Introducing Ottawa’s new monthly craft market: A Q&A with Urban Craft co-organizer Krista Leben

Krista Leben is the co-organizer of Ottawa’s newest artisan-friendly venture, Urban Craft. Urban Craft is the city’s new monthly craft market that starts this Saturday, September 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Great Canadian Theatre Company. Since moving to Ottawa, she has become an integral part of the community through her role in The Craft Co-Op, Wed By Hand and now Urban Craft.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you first got involved in the Ottawa craft scene.

I stared my company, urbanite jewelry, in the spring of 2009 while living in the UK and doing my master’s degree. In the fall of that year, Robin (my boyfriend and Urban Craft co-producer) and I both moved to Ottawa. At the time I was job searching and planning to go into politics but because the job market was so rocky, I had a hard time finding a position. Serendipitously, urbanite started taking off at the same time and I decided to pursue it instead. During the first fall I had really wanted to get involved in craft shows here in Ottawa, but I found it difficult to find out about them and to get into them (mostly because I was finding out about them too late).

Robin and I realized that while Ottawa had a craft community, it really wasn’t as cohesive as it could be. We decided that in order to make the craft community stronger and to encourage the public to buy local and handmade, Ottawa really needed three things:

  • A central resource for people to find out about vendor opportunities, craft shows, and crafty happenings,
  • More opportunities for vendors in the form of hip, modern, well-managed and well-promoted craft shows, and;
  • A central organization to bring crafters–both professional and hobbyists alike–together to foster a stronger craft community in Ottawa.

So we decided to launch The Craft Co-Op and started producing events and compiling craft show notifications within six months!

How would you describe Urban Craft?

Urban Craft is Ottawa’s first monthly craft market. The show will feature fresh, modern finds from Ottawa’s hippest independent businesses. We’ll have everything from gourmet food to independent fashion to funky accessories. The show is an opportunity for locals to shop local and handmade in a show setting throughout the year.

You and Robin are both established artisans thanks to Wed By Hand. From this point of view, how do you think Urban Craft will help other artists and vendors to promote their product?

We’re actually super excited to be able to provide a monthly market because we strongly believe it’s essential to the sustainability and growth of small, independent businesses here in Ottawa. One of the reasons we decided to launch this market is because we heard from so many vendors that they wished they had a consistent, indoor show where they could sell their goods. We’re happy to provide a show as a complement to stores in town that already are such huge supporters of handmade like Workshop, Flock and Victoire.

Who are some of the artisans that visitors can look forward to seeing on September 3?

Cupcakes from Auntie Loo's (photo courtesy of Anne Marie Bouchard)

There will also be a wide-range of modern jewelry from companies like Leah Christina, Jasmine Virani, Chelsy Anne and Strut.

Jewelry by Jasmine Virani (photo courtesy of Anne Marie Bouchard)

One of the stereotypes of craft markets is that they’re for an older crowd – how are some of the ways in which Urban Craft will appeal to a wider demographic?

This ain’t your grandma’s craft show—that’s for sure. Urban Craft is considered an ‘indie’ craft show, which means that we feature goods that are much more modern and well designed than things you might have found at church basement craft sales in the ‘90’s.

Why do you think Ottawa is a good place for a monthly craft market?

Conventional wisdom tells us all that Ottawa is a boring, government town—but those of us that live here and are willing to ‘live like tourists’ know that this isn’t true at all. There is an incredible network of small business owners doing innovative and interesting things in this town. What’s more, there’s a huge demand for the ability to connect with these businesses and buy their goods; one only needs to attend a packed-to-the-gills Idle Hands show or notice that both Workshop and Victoire were able to expand to open a new store each in the west end. People in Ottawa have great taste and crave new and exciting things to do—we’re excited to be able to add to the fray.

Where can people go to find out more about Urban Craft?

Ottawans can visit our website, check us out on Facebook follow our updates on Twitter or read how the heck we put a show like this on through our blog!

Thanks for the information, Krista! We’ll be heading over to the GCTC this Saturday to see what goodies we can pick up. How about you, Ottawa? Looking for some creative gift ideas? Like the idea of the new monthly craft market? Let us know!