Holiday Craft Shows – An Insider's Guide

For fanatics the month of December is like, well, Christmas, when it comes to craft shows. From quaint church basements to urban farmers markets to the hip polish of the Renegade Craft Fair, there are ample opportunities this month to uncover special gifts that are handmade (and American made, natch).

To the uninitiated most craft shows look more like a Christmas Tree Shop than museum gift shop. But with a little experience and a little coaching, you can uncover talented independent designers and navigate these craft shows like a 19th century trader at the Grand Bazaar.

Handmade ceramics by Hope Johnson of San Francisco.

Guest Post by John Trayers of Fog + Foundry

Before launching Fog + Foundry we spent the past decade walking trade shows as retail buyers and are here to help with a few tips to keep you on track.

  • Have a game plan: It's easy to get overwhelmed by the volume of people and products. If there's a particular type of product you hope to score, consult the show's vendor directory online or once you arrive.
  • Meet your maker: When you find someone whose work you admire, engage them conversation to learn more about their craft and ask questions about products that interest you.
  • Minimize gridlock: Peak shopping hours are typically noon to 2pm. Shop in the first or last hours of the show to give yourself a little breathing room, particularly if you hope to chat up a designer.
  • Survey the landscape: If you aren't on a mission for a particular product, take 15 minutes to walk the floor. Get a sense for which designers interest you and make a note to circle back to visit each one.
  • Know when to haggle: Remember that this isn’t a swap meet. And the small scale of these designers means little room for discounting. However, if you fall in love with someone’s work and want to clear out their inventory, tactfully broach the subject.

If you can’t find craft shows in your neck of the woods, fear not – there’s still time to order a handmade gift for the holidays. Fog + Foundry's American made holiday gift guide is full of inspiring work from talented craftsmen.

John Trayers is the co-founder of, an online boutique of American craftsmanship.