“Oh my god, there’s a flannel.”
That first red and black checked, cuffed, felted, button up (but not all the way up) shirt my ever so fashion-conscious sister pointed out was a good sign. After driving past rows and rows of streets strung in Christmas lights, three CVS’s, five children’s boutiques and onto a snow-covered, residential street with one helluva snowman standing guard, into a parking lot behind a big dark warehouse I was pretty sure I’d come to the wrong place. There was a food truck, but it was boarded up for the night, or forever; there was a chocolate truck, but images of strangers in vans offering candy to lost kids kept me at a distance; there was one open door street-side but when we walked up and saw a small gallery setting up what looked like a private reception that hadn’t started yet, we were beginning to lose hope.
Then, she saw it. “Oh my god, there’s a flannel.” Oh my god, we’re not lost. Oh my god, there must be a flea market craft fair nearby. Rounding the looming warehouse, straying away from the road and deeper into the parking lot, past the candy van and shut down food truck, we followed the flannel shirt. Turning the corner it finally hit us: more flannels, mustard-colored tights and the smell of cigarettes and mustache wax.
The top of the day had been spent at other local craft and holiday handmade fairs. The North Union Farmer’s Market Holiday Market kicked the day off, where I picked up a paper bag with lotion and soap that smells like how I’d like to smell, some honey sticks for my dear daughter’s Christmas stocking, and some amazing hot sauce from a man with a big smile and a Mexican accent who said he was from Youngstown (En Fuego Baby!). But many of the vendors appeared to be part of the weekly group of NU Farmer’s Market that simply decided it would be best to move inside that day.
There was one woman in particular selling handcrafted clay pixie/fairy garden/vegetable patch figurines who I fell in love with as soon as I walked in the door (she was the first table by the CVS parking lot in the hallway), but she didn’t have a card and said she only sold at shows like this. It’s finds like her that make me glad I get out to these things, and continue to search for local Cleveland talent and artists.
After crawling the hall between Dewey’s Coffee and CVS (where the weekly market will move when it comes indoors in January), the Christmas on Coventry celebration was briefly considered, then hastily overruled when after some light research I found it to primarily be a bar crawl and shopping push for businesses that already exist and thrive in the neighborhood. I didn’t need three crop tops for the price of two from American Apparel, and I still wanted the option to wear a crop top so I passed on the discounted french fry mountain sandwich bargain from Panini’s.
Nay, I went home and waited until it was time to bundle up the baby and pick up my sister for our trip out to the 78th Street Studios in Lakewood (an amazing space, by the way — if there were apartments I’d live in one, if it were vacant I’d squat in it).
On that note, Cleveland Bazaar and most other craft fairs and gallery openings are not kid-friendly. Everything is at eye-level for them, bright colors, interesting smells, funny looking people and so much to break. If you find my articles to be heavy on the editorial side and light on the research, it’s because I have a 4-year-old little girls who spends most of her energy and time trying to disappear from my sight so she can manhandle the most delicate thing she can find, or grab handfuls of chocolate-covered espresso beans from crystal bowl in the David Bowie children’s book room and shove them into her face before I can shoulder my way over and swat them away.
The Cleveland Bazaar (still open today until 6:00) was much more than a hallway with handbags made out of older, torn apart and sewn back together handbags. It was three full floors of vendors smashed shoulder-to-shoulder, plastic tables butted up to plastic tables in an organized clutter of handmade gifts, clothing, food items and artwork. The gallery rooms were all there, doors flung open, as well, inviting shoppers to peruse their installations. The first door I walked past was full of everything you could imagine and make out of a stick. Rings with stick-slice “gems,” sticks with holes in them for tea lights, sticks with magnets on the back, blocks made out of sticks, tables made out of sticks, even tshirts with pictures of sticks on them. Incredible.
There were also some familiar faces in the crowd who had also set up at the Holiday Stroll Bazaar on Larchmere. I smiled at the woman with the handmade buttons and stuffed “animals” fashioned after her own drawings. She smiled back, which surprised me seeing as the last time I walked past her table my daughter blurted out, “But that doesn’t even look like a jellyfish!” in the face of her self-designed, handmade jellyfish pillow.
The second and third floors appeared to be mostly preexisting galleries who stayed open late to participate in the bazaar. Art hung on every wall and every space, there were hospital curtain-type dividers, forming mazes through open spaces to create faux walls for other vendors to hang their wares.
The third floor was a pinball arcade party space or something. I poked my head in and immediately shuffled my 4-year-old away and back down the stairs. By that point, we were already five minutes late on leaving, and that room would have been another 2 hours with a fit at the end.
All in all, it was fantastic. Had I known what Cleveland Bazaar had to hold, I would have held off on much if not all of my Christmas shopping until then. There was something for everyone and in every price range. Obviously, there were multiple tables and rooms full of CLEveland tshirts, bibs, onesies, sweatshirts, socks, undies and even mustache wax (I wasn’t kidding, before) with Ohio on the tin lid, but there was also so much more. Incredible art, beautiful jewelry, delicious food, even a room full of broken skateboards covered with graffiti’d caricatures of cartoon characters and Pez dispensers. There was pornographic art, upcycled art, local art and lots and lots of flannel.
From Northeast Ohio’s longest running indie craft show, I would expect nothing less.
I see what you did there Cleveland Bazaar, and I’ll be back next year in my red and black checked shirt and neon leggings with plenty of shopping left to do.