Bizarre Bazaar brings Christmas to Whistler

Bratz Biz mixes kids, crafts and entrepreneurial spirit

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Whistler's Bizarre Bazaar pre-Christmas craft show, from its humble beginnings at Myrtle Philip Community School to its current two-day celebration of arts and culture at the Whistler Conference Centre.

Over 100 tables have already been booked for the event, which runs Saturday, Nov. 30 to Sunday, Dec. 1. The return of Bratz Biz, featuring crafts made and sold by local kids as young as eight, will add over two dozen other locally-made crafts to the selection.

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Local potter Vincent Massey is once again one of the exhibitors, and was among the original exhibitors when the event first started. "I think I may have missed the first one or second one when (Bizarre Bazaar) was at Myrtle Philip, but since then I've made every year," he said.

The event is not so much an opportunity to sell his pottery - and his wife's unique woven kelp projects - as it is to get his name out there and show off the latest projects he's been working on.

"It's not a massive selling event for me, but I use it as more of a billboard because of all the exposure I get from it. But there are some people who are not aware that they can buy pottery from me anytime from my studio in Alpine, and instead buy from me at Bizarre Bazaar."

Massey said the number of American visitors to the event seems to be down overall from the past, but says he sees large numbers of locals and people from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland who make a point of visiting the craft fair.

This year Massey will show off some of his new designs and glazing techniques, which he debuted at three kiln opening events held over the fall.

"I only do about 10 kiln firings a year," he explained. "My kiln is about 100 cubic feet, which holds about six weeks worth of work."

The exciting part for Massey is seeing his work when it first comes out of the kiln. He has some idea how it will look, but is constantly experimenting with glazes and colours, and it's always a surprise to see how things look when the firing and drying process is complete.

As well as Massey's newest creations, Bizarre Bazaar shoppers will be able to see the latest sweat equity of almost 30 of Whistler's youth at Bratz Biz.

Created in 2006, this event gives young artisans an opportunity to show their work, earn some money and learn something about entrepreneurship in the process. They have to commit to developing their creative ideas early on, and then dedicate a large number of hours to making them a reality.

Carmen Laslett, who is one of the founders of Bratz Biz, said they weren't surprised by the quality of ideas and products sold by kids. "We knew we had talented kids here, it was just a matter of motivating them and getting them going," she said.

Laslett said the idea for Bratz Biz came from her kids and their friends. "They were all very crafty, and we figured it was time to do something like a Bizarre Bazaar for kids," she said.

The Bratz Biz retailer are typically between the ages of eight and 15, although it's open to all ages from Kindergarten through Grade 12. Kids can make anywhere from $100 to $2,500 over the weekend.

Some of the better ideas Laslett has seen in recent years include a selection of clocks made using bike parts, freeskier Yuki Tsubota's crocheted hats and fleece figurines, and reindeer made from wood blocks. "There's so many great ideas that come to mind, and the quality is amazing," she said. "If you challenge the kids to do something, they certainly rise to the occasion."

In addition to teaching kids some business skills, Laslett has heard that it's become a great family activity as well.

"One of the comments I've heard is that the family will get together on a Sunday and sit down and work together on the craft instead of switching on the TV or heading to a computer," she said.

Entry to Bizarre Bazaar is by donation, with the proceeds going to the Whistler Arts Council. Bizarre Bazaar is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

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