The Lowdown on Victoria’s Holiday Markets

The Lowdown on Victoria’s Holiday Markets

It’s that time of year. Sequined cat masks and boxes of mini Mars have been pulled from the shelves, replaced by ornaments iced in the kind of glittering snow most south islanders can only fantasize about.

It’s that time of year. Meaning the pressure is on to land your list of gifts for family and friends. (And maybe a little something for yourself while you’re at it.) But before you descend on the mall, consider some of the excellent reasons to shop local this season.

Victoria is teeming with talented artists and entrepreneurs, many of whom can be found at the rising number of holiday markets around town. There’s the Owl Designer Fair in Fernwood, the Holiday Makers Market downtown and Craft Cartel in VicWest, or the West Coast Winter Market in Oaklands and Handmade Village Craft Market near Swan Lake.

Clothing, jewelry, ceramics, you name it, you'll find it at one of Victoria's holiday markets. This photo is from the 2014 Fox Den Studio Sale, courtesy of Jennifer Valerie.

Clothing, jewelry, ceramics, you name it, you’ll find it at one of Victoria’s holiday markets. This photo is from the 2014 Fox Den Studio Sale, courtesy of Jennifer Valerie.

Got a flare for the old-timey? Check out the Holiday Vintage Fair in Fairfield. Or some of the many others you’ll find if you head to Saanich, Sidney, Langford or Sooke, where church halls, community centres and legions will become hotbeds of handmade treasures.

These markets offer limitless possibilities for unique and mindful finds. (Full disclosure: I sell my own handicrafts at a few of them.) But some of my favourite seasonal shopping takes place in the living rooms and home-based studios of Victoria’s finest makers. If you can figure out where they’re happening, these small, residential markets aren’t to be missed.

Sometimes called studio sales, most are advertised through word of mouth, Facebook friend networks, by handbills in nearby coffee shops or with a simple sandwich board propped out front on the day of. A nondescript front door gives way to the smell of fresh cookies and sound of (mostly ladies) laughing. Kitchen and coffee tables have been transformed into ornate displays featuring pottery, jewelry, leather work, knitting, paper arts and more. Racks of handmade jeans, tunics and screen-printed t-shirts fill the space between couches where you’re sure to find a couple of shoppers – who may even have just met – chatting over a complimentary glass of wine. Say no more?

“I love hosting in general, so welcoming fellow crafters and shoppers into my home is easy and fun,” says Joanne Thompson, a local clothing designer ( who organizes an event called Fox Den each December. “I especially love making people feel comfortable at my house so I’m happy to show them around and offer a tea.”

The rosehip dress by Toy and Ming. Photo by Amanda Laliberte.

The rosehip dress by Toy and Ming. Photo by Amanda Laliberte.

Most studio sales feature between eight and 10 vendors, meaning the experience is intimate and relaxed. There’s no admission fee, no line-ups and you get to meet the local creators of your purchases. For these crafty folks, selling their wares this way means they can avoid the overhead of selling at a store or a holiday market that may charge a table fee. Don’t be fooled, though, into thinking the casual atmosphere equates to an unsophisticated effort. Beneath the beautiful displays are boxes full of extra stock, tissue and ribbon for gift-wrapping and the technology required for most types of payment, including credit cards. Don’t let the chill vibe deceive you; Victoria’s makers mean business.

Here are a few events to watch for:

Owl Designer Fair — Dec. 4 and 5 at Fernwood NRG

Trapper Jane’s Holiday Open Studio — Dec. 12

Fox Den Studio Sale – Dec. 13

Know of others? Please share below!

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