When Jessica Gilcreast and Heather Marr looked around the state for a place to sell their crafts, they couldn’t find an appropriate venue. Sure, there were a lot of craft fairs, but none had the youthful vibe they were looking for. So they started their own and are now on the hunt for like-minded artists and crafters to join them.
“Not Your Grandma’s Craft Fair” will make its official debut in November at McDonough Elementary School in Manchester, and until then Gilcreast and Marr are trying to rally the troops and make sure the event is a huge success. The works don’t have to necessarily be created by young people but should appeal to them.
The desire for such a day began when Gilcreast, who is a school librarian, found out that a factory was throwing away unusable felt.
“As a librarian, I am always on the hunt for something free,” Gilcreast said. “So I brought it to school.”
But it wasn’t until Gilcreast was home on maternity leave that she had some free time on her hands. She wondered what she could do with all that the felt. Her friend, Marr, whom she met through the police department as they are both wives of police officers, had the answer: let’s make crafts. The two had bonded through their mutual interest in crafts and so they began working with the felt.
“We started making pillows and other funky things,” Gilcreast said. “It wasn’t high-end art but people wanted to buy it.”
The two went to a local craft fair and set up their table in what Gilcreast described as the basement of a church.
“All of these little old ladies would walk by our table and look at our stuff and say, ‘Oh, this is so cute,’ and then they’d keep walking,” Gilcreast said. “We looked around and asked, ‘Where are the young people?’”
It turns out they are online. Gilcreast said many young artists and crafters turn to websites like www.etsy.com, an online marketplace for handmade items, to sell their products. The reason: there is no venue for them, according to Gilcreast. She said there is the Bazaar Bizarre in Boston but it is expensive and juried so it is difficult to enter. The two decided to call upon the www.etsy.com community and get fellow crafters and artists off their computers and into southern New Hampshire.
The idea has spread like wildfire. They’ve already had more than 15 people commit to the date, months in advance of the event. Gilcreast said these people aren’t amateurs. They produce really quality stuff. Such a rapid response to an idea, which has only begun to get out to the public, validates Gilcreast’s and Marr’s thought that New Hampshire needs this.
“We need to have a young persons’ craft fair,” Gilcreast said. “Potholders and doilies just don’t fit in with what we’re trying to sell.”
What are they trying to sell?
Gilcreast said many the works would appeal to a younger crowd, such as funky crochet hats with monsters and crazy characters on them.
“A young, cool mom might buy this for her kid,” Gilcreast said.
Other items could be funky clutch purses with skulls on them or large hats like the ones seen at the royal wedding. Some of the artists dye their own yarn, which is something that appeals to all generations. And that’s the point: Gilcreast and Marr aren’t trying to exclude anyone. They want those little old ladies from the church to come to their craft fair. But they also want to include the young, who they feel are not currently being represented.
In the spirit of inclusion, proceeds of the November event will benefit the Manchester Police Wives Scholarship fund and the McDonough School Arts Department, and there will be a bake sale and craft table to benefit the Manchester Animal Shelter and a concessions stand benefiting the Trinity High Boys basketball team.
Gilcreast said any artist or crafter who thinks “Not Your Grandma’s Craft Fair” is a fit should visit www.notyourgrandmascraftfair.org for an application.