FARGO — The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on a lot of businesses, but one field that seems to be bucking the trend is the market for crafters.
Ashley Morken, the creative force behind the Unglued store in downtown Fargo, says the makers she works with have reported doing well during the pandemic.
That’s why she’s going ahead with this weekend’s Unglued: Craft Fest at West Acres Shopping Center and online.
“It’ll be, ‘Come shop and then go home and hang out online,’” she says with a laugh. “Just get crafty with us virtually.”
Morken says back in July, she started thinking about a virtual aspect to the annual fest — carrying on as it had been done for the first 10 years wouldn’t be feasible.
For the past nine years, the event has been held at the Plains Art Museum in downtown Fargo, with around 70 vendors set up through the public spaces — but not the galleries — and thousands of craft connoisseurs flocking through.
The Plains would be too crowded to allow for safe social distancing this year, so the event was moved for its first two days to West Acres, where Unglued has previously had pop-up shops.
The 45 in-person vendors at West Acres will be spread throughout the main hallways of the mall more than 6 feet apart for safe social distancing, and masks need to be worn at all times.
There will be no beer garden this year, and workshops and demonstrations will be livestreamed through the fest’s website, www.ungluedmarket.com/fest/ and saved to YouTube to watch through Sunday.
On Sunday, the fest will move to its digital site, where 55 makers will open their virtual shops.
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As always, Morken strives for diversity in the vendors, bringing in about 30 percent new makers each year. This year she noticed more area crafters applying to get into the show.
“It feels like so many businesses have started during the pandemic,” she says. “People are seeking out unique items to have in their homes, items that tell a story.”
She lists off a handful of new vendors, including Hannah Stelter, who will be setting up her Designed by Hannah kiosk at the mall.
A Minnesota State University Moorhead student majoring in graphic design with minors in studio art and advertising, Stelter had always wanted to open her own business. When the pandemic hit, she lost one of her part-time jobs — and without being able to go out with friends, she found herself with more time to work on art.
“Having all of the time to work really helps me develop my voice as an artist,” she says. “When I started painting more, I started honing in on what I wanted to say as an artist.”
She opened her online store in April and developed a following for Tuesday night drawing sessions on Instagram that led to sales. Business is more successful than she would have thought. So good, in fact, she will soon quit her other job to focus on her studies and making more art.
While she’s done some pop-up sales and mini makers markets over the last year, most of her sales have been online and to clients from out of the area — some even out of the country.
Still, she’s looking forward to the greater exposure that comes with Unglued.
“I’m excited to be with like-minded creatives and get my work out to the local community,” she says.
“Makers are just grateful there’s an opportunity to connect,” Morken says. “People are so excited to hear that just something is happening and there’s so much you can do and be involved with over the weekend.”
If you go
What: Unglued: Craft Fest
When: 4-8 p.m. Friday, March 12, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 13; the virtual fest will take place online 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, March 14, at bit.ly/ungluedvirtualfest
Where: West Acres Shopping Center, 3902 13th Ave. S., Fargo
Info: the event is free to attend; www.ungluedcraftfest.com