Holiday shopping might not be everyone’s favourite activity, but in Montreal, shopping can be a thoroughly delightful artistic and cultural experience, especially during December, when craft and artisanal fairs showcase some of the best made-in-Quebec creative goods around, from traditional crafts to avant-garde designs…
Montreal is home to the biggest professional craft and artisanal fair in Canada: Salon des métiers d’art, held every year in the massive conference hall of downtown’s Place Bonaventure. The Salon specializes in creating a festive atmosphere to share some of the best in Quebec-made products with the world – with over 400 artists and artisans exhibiting their work starting December 7 and staying put for us last-minute types until December 22, it’s easy to do some serious holiday shopping all in one place, whether you’re looking for works of art, designer clothes, hand-crafted wooden toys, leather purses, winter hats or fantastic chocolate. The Salon also provides further insight into the creative process of crafting with demonstrations by artisans every day as well as short films about the world of craft – and Santa Claus even drops by every Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m.
The Christmas spirit is truly in the air at another big fair, Le Marché Casse Noisette, known in English as the Nutcracker Market. More Montreal and Quebec creations are around every corner at this fair, where gourmet food, jewelry, clothing, bath and beauty products and much more abound among the Christmas trees and tinsel, November 29-December 9 at the Palais des congrès de Montréal.
Hip, cutting-edge design is what the annual souk @ sat is all about, with over 100 professional artists and designers selling unique, often made-in-Montreal clothing, jewellery, handbags, furniture, home accessories, toys, art and more. The sale happens November 30 to December 2 at the Société des Arts Technologiques (1201 St-Laurent), a high-tech education centre, music and entertainment venue, and also home to the inventive FoodLab restaurant.
With a pro style similar to souk’s, Smart Design Mart lets vendors set up approachable mini-boutiques in a huge industrial loft space, where everything from locally designed clothing to home decor to food can be found in a range of prices. The Mart is open on the evening of December 7 and during the day December 8-9 at 5505 Casgrain, in the bagels-and-coffee-and-cool neighbourhood of Mile End.
Also in Mile End is the holiday version of Pop Montreal’s Puces Pop Craft & DIY Fair, an always-lively mix of hip, quality hand-made items for winter and beyond, all infused with plenty of love and care – happening the evening of December 14 and during the day December 15-16 at Saint-Enfant-Jesus Church (5035 Ste-Dominique). For those looking for more traditional craft-fair fare, stop by the Old Skool Crafts Holiday Fair, December 8-9 and 15-16 at L’Église St.Michel (105 St-Viateur W.). And if you’re in town November 17-18, check out the creative goods at Expozine, one of the largest small press fairs in North America, where authors, artists and zine makers impress live and on paper – also held at the Saint-Enfant-Jesus Church.
Explore more of the city by heading south-east to the Haut & Fort Noël Market, dedicated to Quebecois designers and creators of “ideas, objects and furniture made here”– happening December 6-9 and 13-16 at Marché St-Jacques (2nd floor, 1125 Ontario E.). As with all the craft fairs in Montreal, the artists are right there to talk about their work and answer any questions – there’s something special about this kind of face-to-face meeting, and so often we get a good story to go with our purchase, not to mention a warm, fuzzy holiday feeling.