The Hidden Treasures of Street Fairs

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Street fairs, craft boutiques and farmers markets can be treasure troves of handmade goodness. With fantastic sites like etsy we are able to find some great unique and handmade goods online. However there are some things that you have to find yourself through exploration. We ventured out last weekend to a street fair and farmers market in a neighboring city and met Michael of Cattle Headquarters. We were smitten with his unique and very high quality handscreened pillows, tea towels and table cloths based off of vintage travel artwork. Michael is charming, friendly, a fabulous story-teller and totally old school. He isn't on etsy, his website hasn't been updated for 10 years, and there is really no way to find out where he'll be unless you email him. He's an artisan that cares deeply about his work and prefers the relationship you can develop with customers in person over the annonymity of the internet. You should know him.
 
The fair scene can be a little tricky. Here are some hints to help you find your own treasure.
 
1. Look for local events. This way if the event is a total bust you didn't waste time and money getting there. It'll also help you from buying "just because we drove all the way out here"...which, by the way, is the science behind why outlet malls are always in far off places. 
 
2. Look for events that sound fun to you. Often the fair will have a theme. If you're looking for modern pieces of art the bluegrass festival might leave you a bit dissapointed. See what type of music and events are surrounding the fair to get an idea of the types of vendors that might be there.
 
3. Remember, just because it's at a fair doesn't mean it's handmade, and just because it's handmade doesn't mean it's ethically sourced. Use good judgment and ask questions. You aren't obligated to buy something just because you stopped at a booth.
 
4. Don't give in to your desire to impulse buy. This is so hard for me! Fortunately the things we loved at Michaels booth were items we'd been looking to buy already so we lucked out. I was crushing on a terrarium at another booth and used some self-control since it wasn't a need or even a planned want. One point for me!
 
With the Holidays approaching there will be lots of fairs and boutiques all over the country. Here are some of my favorites.
 
Renegade Craft Fair - my friend Valerie took me to this fair over the summer and my head almost burst from all the amazingness. Overall I found the prices to be on the higher end but considering you aren't paying shipping and the event is completely free to attend, it definitely balances out. The thing I love the most about this event is that it is very thoughtfully curated. No two tables are the same and since this is an established fair they get the best-of-the-best vendors. They have several fairs across the country. 
State of Unique- This boutique features lots of small fun local artists. It costs $10 to get in, however the location is indoors and super chic so that's a fair enough trade-off. I went to this boutique last year and appreciated the wide variety of vendors and fun things to do like a photo booth, diy workshops and beverage tastings. They have a strong focus on supporting American made products and local artists. Plus 10% of the proceeds are donated to non-profits. They have two fairs in California and one in New York. 
Give Gifts, Give Hope- This fair trade boutique is put on by an organization I love, Slavery No More. November 28th from 9-5:30 on the Cal State University Northridge Campus, you can shop some of amazing brands all in one place! You'll be hearing lots more about this event but get it on your calendar now!
 
I will be at these fairs and boutiques so let me know if I'll see you there! Oh and if you know of a boutique in your town please comment and share a link below!
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