MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Forty of the most innovative local artists, craftsmen and collectors will be strutting their stuff this weekend as Maplewood’s popular Holiday Bizarre Bazaar, hosted by the honchos of Studio B, returns Sunday, Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Woodland, 60 Woodland Road in Maplewood.
Started three years ago by Studio B co-founders and honchos Jenny Turner Hall and Marcy Thompson, the Holiday Bizarre Bazaar is an event that draws in vendors of all types, with two very important commonalities: Everything is handmade and everything is unique.
The goods on display at this event include handmade jewelry, fine art, sewn and knitted textiles, paper goods, vintage finds, tutus for children, evening bags, home decor, handmade clothing and a wide variety of other handiwork.
“This is the chance to see the work of our incredible local artists,” Turner Hall said in a recent press release. “This event is our way of celebrating the work of so many creative people.”
Now in its third year, the Holiday Bizarre Bazaar has become an unprecedented success among artists both locally and throughout Essex County. This year, more than 80 applications were received from artists vying for an opportunity to showcase their creations at this swiftly growing community event.
This year’s attendees will also once again have the opportunity to take pictures with the infamous Abominable Snowman, the nondenominational alternative to Santa, who is sporting a spiffy new costume.
The inspiration behind starting the bazaar dates back a few years, when Thompson and Turner Hall realized there was a demographic in the artistic community to which they hadn’t had much exposure: visual artists.
“We work with a lot of musicians, performance artists and writers, but we realized that we had never done much with the local visual artists,” Thompson said in a recent interview with the News-Record. “Once we started getting to know people, we realized there were a lot of local artists who didn’t necessarily get the exposure they should.
“There are a lot of local working artists, and it just didn’t feel like there were enough opportunities to meet them and be able to buy their work,” she continued. “There aren’t really a lot of places and events where you can really take a look at the work and be able to talk to the artist and possibly buy something.”
So Studio B set out to change it; they procured a venue and started spreading the word about their newest event, hoping that local artists would be interested in taking part.
“The first year we thought we’d get maybe 20 applications,” Thompson told the News-Record. “We were shocked when we received easily 45.”
The next task for Thompson and Turner Hall was to find an audience of people who would not only appreciate the art and craftsmanship but would also be interested in purchasing the items.
“It’s nice to have all these artists together, but we also needed to get people excited and interested in coming,” Thompson said. “The artists were excited to be connecting with the community, but also about the prospect of making some sales.”
The community did indeed come out in droves, and the bazaar became a popular holiday attraction. In its second year, more than 65 applications were received.
The space limitations in the Woodland allow for only 40 vendors to set up shop each year, meaning that the selection committee has the painstaking task of combing through the submissions of countless talented applicants and trying to find the right mix of vendors to attend the event.
“This year we had the highest percentage of local artists in Maplewood and South Orange,” Thompson said. “All are from Essex County though. The committee looks at photos of the work, and really tries to put the best group together every year. Our goal is to be showing off the best of the best among our local visual artists and craftsmen.”
There are four main priorities that the selection committee keeps in mind when choosing the vendors each year: quality of the products, whether the artist lives locally, variety among the types of vendors present and the cost of the items that the vendors are selling.
“We encourage vendors to have varied price ranges so that there is something for everyone who comes to the bazaar,” Thompson said. “We want people to feel good about supporting not only local artists, but also the local economy.”
New this year, Studio B itself will have a table at the bazaar featuring hats, mugs, T-shirts and bags for sale with the group’s logo.
“We recently became a recognized nonprofit, and we have a new logo, so we’re really trying to get our brand out there and spread the word about what we’re trying to do,” Thompson said.
One of the most important goals Studio B has for the holiday bazaar actually extends beyond the doors of the Woodland; the hope is that those visiting the bazaar from other towns will explore Maplewood Village and discover all the town has to offer in terms of activities and shopping.
“Our goal is not to detract from all of the great things going on in town. We try to spread the word about the event as far and wide as possible so that during this crucial shopping period for small businesses, people can do one-stop shopping,” Thompson said. “It’s really about shining the light on what the community as a whole has to offer. We spend a lot of time getting the word out about what the other retailers are doing.”
Thompson said she and Turner Hall also credit the success of the event to the close working relationship Studio B has developed with the Maplewood Village Alliance.
“We really work with the MVA to make sure that we are focusing on the whole town, and not just one part of it,” Thompson said. “After the bazaar, we hope people go grab some lunch in town and do a little walking around. We’ve also been able to have some local retailers set up vendor tables at the bazaar.”
And the greatest gifts to Studio B will not be found on a table in the Woodland, but rather on the faces and in the words of all who come out to enjoy the Holiday Bizarre Bazaar this weekend.
“It’s been incredibly gratifying to bring more people into the mix,” Thompson said. “We want both the vendors and the shoppers to leave at the end of the day feeling successful.”