'BOUT a decade ago, if a Philadelphian wanted to stuff a stocking with a locally made, totally handcrafted ceramic mug, one-of-a-kind clutch, crocheted floral cap or burled maple earrings, that Philadelphian would probably have to make the item - or beg a crafty friend to do it.
Maybe, if such shoppers were savvy enough, they could snatch up the stuff at a bar.
In 1992, artist Jody Sweitzer founded a pub-hopping, preholiday craft sale called Traveling Wares, at Dirty Frank's, at 13th and Pine, where she still works.
Back then, Sweitzer recalled, she and seven artist friends "were definitely doing something exciting and new." Twenty-one years ago, Traveling Wares was a rare holiday oddity.
These December days, however, such events are so common, they're hard to count.
Philly's current roster of pre-Christmas craft markets have spilled out of bars to occupy artist studios, vacant spaces, historic shambles, school cafeterias and storage containers.
Some double as flea markets. Some sell furniture. Most vend made-nearby soaps, handknits, stationery, scarves, pottery, ornaments and other cute-to-edgy art.
Some have live music. Some have brewed-by-the-cup coffee. Many have beer. Many more have cupcakes.
The scene, said Megan Brewster - co-founder of Art Star Bazaar, co-owner of Northern Liberties' Art Star boutique and co-curator of the new-this-year holiday craft show at Penn's Landing's Waterfront Winterfest - "is becoming a little bit oversaturated."
On the other hand, said Brewster, "It's putting handmade into everyone's mind," and, after all, "I'd rather people shop handmade than shop at Walmart."
If you feel the same, here's a guide to craft markets where the shopping isn't just nearby. It's also local.
Fair & Square
Etsy darling Sara Selepouchin hosts this one-evening-only pop-up tomorrow at her sweet Passyunk Avenue shop.
For sale: Her own Girls Can Tell screen-printed fabric goods (including new Liberty Bell, Boathouse Row and South Philly landmark King of Jeans tea towels), plus elegantly creepy Miss Millie porcelain, Betsy Ann's Philly-theme handmade paper goods, sparkly hair adornments by Giant Dwarf and indigo-dyed home goods by SquidWhale.
Bonus: Handcrafted cocktails by Art in the Age.
Occassionette, 1825 E. Passyunk Ave., 6-9 p.m. tomorrow, 215-465-1704, occasionette.com.
Art Star Holiday Market at Waterfront Winterfest
Curated by the founders of the crazy-popular summertime Art Star Bazaar, these temporary, RiverRink-side shops occupy a half-dozen twinkling and cozy storage containers that stay open past Christmas. Each free-to-enter space features rotating works by one or two beyond-cute, nationally important crafters.
Bonus: Also for sale are spiked cider, cocoa and chai to sip by fire pits while making s'mores. Plus, inexpensive ice skating.
Columbus Boulevard and Walnut Street, 4-8 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Dec. 19-Dec. 23; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Dec. 27- Dec. 31. Closes at 6 p.m. Dec. 29. holidaymarket.artstarphilly.com.
The guy who brought the Brooklyn Flea to the Piazza at Schmidt's is doing his first-ever preholiday thing weekends in the old Center City Strawbridge's. Most of the merch is vintage or antique, including thick wool blankets and cool midcentury-modern furnishings. Most of the 40 to 50 vendors in the ethereal space have an eye toward stocking stuffers. And shoppers can stuff themselves with Milk + Sugar's turtle cupcakes and Elixr's pour-over coffee.
Bonus: Live bossa nova jazz.
801 Market St., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 21, noon-7 p.m. Dec. 20, franklinflea.com.
Greensgrow Holiday Bazaar
Kensington farm and nursery's sparkling greenhouse hosts an annual shopping tradition. Fresh trees, wreaths and garlands (all for sale) make things look and smell festive, while neighborhood-made wooden toys, planted ornaments and house-made hot sauce make clever presents.
2501 E. Cumberland St., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday (greenhouse open 1-8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday), 215-380-4355, greensgrow.org.
