British Columbia

Holiday market hustle: 5 tips for taking on the massive Circle Craft market

In its first incarnation almost half a century ago, Circle Craft was a small Christmas craft fair hosted in a small Vancouver church. 43 years later, it takes over the Vancouver Convention Centre every holiday season.

How to get the most out of your visit, whether buying gifts for family, friends or yourself

Potter Gordon Hutchens has been involved in the Circle Craft market for more than 40 years. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

In its first incarnation almost half a century ago, the Circle Craft market was a small Christmas craft fair hosted in a Vancouver church. 43 years later, it fills a huge hall at the Vancouver Convention Centre every holiday season.

Hundreds of vendors and a massive amount of floor space make it one of biggest craft fairs in the country.

We talked to the experts, the veterans of the Circle Craft market, to pull together five tips to make sure you get the most out of your visit whether you're buying a gift for family, for a friend or a special something just for yourself.

1. Don't rush

Once you're inside, you might be surprised by the sheer scale of the operation. The show sports more than 300 carvers, metalworkers, toy makers and many other different kinds of craftspeople from across the country.

To make sure you see it all, nearly everyone who spoke with Margaret Gallagher of CBC's The Early Edition recommended taking the time and doing a lap of the convention centre before making any purchases.

One mother-daughter pair had planned a systematic route around each vendor.

"You have to have that eye for sussing out the really significantly beautiful things," said Pamela Straker.

After years of visiting the Circle Craft market, this year Pamela Straker (right) brought her daughter, Bryana Russell (left), along with her. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

2. Take notes

As you peruse the aisles, take note of what you'd like to come back to and then move on. That's the advice Straker passed on to her daughter Bryana Russell, since it's her first year at the show.

"I've already taken photos of things that I'd like to look at in more detail," she said on Wednesday. 

If you'd rather leave your phone in your pocket, bring a pen and mark one of the site maps available at the entrance.

3. Talk to the vendors

Once you've completed your grid-like sweep of the convention floor awash in holiday colours, it's time to approach a booth.

Usually the person inside it is the one who made the objects at it, and asking someone about their wares is part of the experience.

"People in the booths are generally more than happy to talk about what they've done and how they got to where they're at and what techniques they used. And so that's one of the best parts for me," said Straker.

The 2016 Circle Craft market in Vancouver features hundreds of wares by artists and craftspeople from across the country. (

4. Wait before buying

With so many uniquely skilled craftspeople in one place, you'll be faced with a lot of choice. So before you pay — which at many booths can be done using cards or cash — organizers recommend you take a step back, and consider your options.

"There will be something that nags you and something that you'll want to come back for," said show coordinator Rossanne Clamp.

"I find I make the purchases that mean the most to me and that suit me the best when I give it a little bit of time."

Show director Rossanne Clamp recommends waiting after spotting a few potential purchases to see which sticks out in your mind. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

5. Come hungry

It's not all pottery and wood carvings at the Circle Craft market: there are plenty of vendors selling food as well. 

Chocolatiers, confectioners, fishers, growers, there are bites for any appetite. Clamp says a food break is the perfect time to consider what it is you'll leave the show with.

The market runs from November 9 to 13. It opens daily at 10 a.m. PT, closing times vary depending on the day

With files from CBC's Margaret Gallagher