In the basement of St. Michael’s Church in the Mile End, Oliver Stenberg reaches over a table for his five-week-old daughter, Cotton.
She finds comfort on her father’s shoulder as he rocks and bounces her amidst the hustle and bustle of the craft fair. Customers pause in front of Stenberg’s table to look at the traditionally made soaps in scents like lavender, rose and vanilla.
Each product is engraved with “c44”, for Carriage 44, the family business run by Stenberg, his wife and his mother.
For little Cotton, it’s the first of many future appearances at Puces POP; an indie and eclectic craft fair for people of all ages.
Held by POP Montreal since 2004, Puces POP has been a platform for artists and craft makers of all media to showcase their work, expand their clientele and meet loyal customers.
The fair is held three times annually, with each show bringing different artists and a different vibe to the tables.
“It kind of came about naturally. There are all these people around making interesting things, [we got] them all together in the context of this festival,” said Puces POP director Tessa Smith. This is Smith’s third year as director and the position keeps her incredibly busy.
“It’s kind of non-stop. I’ll sleep Tuesday but then I get right back into planning the next one. Applications open up in October and the fair is in December,” said Smith.
Puces POP is held in September, December and June. The fall fair runs simultaneously with the annual POP Montreal music festival. It brings in many out of town visitors and has the highest amount of customer traffic.
This year, it hosted 75 artists, but the number per each fair varies. Out of the 300 to 400 applications Smith receives for each fair, there can be anywhere between 60 to 90 artists chosen.
“We look for a certain quality of work as the first thing. It’s nice to have a mix of people who are really new, who just started their business,” said Smith during the opening night of Puces POP. “But also people who have been coming to the fair for years and are kind of established, familiar faces. It’s nice to have a balance of the two.”
There is also a collection of different merchandise present at each show. From artwork to jewellery, beauty products to food, every artist brings something unique.
For Kerri Westlake of Westlake Designs, Puces POP encouraged her to transform her knitting hobby into a full-time job. Westlake started knitting when she was six years old. Today, she sells her items in six Canadian boutiques, at craft fairs and on the popular craft website, Etsy.com.
“I think it’s really valuable and I think it’s a trend among a lot of people that sell at Puces POP,” Westlake said as she knits behind her table. “Especially where it’s really hard to get a job as a youth right now, with the economy the way it is. So it’s really wonderful that Puces POP allows people to make their own work, doing something you love too,” she said.
Westlake Designs and Carriage 44 products can both be found at General 54, a store in the Mile End. But Stenberg finds something very valuable about the Puces POP experience, for crafters and shoppers alike.
“I think meeting customers and seeing what people like, seeing how people react to things and getting feedback is crucial to developing your business. And we love POP Montreal and Puces POP.”
The December Puces POP dates and location have yet to be confirmed, but check out popmontreal.com/segment/puces-pop for updates.