Crafty Chicagoans do business at Empty Bottle

By Meryl Fulinara

Every second Saturday of the month, the drinks flow, the music bumps and the locals get a little bit crafty.

The Handmade Market at Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., gathers 32 vendors monthly and sets up shop at a venue known best for its live music acts.

From noon to 4:30 p.m., the site that usually plays host to concert goers finds a crowd of shoppers and merchants alike, where vendors sell everything from handmade jewelry and paper crafts to lotions and potions.

Dec. 13 marks the Handmade Market’s third year anniversary. But unlike most craft shows of its kind-Renegade Craft Fair and the DIY Trunk Show-the Handmade Market happens monthly as opposed to once or twice a year.

“It’s a regular place to buy and sell,” said Heather Flett, who heads the Handmade Market. “All the other shows in Chicago that are similar are only once [or] twice a year. This way it’s a monthly income for the crafters.”

The small venue means vendor spots are extremely limited. There aren’t as many merchants compared to the bigger shows, but buyers get the chance to peruse a variety of crafts from several vendors without leaving patrons feeling too overwhelmed.

“It’s a great way to expose yourself to consumers [as well as] other crafters,” said Cindy Tomczyk, who sells her handmade cards and illustrations at Handmade Market under the moniker Paper Parasol.

The market was started by Erica Coslor-DJ Plastique to Chicago’s club scene-three years ago. Coslor initially thought the audience who would attend a show at the Empty Bottle would most likely be the same crowd that might go home and do crafts themselves, Flett said. Coslor wanted the event to be an indie craft show as opposed to the traditional craft fair, which is in line with the basic principles of the Empty Bottle.

Since the event is held at the Empty Bottle, the market is confined to the 21-and-over crowd, where those who are underage are only permitted inside with an adult.

For those lucky enough to be of legal age, shopping will be more like a calming hangout than the frenzied holiday shopping that some people are accustomed to. Empty Bottle opens up its bar to the Handmade Market’s Saturday morning patrons where they can buy alcoholic beverages to help ease the undulating holiday stress.

“There are people walking around with Bloody Marys and PBR [while] shopping, which is really neat,” Tomczyk said.

Katie Johansson, a vendor and owner of Dollybird Jewelry, sells custom-made jewelry. Johansson also said she enjoyed the atmosphere of the event.

“It’s a more laid-back vibe. There is a bar there, and you just feel like you are hanging out,” Johansson said. “It’s a small venue. There is a sense of community, and everybody is local.”

Flett said one of the main driving forces for the Handmade Market is the local aspect of Chicago’s DIY and craft scene.

Unlike other craft shows in the area, the vendors at the market are all Chicago-based artists. Handmade Market strives to stimulate local economy with the idea being that the person you are purchasing from is the person who actually made it.

“We [at the Handmade Market] are trying to create a personal connection between buyers and sellers,” Flett said. “Giving an outlet for people to create small businesses and be creative and artistic.”

The Handmade Market is free and held at Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave. The event goes from noon to 4:30 p.m. Visit for more details.