LA GRANGE – Those looking for run-of-the-mill big box pieces shouldn't come to the La Grange Craft Fair because they won’t find them there.
What they will find is more than 200 artists from throughout the Midwest bringing their one-of-a-kind, handcrafted items ranging from original paintings and yard art to clothing, jewelry, soaps, accessories and more in downtown La Grange.
“We get a lot of regulars, and our typical patron has changed for this show,” La Grange Business Association Executive Director Nancy Cummings said.
Pinterest and the do-it-yourself movement have resulted in an audience looking for more personalized and one-of-a-kind items, she said.
“They like the fact that the items are handmade,” Cummings said. “They’re something you won’t find at Target or other stores.”
Which is why the show has a strict, handcrafted-only policy for vendors and why the event has just been named one of the top 100 arts and craft fairs in the United States by Sunshine Artist Magazine, according to the event’s organizer Craft Productions.
The list will be published in the magazine's September issue, Craft Productions owner Karen Yackley said.
“It’s a great opportunity for a day out with a fabulous section of restaurants in a beautiful downtown setting,” she said.
In fact, the event, which has been a crowd pleaser for 43 years, draws in 10,000 fans a year.
“I think it's the selection of the vendors chosen for this show and the fact that the items are all handmade,” Cummings said. “This has a very nice eclectic mix of vendors. You’ll find things that are truly unique – something you can’t see elsewhere. Another reason is our organizer Craft Productions Inc., who did a great job designing our show. The layout flows really well. We are now 100-percent handcrafted; nothing is machine made. That was the most important switch.”
Dorm Cheske and her partner, Nick Koclanes, are a team of silversmiths who have been vendors at the La Grange Craft Fair for more than 10 years. The duo scours European countries for silverware, vintage chandeliers, coins, wedding gowns and more to repurpose into jewelry.
“We make them into beautiful treasures of art,” said Cheske, a La Grange resident who has been honing her craft for more than 30 years. “We love what we do, and this show is so much fun.”
Cheske and Koclanes share the history of each piece with their customers. Koclanes does the research, and Cheske finds out what she can too.
“When we travel overseas, I get the skinny on the pieces from the grandmothers," Cheske said. "It’s so much fun. You’re getting more than jewelry. You’re getting a little bit of history.”
And speaking of history, the historic downtown flavor of La Grange also draws in visitors to the show, Cummings said.
Vendors set up on the super-wide sidewalks, unlike most craft fairs, where vendors are located in the street.
“And our local restaurants attract shoppers. It makes a nice, leisurely day," she said. "You can spend several hours as well in the restaurants and shops. Our central business district becomes a part of it. It’s scenic and picturesque, and it makes it a destination.”
If you go
WHAT: La Grange Craft Fair
WHEN: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 15, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 16
WHERE: Downtown La Grange