'Bazaart' market is Black Friday alternative

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Forget cheap televisions, laptops and clothes.

On Saturday, shoppers at the annual Bazaart holiday market at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore snatched up handmade bird houses, hand-printed shirts and handblown glass jewelry.

The event, in its seventh year, was billed as an alternative to Black Friday, which marks the start of the holiday shopping season and often creates a frenzy of discount-seeking consumers. This year, many big-box retailers and department stores opened earlier than ever – just hours after families finished their Thanksgiving meals.

"I boycotted Black Friday," said Dr. Jeff Kaplan, an internist, who was juggling artwork and other goods he purchased. Kaplan, 55, of Federal Hill, brought his sister, Alexa Intrator, who was visiting from France, for the second year.

"I think these individual artists are the best antidote to blind consumer-driven buying," Kaplan added.

Nearly 50 artists and crafts people, including many from the Baltimore region, showcased their paintings, photographs, pottery and handmade soaps, among a variety of items for sale. A jury of local artists, museum board members and staff chose the vendors, who had to apply for a spot at the event, said Michele Goldberg, the museum's facility rental coordinator and a member of the Bazaart committee.

"We want a nice mix of art and different price points," Goldberg said, adding that half of the vendors are returnees.

Besides representing a move away from mass-produced goods, several vendors noted that the event coincided with Small Business Saturday, an idea promoted by American Express to support independent retailers.

"You don't get any smaller than me," said Gayla Lee of Annapolis, who makes handblown jewelry. "It's just me."

Lee, who was selling her jewelry at Bazaart for the first time, said she sees a growing curiosity about handmade goods among consumers.

"They want to buy interesting and unique stuff and talk to the artists," Lee said. "They're interested in how they're made."

Jenny Lowe, a graphics artist from Washington D.C., bought several gifts as well as goods for herself, including a pair of earrings made by Lee.

"I love to buy handmade and support the crafting community," said Lowe, who dabbles in making jewelry and other crafts.

Shoppers mingled with sellers, who answered questions about running a small business and designing and creating goods.

People crowded around Emily Marcovitz's table, sampling her homemade chocolate truffles. At last year's Bazaart, Marcovitz said, she sold out of truffles, which come in a variety of flavors, including chocolate mint mousse and white chocolate almond.

"This year, I'm running in the same direction," she said.

Rachel Bone, 29, who makes and sells hand-printed apparel in Baltimore under her Red Prairie Press brand, returned as a vendor at Bazaart after several years away.

Despite attending craft shows around the country, Bone said, shows in her hometown are the most successful.

"They want cool stuff, and they get excited," she said.

hanah.cho@baltsun.com

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