The Crafty Life Interview Series: Behind the Scenes of the 2014 Holiday Handmade Cavalcade

Etsy NY Team Holiday Handmade Cavalcade
When:  Saturday, December 13 and Sunday, December 14, 2014
Where: Chelsea Market, 9th Avenue between W. 15th and W. 16th, Manhattan
Hours:  10a - 8p
Subway: A, C or E train to W. 14th Street station

 

The holiday season is here! For the large and diverse Etsy NY Team (ENY), the holidays mean little sleep, lots of production, sore hands, and very long hours. It also means it's time for the ENY Holiday Handmade Cavalcade. This year's Cavalcade returns to Manhattan in a big way. For the first time it will be held at the internationally-known Chelsea Market. I'm Birdy27 of Birdy27 Designs and for this special A Crafty Life interview we're focusing on the Cavalcade. To find out more about the 2014 HHC, I talked with Melissa Kelly, of Be In The Moment and Executive Director of ENY, and Martin Lopez, of Adornments NYC, and Events Director.

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Hey, Melissa and Martin! Thank you so much for making time for this interview. Let's start with the history of the Handmade Cavalcade. How has it changed since its inception? What does the 2014 Cavalcade have in store for local supporters of the handmade movement?

Martin: The first Handmade Cavalcade that our team produced was back in 2008 at the old Knitting Factory. We were very excited about it, but it was a concert venue with multiple levels--black walls and low ceilings on two of the levels. While it was a great location for hearing live music, it wasn't the best location for shopping for handmade goods because it was so dark. Since that first year we've been in quite a few different locations from Manhattan to Brooklyn, but this is our most exciting venue ever! It's a great physical space in a vibrant neighborhood in one of the city's top gourmet food and shopping destinations. We're thrilled to be able to make this our best Handmade Cavalcade ever--right in the middle of Chelsea Market!

When the location of this year's HHC was announced, the team's excitement was palpable! How do you feel about being at Chelsea Market, Melissa?

Melissa: I’m very excited for the move to Chelsea Market! I think we will have more shoppers than ever before thanks to the great location. I also think that, by having the Cavalcade in such a heavily-trafficked marketplace, many more people will discover our team and all the great things we have to offer.

This marks the Cavalcade's return to Manhattan after several years in super trendy Williamsburg. What prompted this change?

Martin: With rents increasing everywhere in NYC, it's been difficult for us to find a great space for our events each year; just finding  a location and settling everything is a huge task. The past several years we've been in Williamsburg, but our members have always wanted to bring the event back to Manhattan. Being just a two-day event in the middle of winter in NYC you never know what transportation troubles you might encounter. We put a lot of time into our events, so we realized it would be a shame to produce one and then have attendance decrease due to a snowstorm. We've had heavy snow and plenty of traffic and subway issues in years past. Being in Manhattan puts us in a location where we're less worried about weather and traffic problems keeping people from making it to our event.

With a different neighborhood and venue, do you except a different type of customer?

Martin: We don't expect a different customer really, but we do expect that this location will give us the best traffic ever. We always have a strong following of people who regularly attend our events--people who are on our mailing list, people who follow us on social media, and our favorite shoppers who we often see at various local handmade shopping events. But this will give us the most diverse foot traffic ever, just based on how busy that neighborhood--and Chelsea Market in particular--is. It's a designation for both locals and tourists. We hope all of our favorite loyal shoppers will come find us there and we expect lots of new people will stumble upon us this year as well. There are so many holiday markets out there and we strive to put on a great event for our shoppers. The Cavalcade is also an opportunity for our members to grow their businesses. We think this location gives our vendors the best chance to show their work and wares to the broadest range of shoppers and we hope they will become fans.

As Martin just mentioned, there are scores of flea markets and craft fairs in the New York City area, especially during the holiday season. What makes the Cavalcade a market like no other?
 
Melissa: I think that the Cavalcade is especially unique because everything sold there is 100% designed and crafted by the people running the event. Our fair is an authentic handmade craft fair. Everything there is unique. Also, since the participants of the Cavalcade all break up into different committees to produce the event, I think that people really can tell how much effort and care goes into making the weekend a success.

Martin: Everything at our markets is handmade and locally made. So in addition to finding, beautiful, unique, and thoughtful handmade items, shoppers can support local small businesses. We have a very diverse membership and we've curated the event to present the best handmade wares from our group. We also give amazing goody bags to the first 100 shoppers each day. The goody bags are filled with items donated by members of our team plus promotional items and samples from our sponsors. As a result, it's always a very impressive swag bag. 

It sounds like a great incentive to get there early. I want to digress a bit and learn more about the two of you. How long have you been with the team? How has your involvement grown over the years?
 
Melissa: I joined the team in early 2011. When I first joined, I had only had my Etsy shop for less than a year, and my business was still brand new. I was eager to learn from other local artisans and business people in the area who knew more about what they were doing than I did. From the beginning, I tried to participate and volunteer when I could. My first bit of volunteering was the Spring Cavalcade in 2011. I eventually took over leading the team’s mentor program, then the new members program, and this year I joined the Board of Directors.

