Saturday brought the opportunity for local residents to purchase some unique, handmade gifts for the holiday season as the 42nd annual Winter Craft Market came to the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center.
After being shortened from two days to one, the 2017 gathering of central Pennsylvania artisans moved from the Mount Nittany Middle School to the Penn Stater to provide some growing space for the popular event.
“We grew out of the middle school,” Winter Craft Market Director Heidi Urbanski said, “and I felt it was my job to elevate to a more comfortable space that better fit our needs.”
The show featured a total of 68 vendors, she said, which was the same as last year but featured some new artists as well. The feedback on the new space was good, she added, saying that vendors and guests reported the Penn Stater was more spacious and inviting.
Pam Bartl, of Chambersburg, said she’s been part of the show for at least 10 years, and described the new space as “quite delightful.” Bartl works as the master weaver for Jesamie Handwovens and offers tailored cotton clothing “in sizes from petite to plus.”
“This business is incredibly physical,” she said, “so being able to stay here at the hotel, you need the rest and that makes it easier.”
Having the market in two separate rooms was also a plus, she said, which allowed for a good flow of customers and good sales. Moving her products in — and the anticipated move out — was also very easy thanks to the “tremendous amount of help” by the hotel.
“I think this is a good place to grow the show, and to have more master artisans from the guild,” she said.
First-time market vendor Kim Helder, of Chambersburg, said she felt the show was going well by the afternoon, as she reported good sales compared to other shows she’s attended.
Helder, of Helder Designs, said she produces silver and copper jewelry — along with some printmaking — part time as she teaches art at Carlisle Christian Academy. She said she was accepted into the guild this year and described her first market as “a good show.”
“I think this time of year really helps the area,” she said, saying the hotel was a nice environment and that the other artists are very supportive of each other.
“The other vendors asked if they can help,” she said. “They’re very cordial. You don’t always get that vibe at other festivals.”
Kierstin Muroski, of State College, said she’s been coming to the winter market for about five years and said she always felt rushed when the event was hosted at the middle school. She joked that maybe it was the carpeting now that slowed the pace.
“I don’t feel like I’m going to miss any booths,” she said. “It feels like its spread out more and you have more time to see each booth.”
Muroski said she uses the market to find Christmas gifts each year, but also has developed connections with the artists themselves. Several artists have invited her to their studios, she said, creating a personal feel and a desire to buy local.
Buying local and shopping for handmade products was also one of Urbanski’s goals, she said, as the market gives shoppers a chance to skip the “big box stores.”
“I think that has become more important to people,” she said. “They’ve become more mindful of where they’re shopping and where they’re getting their stuff.”