This weekend the Brooklyn Arts Center (BAC) off 4th Street in downtown Wilmington will transform into a handmade marketplace as “Made in NC” returns once again. Those who value the complexity of artisanship will have their chance to explore a plethora of handmade goods from over 50 vendors from around the state.
BAC executive director Rich Leder started the event three years ago, and then named it “The Brooklyn Arts and Crafts Fair,” with the purpose of showcasing items unique to downtown Wilmington. It began as one day only on a Sunday afternoon and with about 30 vendors and 200 shoppers. After tremendous support from the community, he expanded into a two-day affair and eventually renamed it “Made in NC.”
“Made in NC is a quintessential community event: local artisans and craftsmen putting on a show for their city, and their city showing love and support by buying something fabulous, so the vendors can continue to live in this city and create more work to put on another show,” Leder explains. “It’s a wonderful cycle for Wilmington.”
Months of planning goes into putting on an event of this caliber. The popularity of “Made in NC” has grown so much that the BAC staff expects around 800 shoppers. Event coordinator Alexandra Flentje and her team have collaborated with not only the participating artisans, but other vendors as well. Vittles Food Truck will offer refreshments to shoppers on Friday, while Catch the Food Truck will be available on Saturday. Lativa Coffee will be open in the courtyard on both days, as well as BAC’s own cash bar. The vendors will fill nearly every square inch of the Brooklyn Arts Center. Around 32 vendors will occupy the main floor, while eight will utilize the balcony. Outside the center, 11 vendors will take over the courtyard tent. Mushpa y Mensa, a mobile retail shop, will occupy the rest of the courtyard. Over 80 vendors applied, but due to building restrictions, the expansive list of talent had to be narrowed.
“I love asking the crafters, ‘How did you do this?’” Flentje says. “Seeing so many creations in a single space is very inspiring. I love the childlike curiosity it sparks and the genuine excitement on a vendor’s face when they explain their creation!”
Returning will be Cameron Johnson, a local jewelry maker who has participated in the event the past two years. She uses various metals, including copper, silver, brass, and cultured sea glass, to create her pieces. As of late, she has been focusing on enamel, a powdered glass that is kiln-fired and fused to copper.
“I love bright colors,” Johnson says. “Most of what I do revolves around the colors I can use, which is why I have been so drawn to enamel. All of my metal pieces are hand-fabricated. I cut each piece from a sheet of metal, using a jeweler’s saw, and then I have to further finish each piece with files and sanding to make sure they are smooth to the touch.”
Johnson has appeared at several other events at BAC in the past few years, including The Spring Flea, The Holiday Flea and Art for All. Her display will be located on the main floor of the center. Many of her pieces are viewable at www.cjsseashop.etsy.com.
“I love meeting the other artists that are at every show,” Johnson says. “It’s really a great community. “I love the staff at the BAC. They work hard to create a wonderful event, and to make it fun for both the vendors and the patrons.”
Also participating are artists Bonnie Gaynor and her husband, John, of “reARTcycle” in Wilmington. The couple repurposes wood, glass, and metal to create sculptures, birdhouses, and other home and garden decorations.
“Sometimes our creations start from a particular piece of something,” Gaynor explains. “Once, a box of bottle bottoms became gorgeous ‘lilies’ for garden art. Other times we’ll have an idea in mind and then find the materials to make it come to life.”
Like Johnson, the Gaynors also have participated in other shows for BAC. Their booth will be located in the courtyard tent.
This year at “Made in NC,” there will be 50 raffle drawings over the course of the weekend. The raffles will dole out one piece of artwork from each booth.
“If you have never been to ‘Made in NC,’ or any other community event at the Brooklyn Arts Center, you are really missing something special,” Leder says. “You are missing a way to participate in the process of what makes Wilmington so great.”
Tickets are $5 each, which includes a raffle ticket for one of the prizes donated by the vendors. Parking will be free, and there will be an ATM machine on site. The event will run on Friday, March 20 from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., and on Saturday, March 21 from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.
“Above all things, the BAC values our community,” Flentje says. “’Made in NC ‘ is a great event to buy incredible creations you won’t find anywhere else. Our main goal is to provide an outlet for craftsmen to share their work with the community they are a part of.”
Made in NC
Brooklyn Arts Center
516 N 4th Street
Friday, March 20, 3 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Saturday, March 21, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.