It turns out I accidentally moved to the German mecca for handmade arts just in time for the two day festival. Each summer, Jülich hosts their annual Kunsthandwerkerinnenmarkt- the market for artistic handmade goods. There
are about 250 artists selling their wares in booths, live bands playing music, and multiple food vendors to visit. It is one of the biggest handmade goods markets in Germany, boasting 40,000 visitors. For a town of 34,000 people, that is very impressive!
The booths completely filled the large plaza in the center of the city. As we walked through the rows of booths, I was humbled by how much talent was concentrated in this square of land. I walked the entire market, stopped by all 200+ booths, and not once did I see the same thing twice.
There were works in metal, ceramic, glass, paper, canvas, stone, wood, wool, fleece, thread, leather, paper mache, and combinations of all. Giant ceramic ants crawled on a garden post of forged metal. Leather bags were stitched with the Cologne skyline. Silverware was transformed into jewelry. Wool skirts hung in a booth next to the artist hand-spinning more wool to pass the time. Colorful paintings offered people on the beach or on a bicycle with accompanying quotes about enjoying life. Branches dangled small wooden sculptures and whole benches were carved from the tree. And the food… African, Turkish, Portuguese, German. All delicious.
As I walked along I saw endless hours and effort on display in each piece of artwork for sale. I had a wonderful time exploring everything and supporting artisans. I thought I’d share a few of my favorites.
The highlight for me was Dhara Reisner’s booth of Saxoflöten. I was blown away by how cool these are. They’re instruments carved from locally sourced bamboo reeds. They look like flutes, but sound amazingly like saxophones. She handmakes each instrument in the key of C, B, or G in two octaves. They are beautiful works of art and the sound just draws you in. As she played to demonstrate, people were drawn to the booth from all around. It was like watching the Pied Piper in real life.
There were other musicians around, including Aiyana Kanti. She plays meditative music on a Hang- an instrument made of two half-shells of steel glued together. It is based on the idea of the steelpan, but the sound is softer, warmer, and resonates like an udu. The sound is really enchanting. Here is a small sample:
The final booth I’ll share was an assortment of locally sourced all natural fruit and berry liqueurs, vinegars, and leather made by Obstwein aus der Eifel. They offered flavors of peach, plum, sour cherry, strawberry, rhubarb, and passion fruit- just to name a few.
I hope the next time you hear of a handmade goods market that you jump at the chance to visit. I promise it will be a day well spent!