Going Out

Craftfest brings together 150+ crafters, makers & designers to Zibi

Craftfest is a massive celebration of local and Canadian makers, with 15 days of events, including 150+ makers, who will be showcasing their work at an ongoing indoor Pop-Up Shop or one of two outdoor Weekend Markets. Craftfest will also host some 25 crafting workshops and craft beer tasting. There’s even an outdoor movie night.

Craftfest, which will be held at the future site of the Zibi community on the Ottawa River, is the brainchild of Gareth Davies, the founder of Maker House Co., a Hintonburg-based social-enterprise store selling handmade furniture and homewares from more than 120 Canadian makers. He teamed up with Freewheeling Craft to put together this event, which has been a full year in the making.

Ottawa Magazine caught up with Davies to get the goods, just days before the Craftfest launch.

Beaver fever: Low Poly Crafts hosts a 3D paper beaver workshop on June 11. Preregistration a must
Beaver fever: Low Poly Crafts hosts a 3D paper beaver workshop on June 11. Preregistration a must

How long have you been planning Craftfest?

This has been over a year in the planning. I connected with Zibi [by Windmill Developments] about a year ago. I knew I wanted to host a huge event for Canada 150. It’s such a historic site — a great location on the Ottawa River. I wanted to celebrate by hosting an inspirational and interactive event around crafting in Canada.

Did you expect it to be this huge?

It just keeps growing! There were things we knew we wanted to have — like the markets and the workshops, but other pieces just popped up. Like the outdoor Movie Night [Saturday, June 17]. We’re playing Monty Python’s Holy Grail, and we’ll add CanCon with 20 minutes of Heritage Minutes and Hinterland Who’s Who. It’s going to feel so Canadian.

The Pop-Up Shop features 70+ crafters, including Aunt Magda Céramique with hand-built pieces that recall the texture and movement of water. Photography by Selena Phillips-Boyle
The Pop-Up Shop features 70+ crafters, including Aunt Magda Céramique with hand-built pieces that recall the texture and movement of water. Photography by Selena Phillips-Boyle

Tell me about the different elements to Craftfest.

I knew I wanted to do a Pop-Up Shop [June 11 – 25] because Maker House started as a three-month pop-up. We also want to show people what this beautiful site can look like with a shop in a building on the Zibi site — a preview of what Zibi might look like when it is fully built. There’s a lounge so you can hang out and grab a soda and snack.

The Weekend Market [June 17, 18, 24, 25] is amazing because it’s an outdoor market in a courtyard space overlooking the Ottawa River. All of the makers will be there so people can meet them.

The Workshop [June 11 -25] component was also a must-have. We generally do one workshop a month at Maker House and they’re really popular so this just expands that idea with 25 workshops. There’s everything from woodwork to screenprinting to calligraphy.

The Hip Wheat Kings by Manmade
The Hip Wheat Kings by ManMade Art

How did you get the word out?

We put a big call-out in February to let makers from Ottawa and around the country know about this event. We’ve got 150+ makers here, with about 90 per cent of them local to Ottawa and Gatineau.

Any plans to make Craftfest an annual event?

We’ll see how this event goes — and how the Zibi site evolves. It’s not off the table, but we’re focused on making Craftfest as special as we can this year, based around the Canada 150 celebrations.

What do you want visitors to take away from this?

As much as we’re a modern culture with our big-box stores, there’s an emerging handmade craft scene with such a wide range of Canadian-made products. This will be a huge celebration of that. You can see things, buy things, make things, and taste things, like craft beers and locally made foods.