The summer craft show season is pretty much all wrapped up as we head into the fall, and as the Rule Book of American Holidays cites, we must begin celebrating Christmas at the stroke of midnight on October 31, meaning we basically just bypass Thanksgiving altogether and run right into our winter holiday shopping.
We all have that one friend, or relative, or co-worker who is just way too damn cool. They have that effortlessly chill “I don’t care” vibe while also having mad aesthetic. Like, is it weird to give your knock-off Stevie Nicks cousin a toaster oven for Christmas? You know they’re way too cool to actually give you a Christmas list. They also hate consumerism. So what are you to do? Even though the grandma aesthetic is in these days, your cool cousin probably isn’t toting around quilted aprons or duck-shaped napkin holders (or maybe they’ve transcended so deeply within their coolness they love that stuff, idk) so the traditional idea of a “craft fair” is probably not where you would think to look. But fear not, you less-than-cool person; here is a list of the least lame craft fairs in metro Detroit where you will find everything from dead things in jars to pillows embroidered with your favorite curse words.
November 30 - December 3 at the Detroit Masonic Temple
For 13 years, The Detroit Urban Craft Fair has been pimping itself as an “alternative craft fair” where over 100 indie makers of all disciplines set up shop in the Masonic Temple for three days. It is put on by Handmade Detroit and is a juried event, meaning that they accept only the best craftsmen that apply. DUCF is very specific on what sorts of vendors may apply -- no vintage resale or random girls you haven’t seen since high school trying to sell you weight-loss saran wrap. This is hands down my favorite place to find holiday gifts for just about everyone on my list. One dollar bill will get you into this puppy and it’s definitely a dollar worth spending.
Holiday hours December 14 - December 24 in Ferndale
The Rust Belt Market is not an annual fair because it’s way cooler than that. This unique shop is open all year round on weekends in its permanent location in the heart of downtown Ferndale, smackdab on the corner of Woodward and 9 Mile (for you old timers, where the Old Navy outlet used to be once upon a time). A variety of permanent and rotating vendors call the Rust Belt home. Want a two-headed snake in a jar? You got it. How about a new board game? Oh yeah. How do you feel about candles? Tons. You can find everything you never knew you needed at The Rust Belt. While they are open year round, they have extra days and times during the holidays and even more vendors than usual stepping out to strut their stuff. What’s super rad is if you’re like me and wait until the last minute to do everything ever, they’re open on Christmas Eve. The Rust Belt has really made a name for itself in the seven years it’s been open, each holiday season more competitive than the last as vendors hope to snatch up one of the 17 available non-permanent spaces, meaning visitors of The Rust Belt see only the best handmade and vintage stuff out there. Also, it’s totally free to go mill about any weekend all year. They’ve even got a bar, which makes the whole holiday shopping experience less nightmarish than usual.
3. Detroit Holiday Pop Up Shops
Mid November - end of January (exact dates TBA) at Campus Martius
Imagine this: a little village of 30 (heated!) glass huts huddled together in the park amongst Detroit’s skyscrapers. The smell of roasted almonds is in the air as you inspect a garden of Christmas trees for sale with a shopping bag of recently purchased homemade items on your arm. The snow flies as you snuggle up to your honey… in this scenario I’m not bitterly single, shhh! Just picturing it puts me in the Holiday spirit -- and it’s still only October. Not much word yet on the 2018 Detroit holiday pop up shops sponsored by Bedrock real estate firm and the Quicken Loans overlords, but they were a total hit last year with legit Detroiters and suburbanites alike. 2017’s edition included a fancy-schmancy lounge in Cadillac Square with food and cocktails for $9 a pop while you, again, snuggle up to your (fictitious) sweetheart ‘neath the glass ceiling to watch the snowfall from the comfort of the indoors. This whole event is hella Instagram-worthy and features only the coolest shops. After you’re done shopping, don’t forget to take a whirl around the Campus Martius ice rink… alone… so… so… alone….
Sundays from November 20 - December 23 in Detroit
Eastern Market is practically old as dirt. It’s been a Detroit staple since the 1800s and in recent years they’ve made it their mission as a 501(c)(3) non-profit to bring authenticity, diversity, and lots of other “-ity”s to the community. They are open all year long, their summer market full of joy, including Flower Day where rabid people, such as myself, line up at 6 a.m. to buy discount plants the day after Mother’s Day. On Tuesdays during the winter market times, they primarily focus on food vendors so you can get all the good stuff for cooking holiday meals. Then on Sundays, hundreds of vendors selling homemade gift items, clothing, art, jewelry, beauty products… the works, set up in the indoor sheds. Taking a trip to Eastern Market at least once during the holidays has been a huge tradition in my family for ages because we always find so much excellent stuff there.
5. Holiday Magic Marketplace
November 29 at the Royal Oak Farmers Market
The Royal Oak farmers market is a hidden gem in the metro Detroit area. They are also open all year long, and farms from across the midwest come together to sell awesome fruits, and veggies, and baked goods. On a normal day, the Royal Oak Farmers Market doesn’t have much in the way of gifts and art, but during their Holiday Magic Marketplace, over 75 crafters appear with all kinds of cool stuff. This one is especially fun for the whole family because I suppose talking shop with Santa Claus isn’t meant for people my age... though you can’t stop me from trying. There will also be live music and food trucks to get you feeling all holly jolly.
November 29 - December 2 at the Southfield Pavilion
I won’t lie and say I wasn’t a little disappointed when I understood this wasn’t, in fact, a Harry Potter-themed craft show, but someone should get on that. The annual Potters Market features handcrafted ceramics, ornaments, cookware, sculptures and all that cool stuff generally made from clay. This is definitely a niche craft show and doesn’t have the variety other shows have. If Mom wants a scarf, for example, I would think a ceramic one isn’t super comfy. But there is something here for almost anyone on your shopping list, because there are over 140 artists with great, unique styles. What is super cool about the Potters Market is that every year they choose a charity to support. For the 2017 market, artists chose to donate the sales of some products to Humble Design, a non-profit that furnishes homes for families transitioning out of homeless shelters. Admission and parking are free, and there are lots of demonstrations, so why not just pop in and browse for a good cause for a little while? Because you know what else is free? ...America, that’s what.
Hopefully, after checking out these awesome craft shows, pop ups, and holiday markets, you will have found the Holy Grail of Christmas gifts and rise to the ever-coveted title of “equally cool” person on your cousin’s hierarchy of cool, and maybe even get invited to jam with her band she calls “the next CHVRCHES”....or maybe you’ll still fail at finding something good – not because there aren’t enough cool places to look, but because you just don’t have taste. And remember, commercialism is a fallacy and you should support local artists, not just for the cool kids in the family, but for everyone -- you should definitely buy that dead two-headed snake in a jar for your Grandma. That’s what society gets for talking about Christmas before Halloween has even happened.