“I craft so hard, I sweat glitter.” Unknown
I have noticed over the past few months, aside from the usual festive season events at the end of last year, that there is a craft revolution going on here in the UAE with regular markets and bazaars popping up all over the place. Now I know this post is probably not of any interest for male readers, unless of course you want to earn some brownie points with your other half and suggest a craft market outing or buy a special one-off gift.
Now this craft revolution may not be a completely new thing, just something that my not so acute observation skills may have missed but it’s now firmly on my Abu Dhabi radar. We are as usual playing catch up to Dubai who have seen a wealth of crafty (those of a talented nature not a deceitful one) people surfacing for the past ten years, with lots of events to market their hand-made products.
It’s a refreshing change to wonder around an outdoor market and source goods that are handcrafted and locally produced as opposed to the standard shops in the big lifeless malls. Outdoor markets, popular for years in Dubai have been embraced by the capital’s residents with a great big bear hug and everyone is enjoying them while it’s still comfortable enough to browse outdoors in the cooler winter months.
Weekend crafts markets have been launched to Abu Dhabi’s Corniche by the operators of the Dubai Marina market scene and will run until 3rd May (Thursdays to Saturdays from 2pm to 10pm) ). An array of stalls offering a range of locally sourced goods such as home decor, gift items, art, home-baked goods, plants and organic fruit and vegetables are available at the market located on the East Plaza (by the public beach and 30th street).
The operators, Roslynne Bourguignon and William Turner, both British expats, worked with Emaar in Dubai to launch their first market at Dubai Marina which was a collection of fifty stalls and an art area. They then collaborated with Dubai Properties to launch “Covent Garden Market Dubai’ back in 2009 with sixty-five stalls on The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence.
As told to the National newspaper Bourguignon said “Outdoor markets are becoming more popular here as a place to find the unique and unusual while enjoying the outdoors, as unlike Europe we are almost guaranteed seven months of good weather.”
Just before Christmas, the Yas Marina Market was introduced to the Abu Dhabi craft scene and is now a weekly event held every Saturday (10am – 4pm) on the promenade at the marina and will run until April. I have visited a couple of times and it’s a great location for a spot of lunch in one of the marinas restaurant and a little browse. Hopefully the market will continue to develop and grow and attract more vendors as it’s a great idea. The Christmas events were very popular with carol singers and a visit from Santa himself, who arrived by boat with his elves. The market facilitator Eileen Swift also organises craft markets at Al Zeina and Yas Links Golf Club.
In her interview with The National, Swift said “I realised there are a lot of people in the same boat in Abu Dhabi, who create quirky crafts and need somewhere to sell them” she added. “Outdoor markets are very well attended in Dubai, so the time is right now for regular outdoor markets in Abu Dhabi.”
A relatively new initiative that has been introduced to the capital is the international-themed pavilions that make up part of the six continents attraction at Khalifa Park. Syria, China, Egypt, Pakistan Turkey and the UAE are currently open for business with hundreds of market stalls selling goods from each of the respective countries. The event is set to run until April 12, and organisers hope it will become an annual feature for Abu Dhabi, as Global Village is for Dubai.
Another well-known supporter of local artists and crafters is Cafe Arabia, which hosts its arts and crafts community souq several times a year, where local artists and artisans can sell their home-crafted wares as well as the range of goods available all year round. Eco-city Masdar also holds a two-day farmers’ market and craft fair at certain times of the year to promote sustainability and this Sunday (23rd February) Abu Dhabi Golf Club will be hosting another one of its successful Shopping Soirees (10.00am to 2.00pm) run by Tiny Bean events.
As well as promoting local enterprise, all these events also offer home-grown businesses a chance to sell their homemade goods legally and as there seems to be so many talented expat artisans here from across the globe who live here and have set themselves up to exhibit and sell their wares. Out and about on my travels around the city and by the power of Facebook I have discovered some desirable products and the lovely ladies responsible for their creation and I thought I would share two of my favourites with you here……
Melissa Parkinson is one such lady who owns Milly B Designs and makes the most delightful and unique handcrafted gifts including bunting, cushions and fabric hearts among other fabulous products, from her apartment here in Raha Beach. With a Textile degree and a wealth of experience designing in London, Melissa is a whizz with a sewing machine also has an eye for selecting beautiful fabrics that would brighten up any expat home, especially if you have younger children and are looking to decorate a nursery or playroom. Her order book was chock-a-block over the festive period with people snapping up her Christmas bunting and cute tree decorations and it looks like 2014 will continue to be a busy and productive year as her unique handcrafted gifts, available for all occasions, are in high demand. The teenager has benefitted from my passion for her fabric hearts which are so cute, bright and affordable and she ships to the UK.
Another very talented lady is Catherine McEvoy who runs The Little La La Co from her home in the city. A regular on the Abu Dhabi buzzing craft market and bazaar scene, Catherine makes stunning hand drawn and cut out designs which that can also be personalised to customers exact requirements. I first came across her products at the Swiss Christmas Market back in December and have purchased three of her designs so far, including a fabulous LOVE picture for the teenagers room, a gift for a family member in the UK and a personalised Engagement present. I have my eye on her stunning Grand Mosque and Hand of Fatima pictures, watch this space! Each design can be made with any of Catherine’s large selection of colourful backings and choice of frame to coordinate with individual customers wishes. Her latest venture is creating beautiful hand-made cards that reflect the designs of her already very successful pictures, a great and welcome addition to the greeting card scene which is quite poor here compared to the UK.
So for all you uncreative types like me there are an abundance of markets, bazaars, open houses and shopping soirees right here on our doorstep with so many opportunities to purchase beautiful handmade and ‘heartmade’ (made with love and passion) products to brighten up the huge white spaces in any expat abode. Happy Shopping!