Christmas carols sung by the Linden Singers of Victoria filled the gently lit Crystal Garden. Exhibitors of varying ages presented their crafts ranging from food, pottery, prints, soaps, and clothing. With the participation of over 100 professional artists, this year marked the 25th anniversary of the “Out of Hand” Artisan Fair.
The diverse exhibitors were from not only Victoria, but also across Canada as well. Francois Monlin, who represents the handmade nougat company La Nougaterie Québec, has been coming back to this fair for four years. “We really love the logistics of this fair, it’s very well organized,” he says.
Some artists from outside Victoria, on the other hand, came here for the first time, to try a new way of selling goods. “We’re very close to Victoria; we live in Shawnigan Lake. I wanted to test the taste of the Victoria market and see [whether] my toys are accepted, understood, and adored by children, also by the general public and the grown-ups,” says Lorenzo Bellavita, who is in the third year of operation of his handcrafted children’s toy business. It’s the first time his toys have come out of the Shawnigan Lake area to be sold. Believing that toys should be natural, he uses only material from nature, employing natural pigments and child-friendly finishing waxes from Germany, and refuses to insert any metal. “We just try to, I guess, change the world one kid at a time, one toy at a time.”
Many newcomers to the fair gave high compliments to the organizers. Another first-time exhibitor, Nancy Wesley is a felt artist who has a studio in the Cowichan Valley, and she joined this fair thanks to her friend’s offer. “In any fair, I love chatting with people; it’s probably my favourite thing. Anybody interested in felt looks, too, and I explain what I do. This fair in particular is really well-organized, and it’s a really nice venue.”
Fourth-year UVic student Ryan Lainchbury, who has a part-time job running Peace Lovin’ Granola, was also one of the many new exhibitors. He sells homemade granola with ingredients solely from Canada. “The main reason for starting the company was just the gap in the market, really. We didn’t really see any freshly made granola, and a lot of the granola out there was using fructose syrup; they’re very commercial level, so we decided to make a home-based level, like a traditional sweetness, like honey and maple syrup.”
“I really like the way it’s organized. It’s very high-class, and there’s lots of local products. And it’s a good balance of everything. Especially in the food section, there are lots of different things; there are no repetitions,” says Lainchbury about the fair.
Despite the challenging weather of pouring rain and gusts of wind, a crowd of people filled the hall, even on the last day of the fair. Full of holiday atmosphere, the fair provided opportunities for guests to observe a wide variety of exhibitors, old and new, as each celebrated their local specialty and ingenuity that couldn’t be found elsewhere.