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Big biz for kids

3rd annual Bratz Biz Christmas fair offers up wide range of arts and crafts from local kids
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Christmas Crafts Two vendors at last year's Bratz Biz fair strike a pose at their beautifully decorated booth. Photo by Joern Rohde, WPNN.org

What: Bratz Biz Christmas craft fair

When: Saturday, Dec. 6, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Whistler Secondary School

Admission: By donation

While some kids are busy waxing skis and shooting pucks this winter season, there are a bunch of young, talented local artists who have been toiling away at home, creating unique crafts for the annual Bratz Biz craft fair.

Susan Shrimpton is one of the organizers of the event, which she founded with her hairdresser and friend, Carmen Laslett, in the fall of 2006.

“It just started over a conversation while she was cutting my hair,” Shrimpton recalled.

The two women were chatting about their crafty kids who had been busy selling their handcrafted wares to family and friends, and the beach-going public, over the summer months.

“We thought, What can we do to help these kids realize how good they are, how talented they are, and how can we help market their products?” she said. “We wanted to create an event for like-minded children — crafty kids.”

Shrimpton points out that, while there are many events and activities geared towards athletic and musical children, there aren’t a lot of options for kids who like arts and crafts. Entering professional adult crafting events, like Bizarre Bazaar and the Whistler Farmer’s Market, isn’t really an option for most children.

“Bizarre Bazaar is a very expensive event to enter, it’s also very difficult to get into the Sunday Farmer’s Market — it’s extremely competitive,” Shrimpton said.

So they started organizing Bratz Biz in the fall of 2006, offering kids a venue to sell their products in. Now, some kids will be participating for their third year.

Participants range in age from nine to 16-year-olds, who create everything from jewelry, figurines and baked goods to dog products and clocks made from collected bicycle parts. You name it, a kid has probably thought of it.

“They’re blown away, they’ve overwhelmingly surprised,” Shrimpton said of the first-time attendees to the fair.

Shannon MacNamara, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student at Whistler Secondary School, is a second-year vendor at Bratz Biz. She sells handmade necklaces and earrings, crafted from glass and wooden beads.

“Its partly what I like to wear, and partly what I see,” MacNamara explained, adding that she gets a lot of her inspiration from pop culture — TV, movies and magazines.

She started beading as a hobby when she was younger. When she heard about Bratz Biz from a family friend, she decided to try and sell some of her designs.

“I did pretty good last year, I sold quite a bit,” she said. And the extra spending money was great.

The purpose of the event isn’t really to make money, though it’s an added benefit for many of the vendors.

“It’s about self esteem and empowering the kids to follow through on projects,” Shrimpton explained. “It’s about bringing families together. Many families say to us, ‘thank you for doing this; this is the first time we have sat down as a family and worked on a project. So we’ve turned off the TV, we’ve turned off the computer, and we’ve been working on this.’”

To get into Bratz Biz, there is a jury process, though it isn’t as extreme as some of the other adult-oriented crafts events. The idea is that the adults can help make sure that all of the vendors are prepared, so they’ll do well at the sale.

“They come in face-to-face, with their samples, and we help them with their design, with finishing, we talked to them about packaging and display,” Shrimpton explained. “We kind of help them through the whole process. Some of them are just naturally talented and they have a lot of support at home. Others need tones of help, so we have them come back several times and try to get it right, so people will actually buy their creations.”

For Shrimpton, one of the most exciting parts of the event is overhearing a child say that they want to participate next year.

Well, lots of kids must be following through on their plans to join in; organizers have seen the event grow significantly, from 27 tables last year to 40 tables this year. And many vendors are sharing tables, bringing the total number of vendors to more than 50.

They’ve also expanded their reach this year, including four or five vendors from outside of the Whistler region.

“It’s been great — it’s only our third year, but the feedback from the public is fantastic,” Shrimpton said. “It’s a fun family day, it’s a very warm environment. The kids are an inspiration to other children.”

It’s still just the two founders — Shrimpton and Laslett — running the show, though this year they’ve managed to recruit another parent, Lisa Davidson, as the volunteer coordinator.

Anyone interested in helping out with this year’s Bratz Biz on the Friday or Saturday can simply e-mail lisadanlep@yahoo.ca .

Given the success of the winter event, Shrimpton and Laslett have considered hosting a summer Bratz Biz sale, or even having a rotation of vendors at a table in the Whistler Farmer’s Market. But Shrimpton points out that it would be much harder to coordinate the kids at that time of year.

A wide range of local sponsors, including Murphy Construction and Nesters Market, support the event. This year, the fair will also feature performances by Mike Battie at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., a juggling workshop at 3 p.m., performances by the Whistler Children’s Chorus, Michele Bush, Whistler Singers, and Susan Holden, face painting with Cary Campbell Lopes and photos with Santa.




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