12/3/2012 - Big Crafty showcases Asheville area artisans
by Sabian Warren - Asheville Citizen Times
ASHEVILLE -- For Beth Deen, The Big Crafty was the prefect place to buy Christmas gifts, and it didn't bother her at all that today's weather seemed more like spring than winter.
On a warm, sunny afternoon, Deen was among thousands of people who crowded into the Asheville Art Museum at Pack Place for the fifth annual edition of the arts and crafts festival. Several vendors also set up their booths outside in front of the building to take advantage of the balmy conditions.
"I bought 11 gifts," said Deen, who carried an armful of bags as she was leaving the festival. "I come here every year. I love that it's local. I love to be able to buy from local artists. I like to see all the creative ideas the artists come up with. My teenage daughters love the gifts that I buy here for them."
Shopper Wanda Clarke of Hendersonville, who was attending the event for the first time, also came to find some unique Christmas gifts. Among her purchases were glass sculptures and jewelry.
"We wanted to be able to buy handmade things for people for Christmas," said Clarke, who was there with her husband, Mike, and daughter, Charlotte. "We bought a lot of stuff. We'll definitely be back next year."
Paintings, sculpture, handmade jewelry and clothing were among items offered by 75 vendors, most of them local artists and craftsmen.
Crafter Erica Thilges, who sews teapot cozies and winky wraps (stuffed animals), was taking part in the winter event for the first time. A summer version of The Big Crafty also is held annually in July.
Vendors lucky enough to be selected for the shows get great exposure with thousands of potential customers on hand.
"It brings a lot of people in," Thilges said. "It's the time of year a lot of people are in Asheville. They want to shop and absorb the holidays. This is a perfect spot and a perfect time of year to do this. And it's a fun thing to do. It's a great way to keep up with my friends and meet the people of Asheville."
Organizers Justin Rabuck and Brandy Bourne estimated up to 7,000 people would attend today's event.
"It really feels like a loving community that understands the value of supporting local artists," Rabuck, 38, said. "We have an amazing pool of artistic talent here. We really have a lot to be proud of."
Bourne, 37, came up with the idea for The Big Crafty after noticing the large number of talented artists in the area had no venue to showcase their work.
"I was seeing a lot of these peoples' work online," she said. "I thought there really needed to be a local outlet for these artists. I kept saying, 'someone needs to do this.' He (Rabuck) kept saying, 'you need to do it.'"