review by Tiana Kirk

Editor’s note: Through no fault of Tiana Kirk, this review unfortunately had to run late – our apologies. However, the Royal Bison website will be opening again for its Spring event (May 2021), and we can all look forward to next Christmas, so I hope Tiana’s introduction will be useful.

In the last twenty-four years, I have lived in many cities, towns, and hamlets throughout Alberta, British Columbia, and Eastern Australia – the past two have been spent between Ritchie and Oliver. Over the years, each locale offered its own sense of community but I have never felt more encouraged to support local businesses and organizations than I have here in Edmonton.

For both years I have worked at local-owned businesses that are active members of the communities they reside in, and have made an impact on how I think about local economies.  I had heard talks of the Royal Bison Craft Fair, through coworkers beaming about their finds – beautifully crafted, artisanally speckled pottery – just days after the spring 2020 event had ended.

I will admit, as an introverted homebody, I had been quite ignorant and a rather passive participant in these kinds of events but my envy and I were determined not to miss out on the next fair. I was warned, by the same coworkers, that the vendors tended to sell out of product alarmingly quickly, so it was a welcome surprise that this season’s event would last twelve days – with new products being added each day.

As someone who is cooped up in her house and looking for the perfect Christmas presents for loved ones while actively trying to avoid Amazon, I am thrilled at this extension of the fair. An introvert’s dream, this bi-annual event is all online this season, due to COVID-19, and all vendors are offering free shipping Canada-wide.

The Royal Bison website is quite user-friendly, and very visually appealing with vibrant colours and Christmas ornaments –  giving the option to shop by artist or category, even by your budget if you scroll down far enough. As a broke college student, some of my favourite finds have been in the “under $25” section. There are also links to learn more about the history of the event and answers to some FAQ if you’re into that kind of thing.

As for the products – pins to masks, postcards to sweatshirts, prints, totes, cards – you name it, they’ve crafted it. Now, I’ve never considered myself to be a “pin” person, but I am currently embarrassed to let you in on how many pins I’ve bought in the past two days. My boyfriend doesn’t even know – I’ve arranged my desk to hide my soon-to-be-overflowing pin jar.

It started innocently enough, abright orange fox – too cute to pass up and on sale. On. Sale. Something in my little gremlin brain snapped after I hit purchase, soon my cart was full. Golden bees, fortune cookies, a dorito, a Christmas sweater that I fantasized about placing on MY Christmas sweater.

After thoroughly confusing the “subjects Tiana is interested in” algorithm, I ended my pin spree with three bottles of Strathcona Spirits gin pins. It rhymed. It became my scape-goat, a present for my gin-loving boyfriend. Innocuous Christmas shopping at best.

Aside from a flourishing pin addiction, some drool-worthy items that will live on my wish-list until I’ve won many lotteries include Ravel & Rove (macramé earrings, wall hangings), Keri V. Leatherworks (the most beautifully casual backpack I’ve ever seen), and Nor Official (a jumper dress I would live in – it has pockets).

I’ve found something for nearly everyone on my shopping list, in the god-send of a category that is $25 and under, and still have money leftover to buy a couple more pins. Some personal favourites include Cyanotype Paper Goods (plant stickers, charms, and notebooks), and Plantiful Apothecary (Castille Bar soaps in five scents).

The online shop offers Canada-wide free shipping and refunds if any merchandise is damaged upon arrival, which only adds to this community-based, homey feel to the fair. It made my shopping trip feel mostly guiltless, only wishing that some products were cheaper or that I could have afforded to buy more.

I strongly recommend checking this one out if you’re into shopping local and cute crafts from the comfort of your home – except for pins, they may all be gone and in my jar by the time you finish reading this…

Royal Bison craft fair
next fair: May 2021