Handmade crafts find a home on Bainbridge

Katie Butler has five young children so you know she’s a little short of idle time. But not initiative nor determination, which is why she started Indie Banditas.

The island native has “always crafted,” as she puts it, and quit giving store-bought presents years ago because “l love things made by hand.” But it was just a preoccupation until she realized that Bainbridge had an unusual number of artists, mostly stay-at-home moms like herself, creating salable handmade items.

“I had a cousin in Utah who gave me the idea (to go commercial),” she said. She was aware of the Etsy Web site for homemade artists and large bazaars such as the “Urban Craft Uprising” show in Seattle, and decided to put together a series of bazaars on the island.

Her first event last November featured 27 artists, followed by 55 a few months later and then a smaller event that shared space with a wine festival. She’s expecting more than 80 artists, about one-third of whom will be locals, will sell their wares next Friday and Saturday when the ambitious Indie Banditas bazaar takes over the gymnasium at Woodward Middle School. For her, it’s a huge jump forward in a year’s time.

“It’s kind of scary because I’m looking at it as a business,” she said, “something I do several times a year. Right now, I’m doing this all by myself. It’s hours and hours of work, and I haven’t really made any money yet, though I hope to this time. But I have a special feeling about it and I love working with the other artists.”

The overhead was kept low during the first three events, but a larger venue was required as the number of artists seeking booths for the Nov. 27-28 bazaar increased and everything else ballooned exponentially. Renting Woodward for two days will cost $2,700, but she should be able to make a small profit by charging $75 per booth.

“I think we’ll have a good crowd because of the quality of the artists involved,” Butler said. “We’re attracting women now who do shows for a living and travel up and down the coast all year around.”

She also likes holding the event on the weekend after Thanksgiving “because that’s when people really start looking for Christmas presents. The booths will be full and, except for people creating large products like quilts, they will be looking to sell hundreds of things.”

While the bazaar has quickly become a business for Butler, it’s still the creativity of the artists that excites her.

“This isn’t your grandmother’s art,” she said. “Generally, there are things that you haven’t seen before. There are a lot of recycling or repurposing items, which allows the artists to be real creative. Like, there will be clothes that have been at a thrift store and have been re-sewn into something unique in their own way.”

The bazaar will be a virtual cornucopia of arts and crafts, including: clothing and accessories for all ages, jewelry, paintings, photography, pottery, cosmetics, footwear, bath items, housewares and some uniquely handcrafted creations such as snooter-doots (soft-sculpture folk-art critters) and a variety of skull pins.

What Butler likes about her role is that while each artist may represent a cottage industry, she provides an environment where they are rewarded for their creativity and hard work.

“There’s a great feeling of camaraderie,” she said, “so it’s more than just a business for me.”

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