Just for Me
My Craft Fair Addiction
I have a confession to make. I love to shop. Okay, wait. Let me clarify. I like to bargain hunt. More specifically, I like to spend my summers perusing crafts fairs all along the eastern seaboard. Now that Lifetime has just premiered the Picker Sisters, a new reality series starring two gorgeous interior designers who pick through other people's trash to find hidden treasures, I'm here to tell you, that I should be a cousin of the Picker Sisters, twice removed.
Let me explain. When the summer rolls around, rather than spend my time in the pool or paddling a kayak with my husband and son, I opt for something far more satisfying. In fact, just this weekend, we spent a mini vacation in Block Island, Rhode Island and I managed to re-connect with some of my favorite jewelry and picture frame designers. I also hit the Scarlet Begonia, which carries amazing Vera Bradley bags (my downfall each summer) and even scored a bracelet from my friend's friend Jen, who makes jewelry in China. More on that one in a moment.
So where do I begin with my craft fair fixation? I think it started when I first moved into Manhattan back in the early nineties. I can still vividly recall that my husband and I (we were dating at the time) spent one of our first dates strolling down Columbus Avenue hand in hand as I shopped for dried flower arrangements. I had a hang up with dried flowers at the time. These days, I opt for silk or I just kill live flowers, but I digress.
Fast forward a few decades and these days, I spend my weekends with my mom out in the Hamptons where we've been known to hit at least a dozen craft fairs in one season. In fact, while we were in Block Island, my mom had to rub it in and inform me that I missed the big fair that was being held right across the street from their home. Mom and I also have a few favorite stores in town too. One of my all time favorites is called Primrose Lane and every time we visit, I always manage to pick up a one of a kind item that receives tons of compliments. Recently, we had to sneak into the store when a car caught fire across the street and the police weren't letting us walk down the street that led to Primrose Lane's front door. And so, Mom and I did the next best thing...we snuck through the door of Hildreth's (the furniture store adjacent to Primrose), zipped through to the children's department, exited that door and raced into Primrose Lane. Incidentally, I picked up a sweater and a dress on that dangerous mission and it was worth every penny!
Fast forward to this weekend and I had the absolute best time finding some of my favorite designers on the island. What I love about Block Island is that they actually have a special rule for anyone who sells their wares there during the summer. They have to commit to livng on the island for the summer in order to participate in the numerous craft fairs and farmers markets throughout the season. Luckily, my favorite designers come back year after year including Rachel Lemoine, a Woodstock, NY based designer whose specialty is creating gorgeous earrings, bracelets and necklaces out of gem stones. This year, I managed to pick up a pair of topaz earrings with 22 carat gold. Rachel's work is incredible - which is why I always come back, year after year.
Next up is Marye Kellye picture frames. Here's the amazing piece of information I found out about Marye. She lives in Houston year round but comes to Block Island every summer and spends the time creating and selling decoupage frames, letter holders and coasters. Her creations are in stores nationwide - including one that's right near my home in Larchmont, New York (Wendy Gee). Personally, I think it's the coolest thing when you actually meet the designer of a product you've fallen in love with face to face. Marye has these great picture frames with hydrangeas on them - and if there's one thing about me you don't know yet - I'm a sucker for hydrangeas. I bought yet another frame this year - just need to add a family shot from our busy summer!
This year, I also met another lovely jewelry designer - I bought a gorgeous pair of earrings from her too and also fell in love with colorful fruit placemats designed by a woman who originally hailed from White Plains, NY!
The shopping continued as I hit the Scarlet Begonia in town and managed to track down an amazing Vera Bradley knapsack that I had been searching for all year. I even told the store owner how impressed I was with her selection and she confided that her customers tell her every year that she's got the best Vera Bradley bags hands down.
If you think I managed to take a break from my bargain hunting when I hit the beach, then sadly, you are mistaken. You see, while I was chatting with my good friend Susan, she introduced me to her friend Jen, the creative genius behind Zen Jen jewelry. Jen lives year round with her family in China and decided last year to pursue her passion for jewelry design. She began creating Zen Jen double happiness bracelets and necklaces that are literally flying off the shelves worldwide. Plus, the mission behind Zen Jen Jewels is to give back to charitable organizations that protect the rights of women and children. In order to receive happiness, you have to give happiness back to others. A simple but powerful message that is the driving force behind Zen Jen's emerging brand.
Jen gave me a double happiness bracelet and I haven't taken it off my wrist since she insisted I wear it proudly to work. Did I mention that Jen is also a yoga instructor and plans to go on a retreat with a friend somewhere in the far east this year? I think I need to spend more time with Zen Jen - she knows how to combine shopping with peace of mind - a perfect combination.
Last, but never least is something I am still in awe of. Have you ever met the person who was on the forefront of a major trend? I mean, who wouldn't think it was cool if they met the person who created silly bandz, or webkinz or those Lance Armstrong bands for that reason? Well, I met the guy behind HairFeathers.com. One of our friends' friends, who owns a bagel store in Colorado (their secret ingredient...New York water), realized one day that one of the girls who had been working for him was wearing a feather in her hair and kept receiving compliments about it. He then went outside and saw more people with feathers in their hair and before he knew it, his business partner was telling him they needed to invest in feathers. And so they did.
The two men purchased enough roosters so that they could sell and distribute the hairfeathers to salons nationwide. And once they were given a plug by Hoda and Kathie Lee at the Today Show, well the rest is history. They've actually sold out their allotment of feathers until 2012!
So there you have it. Every purchase I've made this summer has a story behind it. Just as the Picker Sisters are busy sifting through garbage to uncover fabulous finds from the past, I choose to spend my time perusing tables of jewelry, furnishings and more at some of the east coasts' finest crafts fairs.