Each season some beautiful location in Niagara hosts The Handmade Market; this spring the charmed Ravine Vineyard was up to the task. Having visited Ravine a few times before during Niagara’s popular Taste The Season and Wine and Chocolate passport events it was nice to return and explore the grounds.
Visitors had their choice of braving the Ravine parking lot or parking at a few other locations around St. Davids and then being shuttled to the winery for the festivities. My husband sometimes, when it comes to finding parking in even the most unlikely of locations, wonders if I have a horse-shoe stuck you know where; so it will be no surprise when I tell you that I drove right into the winery and found a vacant space out front beside a rusting tractor.
Seeing as the dates set for the market were over Mother’s Day weekend, I was in the company of none other than my amazing mom. And, as is in her nature she wasn’t interested in anything for herself but was hoping to find Christmas presents for my brothers. Yes, she is that kind of mom who often is finished Christmas shopping before the Thanksgiving Festival hits Balls Falls.
The market vendors were all set up in tents around the winery – in the back along the escarpment and out front beside their almost-budding vines. The Type A personalities that we are, mother and daughter fashioned a plan to sweep through the market in one gracious movement collecting and considering fantastic artisan goodies as we went. Here are some of the highlights of our journey across the beautiful Ravine Winery grounds through The Handmade Market.
There is something about the smell of genuine leather that I really like. It’s almost sweet like caramel but has an underlying smokey scent that reminds me of fresh brewed coffee. The first thing I noticed about the Belli Buckles tent was a fantastic red satchel hanging out front. At second glance I saw more purses, belt buckles and a great selection of belts in lots of styles and colours. I loved the variety in belt buckles – wood, copper, vintage, old watches, hearts and more; there was certainly something for everyone. I learnt that the man running the show at Belli Buckles that day is Randy Loewen and he attributed the beautiful artisan talent to his wife Robin who was at another event that weekend. As it turns out each buckle is made from repurposed objects and the belts are had tooled on top of being made from fine genuine leather; I think I’d like to meet Robin one day. What I liked most about Belli Buckles is that they size and cut the belts and put the holes into the belt right then and there depending on what you need. I know this because I saw it happen right infront of my eyes as Randy cut and punched holes in the belt that I bought for my husband for our 5 year anniversary.
An auntie like myself couldn’t possibly walk by the colourful and innovative Mo’s Chapeau booth without stopping. Made by Anne, these trendy hand-made children’s hats are inspired by her daughter Mackenzie Olivia (MO) and drew me in. Although I didn’t end up leaving with anything that day, I will certainly be doing some online shopping during the holidays. I especially liked Anne’s owl hats – they seem to be all the rage these days. Not to mention, she had the most fantastic original purses for girls made from cute denim skirts hanging on a clothesline tempting me and other aunties, mothers and little girls at the market that weekend.
There were tables upon tables of beautiful jewelery at the Handmade market and I was attracted to all of them but none more than the button jewellery by Kristin Ross. If I remember correctly, it was with her grandmother’s buttons that Kristin made her original pieces from and the business exploded from there. She has watches, necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings and more. Me, I fell in love with a ring made from a vintage iridescent white button; I wore it right out of that small white tent and it has become a staple accessory for both play and work. I think I’d like to add one of Kristin’s necklaces to my collection some time soon. Now, I should mention that not all of Kristin’s artisan jewelery is made from buttons. She also has many designs made with beads, metals, semi-precious gems and other “upcycled” materials.
I was happy to see Candy by Katie at the Handmade Market but sad that Katie herself wasn’t able to join in on the festivities. It was for good reason however as she was setting up what I’m sure was a beautiful spread for a Saturday afternoon wedding. Her work never ceases to amaze me – she creates the most delicious goodies and then puts them together in trendy, colourful and creative candy tables for any occasion in any colour! Something new, that I hadn’t seen before, was that Katie had gift baskets already prepared and beautifully wrapped to take home. Not only would I use her to set up a candy table at a shower or wedding but now I can bring some of her tasty creations to a shower as a gift – fantastic!
I was intrigued to see a tent full of handcrafted jewellery from the Distillery District in Toronto at The Handmade Market. What more, there was a kind of necklace that grabbed my attention. Designed by Stella Hawkins of Mint, the style is called the lariat. It’s a clasp that isn’t really a clasp, more of a loop that the necklace twists through in order to stay in place. And, this design allows you to wear the necklace long or short in one quick swoop. The emerald tones of the natural gemstones and Swarovski crystals against bright 14k while gold fill/vermeil gives this jewellery a lustre that would be sure to wow any outfit.
The highlight of this market, for me, was meeting Lisa – owner and creator of Skinny Dip Soap. At first, it was her company’s name that drew me in. Skinny Dip Soap – how could I refuse to get a better look and satiate my curiosity. Well, satiate I did and much much more.
