Make sure that we don't have two competing people next to each other. We have a lot of details. We provide lunch, we have music now. We try to make it the kind of event that everybody wants to go to, even for men. Now we have a lot of vendors who are men. Craft shows kind of have a reputation of being all women and that's not true. Everybody loves to be there, to walk around. We have drinks and music and it isn't just a craft fair but a great event.
MT: Has it been a conscious decision to keep the fair at 100 vendors? Has there been pressure to make it bigger or even smaller?
Cronkite: When we first did it at the Majestic we only had 50 vendors because it's not a very big room. We kind of increased it and increased it until we got up to 100 vendors and then we made the choice to not make it any bigger than that. We've been to some craft fairs where there are a lot more vendors and we were just overwhelmed. We found that with it that big, if someone doesn't buy something then and there, when they come back they're never gonna find you again. It's just too big. We get a lot more applications than we have room for. This year we got 289 applications for 100 slots. That was hard. But that way we know that we have the best of the best. It gets really competitive. In some ways we wish we could have more people because we don't like to turn them away.
MT: It's also a great place for people to meet these makers that they may have already been buying goods from for awhile, right?
Cronkite: Oh, yeah. And that is one of our rules. We make it very clear to the vendors that you have to be there. You can come with one helper because it's so busy and so crazy, but you have to be there. Because that's part of the way you can do well at the fair. You need to be there so you can talk to the people. Tell them how you made it. Interact with them. And it needs to be different. You can talk to these people. Sometimes people don't remember that you're not there for yourself; you're there for somebody else. So that's really important.
MT: Does Handmade Detroit do any other craft fairs throughout the year?
Cronkite: We do more. We do a spring fair called Craft Revival. We used to do part of Maker Faire, and over the last few years we kind of took a break from that because people in the group were having kids and getting settled with that and we decided we wanted to focus on the Urban Fair to make it the best that we can, but we are discussing doing something in the spring. Maybe a craft fair, maybe something else. There are a lot of craft fairs in the area so I don't know, necessarily, if that's the best thing to do. But we haven't even started discussing that yet. We need to get through this fair first. We're the biggest and largest running craft fair in the state, too. We wanna make sure we deliver what everybody expects so we'll focus on that.
MT: Are there any new vendors you're looking forward to this year?
Cronkite: We have 38 new vendors this year, which is great. I'm really excited. We've got two photographers that are gonna be there this year. One of them does transfers; she does transfers on glass and all sorts of materials. And then we've got somebody else who does, they're not really photographs because they're not printed on photo paper, they're printed on poster stock, but they're just enormous. They're like three-feet-by-four-feet big. I'm really excited for that. This year we've got some good food vendors. We've got somebody who sells chocolate and another person who sells candy, which is something we kind of opened up the fair to craft food vendors a few years ago. It's been a little slow getting them in so we were really excited for that. We've got some new ceramics and I think it's the most ceramics we've ever had, this year. People are doing some really great things. It's gonna be a really nice variety.
The Detroit Urban Craft Fair takes place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6 and from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 7 at the Masonic Temple; 500 Temple St., Detroit; handmadedetroit.com; admission is $1.