Makers' Markets Are Where You Should Do All Your Holiday Shopping

©. One of a Kind Show – Patrick Yeung Ceramics

Put your money directly into the hands that made the gift you're buying.

Yesterday I took a quick trip to Toronto to attend the One of a Kind Show. It's a biannual event that takes place at the end of November, just in time for Christmas shopping, with a smaller version in the spring. It was my first time attending and I was curious to see firsthand why so many people love it and go back, year after year.

More than 800 artists had their goods on display in a huge hall at the Exhibition Place. The space was divided into different categories, including food, fashion, visual arts, and 'green' products, featuring "new and exciting sustainable offerings in fashion body care, home decor, and more."

wooden toys

© K Martinko – These wooden beauties are kinder to the environment, and probably more fun for kids too.

Matchbox Seed Garden Co.

© K. Martinko – This company sells heirloom organic seeds. I even found rapini seeds, my favorite vegetable.

There were dozens of natural skincare companies, selling natural deodorant, unpackaged bar soaps, hand salves in metal tins, herb-infused body oils, and konjac sponges. Vendors selling all-wooden, plastic-free children's toys, upcycled messenger bags made from old airplane seats and car leather, heirloom seed kits, soapstone carving kits for children, and handmade musical instruments, from hand-carved spoons to tin-can banjos, were just a few that caught my attention. I was also delighted to meet the people behind Abeego beeswax wraps, whose ingenious product has been mentioned several times on TreeHugger.

Abeego booth

© K Martinko

I have to say, I was most impressed by the fashion section. Never before have I been surrounded by so many talented seamstresses and tailors, dedicated to the art of producing beautiful, high-quality clothing. Their work is the antithesis of fast fashion, produced with painstaking care, sold in limited numbers, styled uniquely, and – of course – priced accordingly. One of my favorite designers, Mélow by Melissa Bolduc, of Montreal, was there, too, and I was able to put a face to the name behind a label that I've admired for several years – not something you can do if you're shopping at Zara or Forever 21.

Mélow clothing

© K Martinko

I don't like to spend a lot of money at Christmas, but I do like to support local makers using sustainable materials and building unusual, useful products whenever possible. This is rather idealistic, as you can imagine, and proves to be quite difficult to find, especially living in a small town where shopping options are limited and shipping costs for online purchases are prohibitive.

glass straws

© K Martinko – Hand-blown glass straws to replace plastic ones

The One of a Kind Show, however, struck a perfect balance. In a single location, albeit three hours from my home, I was able to find numerous small gifts that fit my budget that are guaranteed to please because, as the name suggests, they're one of a kind. And when I know that I'm handing my money into the hands of the very person who made that gift, I can do so without hesitation, confident that my money is going to a good cause. I walked out of the show with my backpack full of presents and not a speck of plastic labelling or packaging in sight.

tin can banjo

© K Martinko – Banjos and ukuleles made out of old tin cans, an ingenious example of reuse

This holiday season, I urge you to visit whatever artisan markets or craft bazaars you can find in your area. Support the people who make things with their hands and give your gift twice over. If you're in the Toronto area, the One of a Kind Show runs until this Sunday, December 2.