All across the Northern United States people are rejoicing at warmer temperatures, less of that fluffy, white precipitation and more of that good ol’ Vitamin D. A small group of dedicated Etsy sellers in Maine are celebrating the coming season with The BIG THAW: an arts, crafts and vintage sale conceived and incubated within the confines of the Etsy Maine Team forum.
The Etsy Maine Team is a loose affiliation of nearly 500 members whose talents run the gamut of jewelry, silversmithing, woodworking, photography, painting, sculpture, ceramics, home goods, wellness, body care, apparel, printing and more. The idea for The BIG THAW came about during the usually slow period just following the Christmas rush.
“What do you do with all that time?” says Audrey Hotchkiss, owner of Little Eye Designs and primary organizer of this event. “We got creative and instead of waiting for sales to happen we began planning for a Spring time celebration. We cold Mainers get REALLY excited about Spring. We also get really excited about quality, handmade goods and unique vintage finds. It was a no-brainer.”
“From the beginning we were operating on instinct only. Two months ago if you told me I’d be organizing a craft fair and executing a grass roots marketing plan I would have thought you were crazy. Now I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the whole bit,” said Audrey.
In addition to processing applications (they had double the response they anticipated) the craft fair process included assigning Meagan Anderson , illustrator, and Kris Johnsen of Emblem Studio to design a limited edition, screen-printed poster for the event. By posting works of art around town to advertise future customers would recognize the emphasis on quality and the true, handmade ideal.
“It was really important to us to proceed with a ‘quality over quantity’ attitude towards the event,” recounts Hotchkiss. “Although we could have crammed twice as many vendors in a larger, cheaper venue we went for a pro-arts organization, Mayo Street Arts Center, in downtown Portland with a beautiful interior and a strong connection to the arts in our city. We may not be able to fit as many vendors, but we sure as shoot know that the ones who are showing will best represent our handmade ideals.”
Now The BIG THAW team is in the midst of a word-of-mouth marketing phase in the weeks leading up to the event. Every vendor is encouraged to share their Maine-style “I know a guy” networking tactics to gain access to local news television, radio and papers. Local bloggers are knocking at the door to help out a group of DIY organizers get the word out about the big day. Maine, it turns out, is truly ‘the way handmade should be,’ a slightly altered version of the State motto as interpreted by the Maine Team.
Audrey closes: “Ultimately, this process has shown me how unified and helpful Maine artists are. Not only that, but we’re tapping a source of (Etsy) artisans that has not yet made it to the mainstream like craft guilds or similar. This is actually just a group of independent people, hell-bent on making our micro-economy work on our own terms and having lots of fun (and coffee) while doing it!”
The BIG THAW will take place on Saturday, April 16th from 10am-4pm at the Mayo Street Arts Center at 10 Mayo St. in Portland, ME. If you can’t be there in person you can certainly check out their vendors here and support Maine arts virtually. Rumors have it there may be a BIG FREEZE at the end of the year… stay tuned to their blog to find out more!