During the holiday season leading up to Christmas, local craft fairs were popping up all over Quebec. While most were fairly small in size, Montreal hosted the country’s largest professional crafts show at Place Bonaventure throughout December. The 10th annual Salon des métiers d’art du Québec (SMAQ) welcomed over 400 craftspeople who displayed their diverse and contemporary crafts, and featured an art installation involving over 60 First Nations textiles artists.


The SMAQ provides great alternatives when it comes to holiday gifts. Unlike big box stores, the Salon offers distinct and original Quebec-made products, which is great for local economies and the environment. Not only that, it creates an opportunity for people to share more thoughtful gifts while at the same time supporting local artists and small businesses.


There was no mistake that the 2011 edition of the Salon was a large-scale event with lots to see. The professional crafts on display covered a large variety of products, some of which you may have never seen or heard of before. As at most crafts fairs there was an abundance of jewelry, and other fashion-oriented items, hats, bags, knits and other accessories. There were ceramics and candles as well as toys and musical instruments. While these types of items dominated the fair, there were several artists who showcased truly original art.


For those who love music, Gilles Perrault had a booth for a percussion instrument called the tamböa, which is a hand-carved hollow wooden box that creates the most pleasant sound when struck with rubber-tipped drumsticks. In the accessories department, Cynthia DM offered one-of-a-kind, handcrafted, silk-screened handbags and totes. Her bags come in a variety of beautiful earth tones and most have images of various birds and animals, a great gift for your eco-friendly acquaintances.


By far the most original and most interesting at the Salon were Michel Boire’s wood sculptures. Using discarded wooden logs as a starting point, Boire creates beautiful abstract sculptures of birds out of pieces of wood that most people would throw away. His creations are striking and unique. Part of the fun of his work is that he makes use of the scraps from the sculpture to create a form-fitting casing for each piece. That is equally artistic.


Although the main focus of the SMAQ are the crafts, be they practical or decorative, you can also find food and drink goodies. Tucked away in one of the corners of the exhibition hall there was an area saturated by artisanal food vendors, many offering free samples of their products. Here you could find a wide variety of Quebec products that ranged from specialty teas and chocolates, to ice cider and game meats. While most of the edible items can be enjoyed by all, people with more experimental palates should check out products from the Ferm Québec-Oies, such as goose and other less common delicacies, and Gourmet Sauvage Inc. for treats made from wild flowers and other plants.


While shopping is the focal point of the SMAQ, there was an interesting exhibit called the “Quilt of Belonging” (www.quiltofbelonging.ca). Founded by Esther Bryan in 1998, the 120-foot long collaborative textile project was designed to bring together the unique personal and cultural stories that enrich our country.


Over 300 artists volunteered to participate from all over Canada, from St. John’s to Victoria, including 71 individuals from First Nations communities. Using materials ranging from sealskin to silk, the colourful project highlights what bind us together, it “celebrates our common humanity and promotes harmony and compassion among people” – a lovely sentiment to hold on to in the New Year, if not always.