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The diner display is just a sneak preview of the craft bonanza later this month at the second-ever Handmade Market.

Handmaiden heaven 

With a market this crafty, who needs the mall?

Handmade Market
Vintage 21, Raleigh
Saturday, Nov. 11
The diner display is just a sneak preview of the craft bonanza later this month at the second-ever Handmade Market, a Handmaidens event that brings together dozens of independent designers from across the region to sell their wares—necklaces, notecards, baby clothes, hats, handbags, skirts, belts, embellished T-shirts, pottery, photography and even baked goods.

Ileana Rodriguez, one of the many Handmaidens and the creator of India*romeo (www.indiaromeo.com) skirts, bags and diverse accessories, told me the story of how the Handmaidens came to be. An earlier group called Bead the People, composed primarily of women who worked or had worked at the bead shop Ornamentia, owned by jewelry designer Cynthia Deis, had been participating in the Boylan Art Walk. In 2004, Rodriguez explains, several members of that group decided to meet at Poole's for a "craft night" on Mondays from 7 to 9 p.m.

"We would create work and share ideas and give each other feedback," she says. "We started to realize that many of us had a shared vision to push ourselves even further. We encouraged each other to take our craft more seriously and decided to change our name to the Handmaidens, to incorporate the diverse talents new members had brought to the group of jewelers."

Handmaidens member Ileana Rodriguez and her designs: crocheted clutches with flower pins; Ileana wearing two of her hair pins; one of her floral cotton skirts. - PHOTOS BY LISSA GOTWALS
  • Photos by Lissa Gotwals
  • Handmaidens member Ileana Rodriguez and her designs: crocheted clutches with flower pins; Ileana wearing two of her hair pins; one of her floral cotton skirts.

The group began looking for more ways to develop their businesses as well as the area's independent design scene. In May of this year, they held the first Handmade Market, which included 35 other vendors from all over the Southeast. "It was a huge success for us," Rodriguez says. November's event will be their second, and they hope to make the Handmade Market happen twice each year.

The Handmaidens are now nine strong: Kristen Townsend, Jenni Moore Myers, Tracey Johnson, Leeann Hynes, Kiona van Rhee-Wilson, Lois Peterson, Ndidi Kowalczyk, Kate Haynes and Rodriquez.

But while the group's activities are growing, Hynes, creator of STIR Studios (www.stirstudios.com), says they've found their max with nine members.

"We have polls for everything, even when we just want to change the background color on our Web site," she says. "At the beginning none of us really knew what we were doing, but now we all share the goal of making this our livelihood."

Hynes already has. With wholesale orders from across the country, designing jewelry has become her full-time job. Locally, her work is available at Revolver and Firefly in Raleigh, as well as markets the Handmaidens set up.

All of the work by these artists is affordable—most items of jewelry and clothing are well under $50—and the artists are a uniquely friendly bunch, inspired by each other and eager to meet others.

Handmaiden van Rhee-Wilson, a designer for Lucky Accessories (www.luckyaccessories.com), has tremendous energy and an abundance of beautiful work on display at the trunk sale. Her designs include hair clips, zipper pouches and brightly colored jewelry, as well as discounted work in a treasure chest sale box.

Handmaidens member Kiona van Rhee-Wilson and her jewelry: vintage wallpaper pendant necklaces; Kiona wearing wood and pearl earrings and necklace from her romance collection; additional necklaces from Kiona's romance collection. - PHOTOS BY LISSA GOTWALS
  • Photos by Lissa Gotwals
  • Handmaidens member Kiona van Rhee-Wilson and her jewelry: vintage wallpaper pendant necklaces; Kiona wearing wood and pearl earrings and necklace from her romance collection; additional necklaces from Kiona's romance collection.

"When I get in a rut, this group of women helps to get me pumped up to be creative again," she explains.

Townsend, designer for Mood Swing Studios (www.moodswingstudio.com), agrees. "We really have a lot of fun doing this!" It shows in the playful, charming work.

If you want to share in the fun of creating, Monday craft nights at Poole's are wide open to new people. You can bring your own projects and get help and advice with knitting, jewelry, sewing and other craft projects. From behind the bar, the waitress, Courtney, pipes up, "Last time I came to a Monday Craft Night, I brought my pastels."

The Handmade Market will take place on Saturday, Nov. 11 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Vintage 21 at 209 Oberlin Road in Raleigh. For more information, including pictures of and links to vendors' work, visit www.thehandmademarket.com.

Poole's Diner is located at 426 S. McDowell St. in Raleigh.

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