Craft fairs and holiday markets generate millions for Vancouver Island economy


WATCH: It turns out knitted sweaters, tasty treats and Christmas crafts generate some big business for the economy on Vancouver Island. Ceilidh Millar reports.

Lizzy Segal is a substitute teacher for the Greater Victoria area.

In her spare time, she creates and sells intricate pieces of pottery through her business called Tidal Pottery.

Segal says her works are inspired by animals and natural elements of the West Coast.

“Each tiny little octopus tentacle on this bowl I put on by hand and sculpted one at a time,” said Segal as she explains a piece that took more than two weeks to create.

Segal says the next few weeks leading into Christmas are the busiest time of year for her business.

“90% of my sales come from holiday markets,” explained Segal. “I start preparing for Christmas in early September now.”

The local artisan is one of several vendors preparing to sell their creation at the Early Bird Holiday Market at Cedar Hill Recreation Centre this Saturday.

The event is just one of 25 craft fairs taking place this weekend alone.

“It’s important for community centres and other vendors to welcome in local artists and artisans and give them that opportunity to connect with the community,” said Brenda Weatherston with the Arts Centre at Cedar Hill.

There are more than 120 craft fairs and holiday markets taking place within the next month across Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

Ed Price, organizer of A Touch of Salt Spring, says events like his generate big business in the community.

“We used to figure it brought in between $7-million to $9-million to the community in Sidney and North Saanich,” Price explained. “We sell out three, if not four hotels.”

The three day sale from November 30 to December 2, 2018 is the largest craft fair on the Island with 230 vendors and more than 14,000 visitors.

Price said the event has become so popular they had to move their venue this year to the Saanich Fairgrounds.

“This is part of their living and they wouldn’t come and pay the money they have to pay to get here if they weren’t making money,” Price said.

Price, who has been running the event for 27 years, said the event is a massive production.

He says it takes 14 months to plan and requires a team of at least 25 to run the event.

Local artist and artisans groups say the face-to-face interaction holiday markets provide is priceless.

“Artisans will use Etsy as an example to sell online, but the craft fairs really allow us to engage and understand our market,” explained Neil Bosdet with the Island Artisans Association.

If you think craft markets are just for your grandma’s knitted tea cozies – think again.

“I had a man bring fountains one year,” Price said with a laugh. “Big, heavy, stone fountains and he sold all of them out in the first three days.”

For a list of craft fairs happening across the Island in the coming weeks, head to the events page on our website.

Ceilidh MillarCeilidh Millar

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