Unlike other natural product lines, she decided to have some fun along the way. Her branding and instructions for use are intriguing and make me smile every time I read them.
Directions for use: get naked, get washed up, get on with your life.
See … what’s not to love?! As it turns out, Lisa’s family – her kids included – all have incredibly sensitive skin. Even too sensitive for the skin products marked “for sensitive skin” in the stores. And so, she decided to make a product that she and her family could “skinny dip” in – as natural as can be.
She came up with a recipe for cold process soap that she could use on her kids’ without worry. Each of her products are handmade in small batches using only essential oils and natural fragrance and there isn’t any synthetic colour added. She doesn’t use harmful chemicals (including no GMO’s), avoids palm oil due to the controversy around the Orangutans and uses only vegetable based oils. The great news is that her products expand beyond soaps to lip balm, bath bombs, roller scents and yoga mat spray. Quite the fantastic repertoire of products that would make anyone who likes spending time in the tub or considers themselves a yogie perfectly happy. Skinny Dip Soaps was the highlight of my day (and of many morning, afternoon and evening showers since)!
The very first time I went to the Handmade Market at 13th Street Winery last year I found Janine Child of JC Fresh and her notorious cupcake looking bath bombs. She mentioned that she had children and I asked if they ever tried to take a bite out of these realistic looking tub-toys. As it turns out, her 4 years old did try once and it ended there. She also sells soap (and has great seasonal smells), creams, butters and wonderful smelling goodies for the bathroom. Every time I see Janine at a market or elsewhere she always has a new and innovative product that she’s added to the line. Recently she added a classy version of “soap on a rope” to the JC fresh collection – I wonder what will be next?!
This Lux is one of those people that has a head for hats. Baseball caps … sure – but I’m talking about real hats, designed by artisan minds and created by artisan hands. When I lived in Niagara I used to love going to Beau Chapeau in Niagara-on-the-Lake to try on all the different kinds of hats there – but at the end of the day even some of those extravagant designs cannot compare to the craftsmanship or Emily and Tressje Bjorgan. This daughter and mother duo are milliners and own Clavaux Designs. Not only do they make hats but they also have a fantastic line of fascinators and bridal designs. If I were to get married again (love you babe) I would certainly be wearing one of the pieces in the bridal collection. They have pieces with headbands and fascinators and clips all adorned with feathers and mother of pearl and other subtle bling. Personally, I’d wear one that has a swoop of white mesh over the eyes and a little circular feather clip in my hair. Oh, that would be heaven!
The first time I ever came across Greg Voisin Pottery was at a small local market in Fonthill. It was before I started Local Lux and I bought one of Greg’s ever-popular camera mugs for my cousin going to school for photography. Ever since then I love running into Greg’s treasures. With one glance at his hand-drawn and hand-made pottery you can tell the care and creativity that goes into each piece. This time around I noticed that Greg has designed a “Tea Time” mug. I always seem to find presents for others and never pick up anything for myself; I was silly not to pick it up considering my love of tea – shame on me! Well, hopefully after this post hubby will take this BIG HINT and sooner or later it will be mine * wink *.
One of my first memories of baking is making shortbread cookies with my mom. I remember eating the dough before we baked the cookies and then eating the cookies after they were baked and decorated. I’m used to pretty basic shortbread and so I was surprised by some of the savoury shortbread creations by Provisons Food Co. They have a cheddar cheese cookie, a pear and blue cheese, cherry and cocoa nib and many others that even some of the greatest bakers-that-be probably couldn’t dream up. This time around I left the market with some shortbread and a remarkably good red onion marmalade (that tastes fantastic with brie and flatbread might I add).
There were many other absolutely fantastic artisans at The Handmade Market at Ravine including awesome recycled purses by Batavia by Sil, Rosewood Estates Winery and the whimsical artwork of Kym Brundritt.
Oh, and let’s not forget that there was food galore! The Elgastronomo Vagabundo gang were there with their food truck serving up their popular (and spicy) fish tacos among other things. And, the Tide & Vine oyster company were their with the great yellow hippy van shucking away. Ravine itself was also selling $5 glasses of wine and $10 wood-fired pizzas from the outdoor oven. There were some other food selections for market goers including frozen yogurt and, if you were smart enough to make reservations before-hand, the Ravine Vineyard Restaurant.
All in all The Handmade Market delivered beyond expectations once again. There is something that will never get old about exploring the creations of artisans across Niagara and the GTA. Attending markets like this one is great for the artisan community – sure – but is also great for those of us sick of buying the same old item from the same old store in the local mall. This summer, fall, winter and next spring – whenever you are in need of some inspirational gifting be sure to visit The Handmade Market website to see when and where they will be next and be sure to join them in September for the next market at 13th Street Winery!