Punk Rock Flea Market
It's Year 10 for concert and venue entrepreneur Sean Agnew's fairly huge, warehouse-housed sale of stuff for what he calls "younger, like, hip people." The 511 random sellers - vendors sign up on a first-come, first-served basis and come either Saturday or Sunday - offer everything from rare records to lush terrariums, with lots of "flea market stuff" in between.
Bonus: Get the music lover in your life a discounted 10-pack of passes to any concert by Agnew's R5 Productions.
461 N. 9th St., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, $3 suggested donation to enter, R5productions.com.
Philadelphia Open Air Market's Christmas Village
Center City's other Christmas Village (the first one, at Love Park, is open daily and sells crafts from around the world) takes place in Headhouse Square. Under the shelter of Society Hill's historic brick shambles, you'll find Amy LaRoux selling infinity scarves, Practical & Creative offering animal-shaped piggy banks, the Quondam Tree vending wooden jewelry and toys, and more.
Bonus: Santa stops by 1-3 p.m.
2nd Street between Pine and Lombard, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, phillyphair.com.
There's always a line to enter this one, mostly because the first 50 shoppers each get a Girls Can Tell tote bag stuffed with promos and coupons. Show founder Amy Buller called the event "100 percent shopping, 100 percent handmade." Read: No booze, no tunes, just groovy stuff to buy from several dozen makers, including Little Things' baby clothes, Made by Liddy paper flowers, Yard Sale Press' Scrabble tile coasters and laser-cut garlands from Masters of None.
Bonus: Fleischer Art Memorial will set up a table for crafters young and old to DIY gift tags.
Ss. Neumann Goretti High School, 11th and Moore streets, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, craftybalboa.blogspot.com.
Easily the eldest of the bunch, this ultracool show began 21 years ago at Dirty Frank's. Traveling Wares visits a dive a day, and includes both longtime and up-and-coming Philly artists who make funky jewelry, fly clothes and other original art. Oh, and they never run out of beverages.
Ray's Happy Birthday Bar, 1200 E. Passyunk Ave., 215-365-1169, 1-6 p.m. Saturday; 700 Club, 700 N. 2nd St., 215-413-3181, 12-5 p.m. Sunday; Tattooed Mom's, 530 South St., 1-6 p.m. Dec. 21.
Go West! Craft Fest Holiday Edition
One of the friendliest festivals around (not that they're not all fairly friendly), West Philly's version has nearly 50 hand-makers on hand, thanks to Baltimore Avenue-based organizer VIX Emporium. Stuff to snatch up: Ken Beidler's earthy pottery, fresh illustrations from Super De Duper and screen-printed home goods from the Attic Youth Center (where your money goes to support youth in crisis).
The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, gowestcraftfest.blogspot.com.
South Philly Handmade Brigade
Nine years ago, ceramist Melissa Crotty (of Miss Millie porcelain) invited a few artsy friends over to her apartment for a party and sale. Now, the bona fide neighborhood tradition takes place in her and her pals' studios. Among the 20 "really good vendors," said Crotty, are Anne Koszalka, who makes figurative pottery (splurge on a commissioned pet portrait on tile, $90-$120), and Gretchen Miller Seel, who turns vintage fabric into awesome bags.
Bonus: Photojournalist Jessica Kourkounis and her giant wooden crescent moon (made with help from artist Sarah Kaizar) will be on hand to shoot amazing black-and-white portraits of people and pets, $20 apiece, while-u-wait.
1241 Carpenter St., 2nd floor, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, info via Facebook.com.
Philadelphia Independent Craft Market
More than 60 area sellers vend their wares at this juried show. Look for vintage-inspired jewelry, hand-dyed pouches, cool ceramics, quirky knits, up-cycled handkerchiefs, plus vintage clothing, accessories and plenty of vinyl. Show helper and jewelry artist Aisha Loeks described the scene as "bohemian" and "a circus feel," with the main attractions being affordable gifts, live DJs and bands, and kegs of Philadelphia Brewing Co.'s Kenzinger.
Crane Arts Building, 1400 N. American St., noon-7 p.m., Dec. 21, $2 suggested donation to enter, info via Facebook.com.