Art and soul at Bizarre Bazaar 

Exploring the roots of Whistler' favourite artisan market


What: Bizarre Bazaar

When: Friday, Nov. 27, 3-8 p.m. & Saturday, Nov. 28, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Where: Telus Conference Centre

Cost: By donation


This weekend, the Telus Conference Centre will be filled with a cacophony of colour, sound and smells, as the Whistler Arts Council (WAC) hosts the community's annual artisan fair, Bizarre Bazaar.

The "meet-at-the-Farmers-Market" tradition carries on in a very big way during this two-day event, as friends, family and visitors peruse the assortment of goods crafted by B.C. artisans. But unbeknownst to most, this popular event actually has real history and roots.

"This year is the 21st annual Bizarre Bazaar, so it was started over two decades ago by volunteers and it was originally started to be a fundraiser for the Children's Art Festival," explained Ali Richmond, spokesperson for WAC.

The grassroots fair that started out at the old Myrtle Philip school snowballed into what is now the highlight event for the local artisan community, drawing crowds of almost 5,000 people to admire and purchase handmade wares. It continues to act as a fundraising event for WAC's programs, with proceeds from the door going towards annual events like the Children's Art Festival, ArtWalk and Art Workshops on the Lake.

"The number of artisans has definitely grown since then," Richmond said, pointing out that the event, which used to feature the work of about 30 people, now includes work from almost 100 artisans from across the province, though most are from the Sea to Sky area.

"We like to keep it (at 100) because we don't want to get too many in there or else it becomes overwhelming and it's not that great for the artisans," she explained.

And getting a table at Bizarre Bazaar isn't just a matter of paying a fee and setting up shop. A lot of work goes into preparing for the event and each artisan must be selected through a competitive jury process that considers the product, presentation and the popularity of the medium.

"There are definitely some categories of artisans that it's a little bit more competitive, like jewelers," Richmond said. "We receive a lot of applications from jewelers, so that's a pretty tough competition."

This year, about 160 artisans applied; almost 100 made the cut.

Ambitious Christmas shoppers can easily tick a few people off their list seeing as there's everything from ceramics, jewelry and fine art to aromatherapy and wood, glass and metal on offer.

A few of the returning artisans include Fiona Hickey of Floydie Bear, who will be selling her Monster Patroller Teddy Bears, animal scarves, bandanas and handmade eco-bags; Jamie Pope of Pretty Bird Jewellery Designs with her fine silver jewelry and Terri Braun of Xocolatl Chocolate Creations with his chocolate concoctions.

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