May 162015

John and I spent a lovely afternoon on Walnut and Fourth Streets at The Kirkwood Hotel in downtown Des Moines today, visiting with Iowa artisans at Market Day Iowa, a curated pop-up market.

Market Day Iowa

Market Day is held in the hotel lobby, ball room, and bar on the ground floor. The vibe is young and trendy, with many highly skilled artisans displaying their wares. I met Dani Ausen of daniAWESOME, who organizes the Market Day events that have been showcasing Iowa artists, crafters and vintage sellers since 2009. When she is not coordinating Market Day, Dani is a maker herself who sells hair fascinators, jewelry and masks in her Etsy shop.

Dani Ausen of daniAWESOME

In this post I’d like to introduce you to some of the most interesting artisans I met. I chatted with Liz Brooks of Teal Suede, who marries together colorful fabrics and buttery-soft leather to make handbags. She also paints designs on some of her fabrics.

Erin Brooks of Teal Suede

Jason Headlee of Blue Prairie Kitchenware uses hand gouges and rasps to make beautiful wooden spoons, spatulas, spreaders, coffee scoops, and other kitchen implements from oak, cherry, walnut, osage and other woods. No two items are alike; these are truly keepsake tools. You can reach Jason by email at or call him at 515-975-3282.

Jason Headlee of Blue Prairie Kitchenware

John Bosley of Bozz Illustration designs art prints, posters and other graphic works that feature Des Moines landmarks and Iowa culture. His screen printing studio takes up most of his basement.

John Bosley, Bozz Illustration

Veronica Deitrick of Dog in a Fez makes adorable dog berets, fez caps and other dog wearables. Her model and her inspiration is her Japanese Chin, Fuku Wanwan. Because her Web site is being revamped at the moment, she urges you to contact her via the Dogs of Des Moines site or by email at

Veronica Deitrick of Dog in a Fez

Cody Sherman of ToasterPress is a woodcut printmaker who transfers his drawings to a woodcut, which he then inks up to print T-shirts you’ll find nowhere else. His style is both humorous and whimsical, and the inked woodcuts themselves are works of art.

Cody Sherman, Woodcut Printmaker

Caroline Sallen is a fiber artist who dyes silk scarves in a rainbow of colors. You’ll find her shop on Etsy at Caroline Sallen. I bought a silk scarf from Caroline, and loved the fact that she enclosed a photo showing 12 different ways you can tie a scarf. During the daytime, she is a special education teacher, but in her spare time she not only dyes silk scarves, but she also designs art quilts. You can find examples of her work on her Facebook page, Caroline Sallen Art Quilts.

Caroline Sallen

Sabrina Alery, a stay-at-home mom who owns The Honor Roll, designs what she calls “pretty cloth and paper” planners and stationery. I flipped through the contents of one of her lovely fabric-covered planners, and discovered it holds up to five different and removable organizers, and features useful locations for business cards, notes, paper clips, a pen, and more. Sabrina also crafts lovely cards, no two of which are exactly alike, with matching envelopes. Besides her Web site, you can visit The Honor Roll on Facebook and her shop on Etsy.

Sabrina Alery of The Honor Roll

Jake Haselman of Jake Haselman on Etsy designs screen printed shirts, bags, buttons, zipper pulls, coasters and art prints. His black-and-white geometric art is distinctive, pulling you in for a detailed look at his work. Trust me—I couldn’t resist crouching down to almost stick my nose into one of the prints for a closer examination!

Jake Haselman collage

Kat Hutchison of Kat Meowcrafts works full-time during the daytime, but hand-embroiders buttons, pendants, patches and badges in her spare time. The tiny, detailed illustrations are her own. Kat says that while many of her designs feature cats, she actually owns two dogs. Cats are not in the picture because of her husband’s allergies.

Kat Hutchison of Kat Meowcrafts

Jen of 11th & Mulberry sells adorable cotton baby clothing such as onesies, yoga hats and harem pants. What’s different about her clothing line is that she screen prints a design on each piece with water-based ink. For many of the garments, you can specify what color of ink you prefer.

Jen of 11th & Mulberry

Shawn Solen of Solen Studios designs unique cement planters and bowls, table lights, wall hooks made from assorted woods, metal wall hooks, and a wall-mounted entryway oak shelf that holds your keys and your mail. Although you can visit his Etsy shop to purchase these items, a more complete gallery of his work appears in his Instagram feed HERE.

Shawn Solen of Solen Studios

I fell in love with ceramic artist Erin Carpenter’s beautiful white pottery, carved and painted with her delicate designs. I liked it so much, in fact, that I purchased one of her ring bowls, shown in the lower left photo below. You can browse through Erin’s lacy bowls, stoneware, and painted white pieces at her Web site, Erin Carpenter Pottery, but you can purchase pieces of it in her Etsy shop, also called Erin Carpenter Pottery.

Erin Carpenter of Erin Carpenter Pottery

Just before Market Day closed today, John and I visited with Jen Lawler of JL Designs, a silver- and goldsmith who designs and crafts exquisite jewelry with clean, modern lines. I have been looking for a long time for a necklace to match a sterling silver bracelet I purchased years ago at the Kentucky Artisan Center of Berea, and was excited to discover exactly what I needed. I’m wearing the necklace in the photo below, but you can also see some of Jen’s other pieces.

