Etsy hosts annual craft party, fair in Winter Park
The creative juices were flowing at the Etsy Craft Party and Fair as crafters from all over Florida gathered in Winter Park for the annual party Saturday.
What started in 2010 as a small get together in a restaurant has now expanded to a venue that can accommodate vendors and a constant traffic of more than 3,000 people.
The idea to have a craft party came from Etsy itself.
In 2010, the company sent out an email to its members about how to put on a craft party.
The celebration has since gone global, with parties happening in countries including Germany and Brazil.
Melanie Fonseca, the founder of the Central Florida Artisans Guild, started the event after she got the email as a way for people to meet and craft together.
"We want to let the community know that handmade is here and we're not going anywhere," Fonseca said. "The quality of handmade is better than what you would get from Wal-Mart or Target."
The event consisted of raffle-ticket winners racing to claim their handmade prizes, demonstrations for homemade bath salts and card making and local crafters chattering about their wares.
Alex Ramirez, a former UCF employee and owner of Ask Me If I "Wood," an Etsy business that sells handmade wooden wall arts, went to the event to commune with her fellow Etsy crafters and support local businesses.
Ramirez cuts out designs in blocks of woods using a wood saw, and then personalizes them for her buyers by hand — a feat that is difficult for her because of her Parkinson's.
For the last 15 years, Ramirez has suffered from Parkinson's disease, and it has left her unable to write with a steady hand.
To personalize her wood cuts, she said she holds her breath and does slow strokes with her paint brush. The end results reveal no trace of the disease and could easily pass for a professional.
"This is my therapy," she said. "It helps me, the painting and everything helps me. I also get to donate a portion of the proceeds of everything I sell to Parkinson's research — which in turn helps me."
Since 2010, Fonseca's parties have outgrown her venues, and the demand for more has been overwhelming. With her eyes filling up with tears, Fonseca explains that she never would have expected the outpouring of support she has been given.
"When this first started, I had a lot of people who were against it or had negative thoughts about it. They didn't think it would work. And then we started receiving a lot of awesome opportunities," she said.
Support not only came from the community, but also from a variety of businesses.
The first 100 party guest were given swag bags, which included items donated by the vendors. Etsy provided 40 credit card readers for the vendors at the craft party. A representative from American film distribution company Fox Searchlight also attended and gave out free movie tickets at the start of the party. Onli Beverages donated cases of free drinks for party guests.
Never thinking the event would ever get as big as it has, Fonseca plans to look for an even bigger venue for next year's craft party.
Amelia Truong is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @Ameliatruong or email her at AmyT@CentralFloridaFuture.com.