Talia Halliday, one of three BHM organizers, has been a part of the event since it opened in 2009, citing her love for creating new things.
“I’ve always been creative and have made things, and I sold on Etsy for a while,” she said. “But then I started taking my pieces to fairs like this. This fair was actually the first one I ever attended.”
After participating in the fair for several years, Halliday decided she wanted to be more hands-on with the planning of the event and has served as an organizer for the past three years.
Not only does Halliday help the BHM, but she also has her own store on Kirkwood Avenue called Gather: Handmade Shoppe. Her store houses pieces from more than 100 artists around the ?Midwest.
Halliday said she thinks it is important to have handmade fairs and local stores like Gather so that customers know what they are actually getting with their purchase.
“Honestly, handmade items are getting harder and harder to find,” she said. “A lot of the things that you find on websites like Etsy are outsourced and are actually made in China. The things at this market and others like it are truly handmade. With this environment, the customer is able to easily connect with the person who made their ?product.”
While there were a wide variety of booths at the BHM, local vendors seemed to draw the largest crowds. One booth in particular was for Sabun soaps, a brand created by the Soapy Soap Company headed by recent IU graduates.
Two-and-a-half years ago, co-founders Mohammed Mahdi and Anthony Duncan were sitting at home when they realized they needed soap.
“We were just sitting there and we did a quick Google search on how to make soap,” Mahdi said. “It wasn’t that hard, so we decided to make some more and sell it. And now we’re here.”
Mahdi explained their soaps are sold online, at fairs and in local Bloomington stores such as Bloomingfoods. Additionally, they also have a production warehouse where people can buy the soaps.
However, Mahdi said he believes selling in person and at local fairs is vital.
“It is important for us to be involved in the community,” he said. “We love going to these kinds of fairs because we can talk to customers and tell them about our products. And for someone who sells soaps, it’s also important for them to be able to smell what they’re buying and find the scent that they love.”
In addition to the personal connection the Sabun owners believe in, they said they want to make sure anyone can use their soaps.
“We like to say that our tagline is ‘We make soap that everyone can use’ because all of our soaps are vegan and halal and are made entirely from natural materials,” Mahdi said. “If someone has an allergy or anything like that, we have a soap for them.”
In addition to soaps and personal care products, jewelry booths also held a strong presence at the BHM this year.
Mia Snell, owner and founder of Dandelion Jewelry, said she felt that making unique jewelry was a clear choice for her.
“I used to live in St. Louis, and I worked in a store that sold handmade items from local artists,” she said. “And being surrounded by those kinds of things all day just inspired me to make my own stuff.”
Snell has now been making jewelry full-time for about two years and sells her items at fairs like the BHM and in local stores in her hometown, Louisville, Ky. Snell’s pieces are primarily made using found pieces from nature, including a variety of animal bones and teeth.
“I just really enjoy finding a new piece or artifact that is truly beautiful and then putting it into a piece of jewelry,” she said. “It’s wearable art.”
Snell said she also believes personal contact with customers is extremely important for people who make one-of-a-kind, handmade art.
“People want to talk about my pieces,” she said. “Because they are so unique, people want to be able to hear the background on the piece that they are buying. These fairs let me do that in a way that I could never do if I sold online exclusively. I love seeing new places and meeting new people. And the Bloomington Handmade Market is a great way to get a group of people together who share a common interest in art and ?shopping local.”