There are no potholders, stockings or dollies at the Avant Garde Arts & Craft Show. Founder Becki Silverstein knows shoppers are after something more special. "People want to show their uniqueness in a way that reflects their style and tastes, while also supporting their local community," she says. Started in 2011, the 14 annual Avant Garde shows are now home to more than 100 local vendors. Kick off the holiday shopping season early by stopping at one of these shows: Nov. 7 in Canton, Nov. 14 and 15 in Rocky River and Nov. 21 in Strongsville. For more show dates, visit avantgardeshows.com. If you need another reason to browse the whimsical bazaar, a portion of the show's profits go to different local charities, including North East Ohio Make-A-Wish and Cleveland Animal Protective League. We introduce you to five of the fun crafters you'll spot at the show.
Tiny Star Accents: Creator Cassandra Blasé's love for her home, her pets and comic books drives the vision behind her rustic and homey signs. From the inspirational to the downright nerdy, her creations speak to all kinds of shoppers — especially ones born in Ohio. "I'm Ohio born and raised, so I want to do a lot more with Ohio." Her hand-painted wooden signs also include varieties for animal lovers and signs with comic-book favorites Spider-Man and Transformers.
Buy This: "Ohio" sign for $15
Cleveland Candle Co.: Here's your chance to truly find your own scent. The company offers an in-house candle bar at its Mentor store. "You can actually sit around a bar top and build your own candles together," co-owner David Gin says. Those not able to make the trip out can choose from new holiday scents that will be debuting in December.
Buy This: 8 ounce fresh apple candle, $12
Necklascarf: Wearing a scarf has never been easier with the Necklascarf, which combines a magnetic necklace clasp with a vibrant statement piece. Entrepreneur Terri Brewer wanted a product that would appeal to women who found infinity scarves too bulky and complicated scarf knots frustrating. In addition to being stylish, the pieces give back too. Her designer fabric is cut by Vocational Guidance Services, a nonprofit that helps educate and train people with barriers to employment, and sewn by Esperanza Threads, a nonprofit that teaches low-income individuals and immigrants industrial sewing skills. Helping make the trend more approachable is fulfilling to Brewer too. "I just delight in seeing women that come to shows and put these things on and get a big smile on their faces," she says.
Buy This: Patterned Necklascarf, $36
BootEmUp Designs: Bev Burkhart's boot jewelry takes your favorite cold-weather footwear from simple to eye-catching. Made by hand, the jewelry combines durability, beauty and versatility: tough enough to withstand Ohio winters, each piece is also wearable as a necklace or even as a belt. The Columbus-based artist loves sharing her passion for boots. "When people put the boot jewelry on, they have a sense of pride about themselves: they pose differently," she says. "It's so incredibly amazing to watch how this transforms people."
Buy This: Flowered piece, $27.50
Dream In Color Jewelry: Artists Sarah Friedenberger and Erica Speer's desire to break away from more traditional gemstone jewelry lead them to create steampunk-style pieces with found objects such as keys, gears, and typewriter parts. "We are recycling objects that tend to get thrown out," says Sarah. "Our motto is 'find your missing piece', and that's exactly what we want our customers to do." So find unexpected creations such as a wire-wrapped skeleton key that takes form as an owl pendant created from watch parts.
Buy This: "A Piece of Time," $40
By Katherine Blubaugh