Martin: I've been a member since 2008, I think. I joined before we ever started producing events or before we even had a regular team presence at local markets. I helped make our very first team banners that we used to hang at our booths at local markets. The process was very crafty--hand-sewn banners with hand-painted lettering. We've grown a lot since! We now have over 200 members. My business has also grown as has my involvement with the team--from being just one of maybe a few dozen volunteers/members to being the current events director for the team. I used to just sell at flea markets a couple of weekends a month during the spring and summer, but now my work sells in the gift shop of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house. I also recently created a custom collection for the Costume Institute exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art gift shop.
 
It's great that you both found a community of artisans with similar aspirations who support and nurture each other. Now let's return to the Cavalcade. I understand that Etsy will be involved this year. That's incredible! Can you tell us how this came to be? What does this mean for both Etsy and the Cavalcade?
 
Melissa: Etsy came to us this year and offered to sponsor our event to help it be the biggest and best Cavalcade yet! We were super excited to accept their sponsorship. That’s what made it possible for us to move our event to Chelsea Market. Etsy is also helping to advertise and promote the Cavalcade this year. I think we’ll have a new batch of loyal Etsy customers that will trek out to shop from us in person thanks to our partnership. All the vendors will be trying out the new Etsy Credit Card Reader that weekend, so that is an exciting collaboration as well.
 
The creation of the new Credit Card Reader is a brilliant move on Etsy's part. Can you tell us more about it?
 
Melissa: The new card reader from Etsy is a fabulous tool for those of us who sell on Etsy. Basically, the reader allows anyone with an Etsy shop to run credit cards in person through their Etsy shop. This is great feature since many people may do more in-person selling than online. Now, by using the reader, shoppers online can see a more accurate reflection of the numbers of sales shop owners have each year. This could really bolster the reputation of a lot of Etsy sellers that primarily sell in person. Online shoppers will be able to see that their business is not just a hobby, and that they are reliable merchants. 
 
This new reader could be a game changer for many of us. Next weekend 63 talented vendors will offer their wares at the Cavalcade.  What can customers expect? 
 
Melissa: We will have a vast array of handmade products at this year’s Cavalcade! Jewelry, knitted and crocheted accessories, clothing, bath and body, stationery, art work, and more will be offered. I think that anyone could come shop at the Cavalcade and find a gift for each person on their holiday shopping list.

I agree! We have to talk more about the goody bags. Can you give our readers a little tease?

Melissa: The goody bags and raffle prizes are always amazing! We give bags to the first 100 shoppers each day. So 200 lucky shoppers may receive a skein of yarn from Purl Soho, stickers, charms, discount coupons, gift tags to use this season, and so many other fun things!

How does the raffle work?

Melissa: Customers earn a free raffle ticket with each purchase from any of our vendors that weekend. Raffle prizes include great jewelry, crochet phone cases, t-shirts, and more. 

We can't forget to mention the great sponsors. 
 
Melissa: We are always adding to our sponsor list. This year we will have three food sponsors selling their tasty treats at the event--Legally Addictive, Vienna Cookie Company, and Brooklyn Dark (a chocolate company). In addition to those companies and Etsy, this year's sponsors include Kiva Zip, Purl Soho, Make, Funky Finds, Swap-Bot, Yelp, and Pinterest.  
 
How many events does the ENY produce?
 
Melissa: The team currently produces about three events a year. Plus we try to have regular team tables or booths at ongoing local markets. We have a Spring and Holiday Cavalcade. We also have a co-operative team booth at Celebrate Brooklyn! each summer in Prospect Park. This year, we had a team booth at Hester Street Fair and we have a booth at their Holiday Fair for the month of December.
 
None of this would be possible without a hardworking, committed team.  Some of our readers may not know how the ENY works.  Exactly how does everyone pull together to produce a show of this magnitude?

Martin: Our team is 100% member driven; all time is volunteered for the good of the overall team. We have a small "board of directors"--also all volunteers who keep things running. And there are other members who also volunteer to manage and maintain our various social media presences, coordinate our local market rotations, write blog posts, etc. To produce the Cavalcade, in addition to having a team of four lead organizers, we have six different committees for everything from graphic design and marketing to decorations and goody bags. Forty-five of the members who will be selling at the event make up the various committees that put the whole event together. Without everyone chipping in, we could never put on an event this large.I  It really does take a village.

I can't wait! Is there anything else you want the public to know about the ENY and this year's Cavalcade?
 
Melissa: All I can say is that this is going to be an amazing event, and you shouldn’t miss it! 

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Well said! Thanks to Melissa and Martin for a phenomenal interview! If you're as stoked as we are, please be sure to join Etsy and ENY at the 2014 Holiday Handmade Cavalcade on Saturday, December 13th and Sunday, December 14th at Chelsea Market from 10am to 8pm. It's going to be an incredible weekend!

Until next time, this is Birdy27 signing off. Please support the handmade community. Successful creative artisans can change the world! Chirp, chirp!

Birdy27 is an actor/writer/singer/ songwriter/graphic designer/
knitter/crocheter/yarn-based accessories designer/jewelry maker/entrepreneur and founder/president of Birdy27 Designs.

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