Jen Lawler of JL Designs

The artisans I have introduced in this post represent about a third of the ones selling at today’s Market Day in Des Moines. The event is small enough that you can take the time to chat with the designers and learn a little bit about their process, in addition to checking out their wares. This is the first time we have visited a Market Day event, and John and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Have you attended a craft venue lately, where you shopped instead of being a vendor? What special finds did you discover?

© 2015 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Nov 052011

John and I spent a few hours today on the other side of the sales table as shoppers at the 30th Annual Santa’s North Pole Village Craft Sale held in Ankeny. This is, according to the organizers, “one of the most popular craft shows in Iowa.” It is also Ankeny Art Center‘s biggest fundraiser, and they do their best to fill every booth with a seller to the tune of $135 for a standard 9-foot by 12-foot space, or $300 for a corner space. Two chairs are provided, and if you pay an extra $10, there are a limited number of spaces to be had with one electrical outlet each. You provide your own tables and/or display set-up. There are so many booths at this fair that the Ankeny Art Center commissioned an architect to map out 16 pages of drawings with over 800 spaces.

The craft fair features only handmade items and runs at three sites: the high school and two middle schools. There is a $5 per person admission fee, as well as a $1 shuttle that takes you from site to site if you want to avoid the hassle of finding a parking space. Parking is admittedly tight, even though there are a lot of spaces. If you spend the entire day at the fair (which is not unrealistic, given the number of booths there are to view), you’ll be glad that the school cafeteria at each site sells food and beverages. Each cafeteria also squeezes vendors into every inch of available space. Never say never, but one of the fears I would have as a seller is that I’d get tucked into one of these cafeteria spaces. My observation is that most of the cafeteria traffic related to food-and-drink sales, not handmade products. And after buyers fill their tummies, I imagine that more than one vendor worries about the condition of his or her wares when they are handled!

What I hear from the vendors is that if you have been selling at this show for a while, you have some choice in where you are placed. The Web site points out that if you want to have any say in where your booth will be located, you need to mail in your application as soon as possible. You can request that you be placed on a mailing list, which I would guess is key to applying for booth space in a timely fashion. Honestly, I haven’t decided whether this is a show where I wish to sell in the future. There are pros and cons, as you can probably guess from what I have described so far. From the buyer’s side, however, I can tell you that there is a wide range of products available, and it is definitely fun to shop. The only negative I can report as a shopper is that every year I sense some tension in the air from sellers, particularly those who are not seeing a lot of traffic. I suspect they are worried about recouping their booth fees, although that is likely true at every venue, no matter what your fees may be.

John and I did purchase some lovely items from Iowa artisans at the North Pole show, which I’ll share with you in the photos below. To the best of my knowledge, none of these folks sell online, so you’ll just have to come to Iowa to find their wares. And in one case, the sellers did not provide a business card, so I can only show you a photo. Bet these folks would have had one if they had known I was going to blog about them!

A Colfax couple known as Gary and Mary run a woodworking venture called “Gary & Mary’s Art & Woodcraft.” They craft wonderfully detailed home decor pieces that I have been collecting for a few years. You can reach them by phone at 515-674-4202 or e-mail them at This year John and I bought from Gary and Mary some lovely Thanksgiving table accents, as well as a napkin holder that we will use all year long.


Jeanne and Emily represent “Sisters in Sync,” a paper-crafting business that features delightful handmade cards and glass goblet lamps with decorated vellum shades.  I spotted the sweet lamp below, and had to have it! You drop in a tealight candle, and you’re good to go. To reach Jeanne, call 319-393-6453. To reach Emily, call 515-225-1077.

Casey Schaefers says she had been making jewelry for years and was encouraged to begin selling her pieces. “What shall I call my business?” she asked. “I looked in the mirror, and guess what I saw.” She calls her business “Fat Redhead Designs,” although I must say that only the red hair fits her business name. This vibrant designer who likes to poke fun at herself produces beautiful jewelry designs. I bought the pieces below from her, since I wear a lot of earth tones and these pieces fit the bill. You can reach Casey by phone at 515-971-7383 or by e-mail at

For the last four years, I have been collecting Amish baskets from Darla Best of Gingerich Amish Baskets. Darla knows each Amish family whose baskets she sells. The family members sign and date their sturdy, practical, and beautiful baskets on the bottom of each piece. This year I bought a desk organizer made by Eli and Verna Troyers of Lamoni, Iowa. Darla has a busy show schedule, so if you’d like to catch her at an upcoming show, call her at 515-232-4355 to find out where she will be.

The last photo I’d like to share with you shows two pairs of thick mittens, lined in polar fleece. I don’t know who made them, since no business card was available, but I can tell you that these mittens are not only beautiful, but they are warm! There were two different booths selling mittens of this variety at the North Pole show. They were selling well in both locations for $24 a pair in one booth, and $35 a pair in another booth.

Describe some of your own handmade craft buying experiences this fall.

© 2011 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.