May 3, 2012

48 Hours till the Cavalcade!!

New York City is the home of many a flea market and craft bazaar, but there is only one Spring Handmade Cavalcade, an extravaganza of objects beautiful, practical or whimsical that is produced each year by the Etsy {New York} team of artisans, designers and crafters. 

Many shows claim to be curated in order to present the work of a selection of artists that is both unique and complimentary, but the 35 artists at the Cavalcade are a true microcosm of "the world's most vibrant handmade marketplace," the web emporium called Etsy. 

Each Cavalcade artist operates a year-round online shop on Etsy and for one day in Brooklyn those shops move off the computer screen into a 6,200 square foot warehouse decked out in handmade flower garlands and all manner of unique decorations.  

This year's show will be held from 11 am to 5 pm at the Littlefield performance and art space in Gowanus, Brooklyn (622 Degraw Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues).

"One of the things I notice first at the Cavalcade is the energy and sense of community among the sellers," says Karen Seiger, a woman who spends nearly every waking moment at fairs doing research for her book and website, Markets of New York City: A Guide to the Best Artisan, Farmer, Food and Flea Markets.

"Everyone knows each other, they are fans of each other’s work, and they all promote the show on their own social media platforms, creating an advance sense of excitement. At the fair itself, there is a consistency in quality of the crafts and displays. So it actually looks like a cohesive show, and it feels like an exciting place to hang out and find amazing treasures."

In fact, the Cavalcade runs something like a cooperative; designers organize themselves into committees to handle press, sponsorship, decorations, and promotion. "I have become known for giving the best birthday and Christmas presents, largely because I shop at the Cavalcades or from  Etsy {New York} members," says Seiger.

This year the event falls on the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo so the group is "incorporating some of the festive spirit of the holiday with a Cinco de Mayo-themed cocktail created by the bartenders at Littlefield," says Felicity Stiverson, the lead organizer of the event, and creator of the vintage jewelry line, WishbyFelicity.

"Shoppers can find clothing, jewelry, accessories, paper goods, soap and body products, children's goods, treasures, housewares, even handmade pet toys!" she adds.

"Since its beginning five years ago, the Cavalcades have always felt more alternative, independent and non-commercialized," says Kimm Alfonso, a designer of silkscreen graphics that go on tee shirts and accessories. Afonso, who now works in Etsy administration, was the founder of the Etsy {New York} team. 

"It features the best of a new generation of crafters," says Seiger. "Traditionally, craft shows have either been super high-end shows like the Baltimore Craft Show, or community shows in church basements with lots of crocheted things. The Etsy {New York} members are pushing crafting to an entirely new level of innovation, imagination, quality -- and whimsy. I get blown away by things I see at each market."

"It's style is the eclectic style of New York small businesses," adds Alfonso."Because it's operated by artist's within the community, it makes all the difference. They add heart and soul to the event and that really shows -- from the handmade decorations to the attitude of the vendors, the vibe is always positive and the crafts are outstanding."

Alfonso helped host the first Cavalcade at the old Knitting Factory space on the Lower East Side five years ago. "It was an amazing feat -- an artistic community coming together, in the face of this massive recession, to push through all of the hierarchy of corporate show curation to actually bring a wide breadth of local tastes and styles to the forefront. I am always happy that the community of New York shoppers really responded to the concept," she says. "It's a show that understands the value of people in the marketplace, from the maker, to the consumer, to the gift recipient."

"At last year’s Spring Cavalcade, I was waiting on the street corner for a tour group I planned to lead," remembers Seiger, "and a woman walked by with her little son on a scooter.  He stopped at the corner, saw all the tents down the street, and chirped, 'A fair!!! That looks like FUN!!!'  
"He took off on his wheels with his mother in tow, and I said to myself: “I was just thinking the same thing!"

Littlefield can be reached by a number of subways, including the R (Union Street station), the F or G (Carroll Street stop) or the 2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, or Q (Atlantic Terminal/Atlantic Avenue-Pacific Street).

Natasha and Susan


Jane Van Cleef said...

So true about the sense of community that comes from the makers knowing each other! It's going to be exciting :)

La Muse Kalliope said...

Support local handmade and meet the artists at the Cavalcade. See you there!