Made In NC, downtown’s handmade marketplace, happened at the Brooklyn Arts Center on Friday and Saturday, March 20 and 21. Fifty local artisans and crafters filled the BAC with handmade jewelry, soaps, woodwork, metalwork, pens, fabric flowers, paintings, seasonings, silk scarves, chocolate, pottery, painted shoes—the list goes on! With plentiful sunshine and comfortable temperatures, the weather cooperated and delivered a perfect spring weekend for the 1,000-plus guests who came to enjoy the show and take something beautiful home.
Crafter Lauren McConville, a returning artist who’s participated in Made In NC since the beginning, owns the fabulous Stitch Stitch Bloom. This popular fabric flower business began when McConville stitched together her own beautiful wedding bouquet.
Misha Jones of Treeflower Pottery, a Made In NC vendor for the first time, displayed ceramic clay pottery with rich, full oceanic colors inspired by the beach. As a kid, Jones found her natural talent in throwing clay on the wheel. “I love touching the clay,” Jones says, “and being able to take something from earth and make it into a functional, useable piece of art.” When she’s not shaping vases, mugs, plates, and other pieces, Jones teaches pottery classes at Pineapple Studios.
The BAC stage featured Walt Wilson, a woodworker and custom carpenter, and Karen Shaw, a mosaic artist. The creative duo met when Shaw needed frames for her mosaics, and they’ve been making art together ever since. Wilson gathers his wood from piers and rivers while working in marine construction, so every piece is fully recycled. Shaw and Wilson came to Made In NC because of their love for the old church and for the arts. “We don’t do it for the money. We do it because we love it, and we love bringing joy to people’s lives,” says Wilson.
The Brooklyn Arts Center balcony held many more skilled crafters like Shawn Swanson, a retired marine. Swanson survived a severe car accident after his service to our country and found support through the Semper Fi Fund, a program dedicated to assisting post-9/11 members of the armed forces. Swanson recovered with the help of the fund, and now his only desire is to give back to the community. Swanson took up woodworking in 2013 and specializes in pens, letter openers, pencils, and chairs. He sends 100 percent of the profits to the Semper Fi Fund.
Also on the balcony, Emily Siezar’s booth featured wire-wrapped jewelry and electroformed metal-edged gemstones. The self-taught artist has been wrapping jewelry for two years, filling her booth with beautiful bangles, necklaces, rings, earrings, and more recently, lava rocks. Marissa Spencer, another balcony vendor and a senior in high school from Georgia, presented hand-painted shoes and totes for both children and adults.
Motzy Wynn, a seasoned potter for more than 30 years, set up shop in the courtyard under the huge heated tent. Wynn’s work features soft, simple designs in light blue and green pastels, resembling the beach and the weather Wilmington loves.
Mommy’s E-Z Baking by Amy McNabb was also featured under the tent. After cooking for 30 years in various restaurants, McNabb set out to invent an array of seasonings and pastry mixes with no salt. McNabb’s seasoning mixes can be added to Greek yogurt or mayo to create tasty dips and spreads—just one seasoning can be used 15 different ways! Regarding Made In NC, McNabb said, “I love doing shows like this because I get to talk to people and tell them about what I’ve made, face to face.”
Just through the tent and five steps toward the alley was one more wonderful surprise: Maya, the magical mobile art machine, owned by artsy duo Cara Reynolds and Emilia Borja who make up Mushpa y Mensa. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Reynolds and Borja purchased an old airport box truck and left New York to follow their artistic dream. After fully renovating it into an eco-friendly truck—in just three months—complete with solar panels powering the vehicle, Mushpa y Mensa named it Maya. The duo stocks the mobile art shop with organic, hand-stitched clothing, scented plushies, books, and jewelry. When asked why they chose this path, Borja answered, “Freedom. Cara was working a job at a synagogue as an IT director; I had been helping a nonprofit community organization, and we just both found ourselves thinking: we want to do what we want to do and be happy, and we’ve got something to say through our art.”
In addition to the awesome arts and crafts, Wilmington’s food trucks put on a show of their own. Vittles fed the crowd on Friday, and Catch the Food Truck blew everyone away on Saturday. Anchoring the tent, Lativa Coffee Company constructed a complete coffee shop and served the unofficial best iced tea in North Carolina. Made In NC featured an ongoing raffle, with drawings every 15 minutes over the course of both days with items donated by the many of the vendors. And, as always, the BAC cash bar was a popular place to be.
Wilmington’s community came out in force to support more than 50 different artisans and crafters, and Made In NC was a huge, handmade success.