The Little Craft Show

Courtesy photo

Amber and Jonathan Perrodin know their target shoppers. They know their consumers lean towards buying intricate cross-stitch patterns that spell out the phrases “man up” or “deal with it.”  They choose decoupaged iPhone cases that feature illustrated foxes and uplifting J.R.R. Tolkien quotes such as, “Not all who wander are lost.” They like mint green, screen-printed T-shirts adorned with friendly monsters and sloths. Their customers enjoy drinking siphon-brewed Ethiopian Harrar for their morning cup of Joe, and the Perrodins know that their audience really enjoys the subtle art of picking an Instagram filter. The Perrodin couple knows how to carefully walk the line of hipsterdom, and they are doing just that with their indie craft show, the Little Craft Show.

“What is indie music?” Jonathan Perrodin said with a laugh, shifted the gray beanie on his head and took a sip of his small-batch brew Americano while mulling over the ever-probing question of the indie craft. The Perrodin couple sat side-by-side at a large, oak round table at the ONYX Coffee Lab, a new-age coffee shop that serves espresso in beakers and siphon-brews their beans in large glass machinery to create the “best cup of coffee;” ONYX also happens to be a 2013 vendor for the Little Craft Show, Jonathan Perrodin said.

“The easy answer is traditional crafts being created in an alternative way: the bigger picture, the branding, the aesthetic, the following,” he said.

Amber Perrodin shook her head in agreement and smiled, “Some of the crafters we showcase, you might see their stuff and you would say, ‘I don’t get it,’ but when you put similar crafts in a room, people suddenly stop, pause and say, ‘Oh that’s weird. I love it,’” she said.

Indie crafts are hard to pin down, but can be loosely identified as classic crafts, such as: needle point, photography, jewelry making, etc. that appeal to a younger audience, the counter culture so-to-speak. These crafts do not vary in composition, but rather vary in their independent sensibilities. Northwest Arkansas is host to many craft shows, but most of these shows to do not appeal to younger shoppers or vendors who flock to quirky stores when buying or selling gifts and clothing.

“We picked the Little Craft Show because we liked the looks and the vibe of the whole event,” said Summer Trottier, an owner of Culture Flock Clothing, a T-shirt company out of Springfield, Mo., “We are looking for younger people, not an old lady-like craft show.”

The Little Craft Show began in Fayetteville in 2011 “to get all of my crafty friends in one room,” Amber Perrodin said. Almost immediately, the show had a huge response, attracting vendors and shoppers from the 4-state region: Arkansas, Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma. The Little Craft show has grown far past its humble name with 131 vendor applications this year and hopes of bringing in more than 6,000 shoppers for the 2013 show, which takes place Dec. 7 in the Fayetteville Town Center.  Out of the 131 vendor applications, only 70 lucky indie vendors will show off their goods.

Hipsters are not the only ones anxiously anticipating the craft show; local Fayetteville stores are also taking part by sponsoring the craft show with money or creative donations, such as painting signage. The Mustache Goods and Wears, a quirky gift shop on the square, is sponsoring money to pay for a photo booth and props for the craft show this year.

Ashley Bailey, who along with her husband, Brian, owns the Mustache, saw a change in the type of shoppers that came to their store during last year’s craft show. Familiar faces hefting bags from the Farmer’s Market were replaced with new customers from across Arkansas and other states.

“We got a lot of new traffic in terms of people who haven’t been on the square very often,” Bailey said. “We had people come up to us and say, ‘Oh! How long have you guys been here?’”

Ashley Bailey is the buyer for the Mustache, and she focuses on finding “unique, thoughtful and quirky products” for the shop. The shop sells an array of gifts, such as locally-made sundresses, ornately beaded Minnetonka moccasins, necklaces with words like “VODKA” and “GIN” etched on the pendants, and even humor books with pictures of cats. The Mustache strives to provide a fun shopping experience for all ages, although their “main lookers” are college-age students, Ashley Bailey said.

Last year, the Little Craft Show brought new shoppers and sales to the stores across Fayetteville, Amber Perrodin said. Now, those shops are helping to give back to the fair and encourage more customers to do their holiday shopping locally. The Four Legged Bird, a gift shop on Archibald Yell whose tagline is “Just imagine if the hipsters of Portland, the weirdos of Austin, and the funkies of Fayetteville, had a baby bird, and it had 4 legs,” is also sponsoring the show by painting decorations for outside the Town Center. Riff Raff, a popular “one of a kind shopping wonderland” that specializes in college-age women’s clothing, is decorating the lobby of the Town Center.

“We were able to draw people away from the traditional holiday shopping at Walmart,” Jonathan Perrodin said. “Locally made, regionally made, handmade. We are closing the loop – putting the money back into the local economy.”

The Little Craft Show is host to many vendors who boast only online stores, and the craft show allows these vendors to not only sell their products in person, but to also tell the story behind their products.

“There is value in meeting the makers behind the products,” Jonathan Perrodin said. “ We tend to always say, people are interested in buying a story.”

Jonathan Perrodin views the dichotomy between online sales and the craft show as a symbiotic relationship, “Online connections will feed into sales at the craft show, and vice versa.”

Madelynne Jones, a junior at the University of Arkansas and owner of MadelynneRae Products, made 30 percent of her sales at the 2012 Little Craft Show, totaling more than $900 in profit – roughly $800 more than Jones made at other Arkansas craft fairs. Jones specializes in making handmade iPhone cases decorated with pages from old books and self-illustrated designs; she sells her goods online on ETSY.com and at the Mustache. Ten percent of her annual sales last year were made from ETSY.com, and since the craft show in December, she’s seen an increase of her online sales and local buyer sales, she said.

“I actually sat by a girl on the bus one day who had one of my iPhone cases,” Jones said. “I asked her where she got her case and she said at the Little Craft Show. It was possibly one of the best moments of my life.”

Fayetteville is no stranger to the concept of the craft show; this year marks the 40th anniversary of the War Eagle Craft Fair in Hindesville, a 30-minute drive northeast from Fayetteville. This craft show brings in more than 300 vendors yearly with crafts reigning from country furnishing to hand-painted decorative items, and the estimated number of shoppers this year is peaking at 130,000, according to the War Eagle Craft Fair website.

“We kind of hold the War Eagle Craft show as the grandma of our craft show,” Amber Perrodin said. “We respect what they are doing, but we differentiate from them when we are choosing vendors.”

This difference in product is attracting artists from neighboring states. Culture Flock Clothing is attending the Little Craft show for the first time this year. The company’s clever social media hashtag, “Join the Flock,” and eclectic screen-printed T-shirts have secured them a spot as a 2013 vendor.

Culture Flock’s target shoppers are people “who appreciate funny and kitschy things,” Trottier said. Culture Flock hand illustrates an array of characters for its T-shirts, such as a line illustration of a friendly sloth with the words, “Don’t tell me what to do” above its head. The popularity of this particular shirt has driven the company to produce an entire “sloth collection,” With promises to appease even their most angsty shopper, Culture Flock’s latest “sloth society” shirt features a crowned sloth with a banner across its chest reading “Don’t give a care.”

The clothing company launched their online store in mid-June, and the Little Craft Show is one of the few festivals that Culture Flock has planned to attend this year. The Perrodins’ focus on picking vendors that will surprise and intrigue Fayetteville’s most indie shoppers.

“We are really conscientious when we are choosing vendors,” Amber Perrodin said. “We are not picking a crowd who has been inundated in the northwest Arkansas community, but rather, fresh crafters who people haven’t seen in a store yet.”

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