Alexandra Zernik, Contributing Writer
In a small upstairs room of Chop Suey Books in Carytown, a vast collection of handmade products lines the walls for the annual Bizarre Market — a holiday season pop-up event held from Nov. 23 to Dec. 24.
“[The motivation behind the event is] to showcase the genius of the Richmond maker community and to encourage people to shop locally and support artists in their endeavors,” said Bird Cox, coordinator of the event and executive director of Richmond Young Writers.
About 60 vendors showcase a variety of different products. From bath salts to cooking salt, the room is filled to the brim with art, candles, toys, accessories, toiletries, food, decor and more.
“As vendors drop off their goods and the elves set things up, the upstairs gallery at Chop Suey transforms into a magical mini-wonderland,” Cox said.
Another element of the event is the “Tiny Auction.” Vendors donated one-of-a-kind, 5-by-5 inch or smaller pieces. Customers can bid on these miniature items — through Dec. 9 — to raise money for the Richmond Young Writers scholarship fund.
Richmond Young Writers is a creative writing organization that offers classes, workshops and camps to kids ages 9 to 17.
“It’s a really great organization where kids are able to express themselves and create in a really safe space,” said Kayla Runion, a teacher at Richmond Young Writers and one of the vendors at the Bizarre Market.
The organization contributes picture book projects to the market created through a collaboration between the program’s students and local artists.
“It’s a chance for the kids to have their story illustrated by an established artist in Richmond and the artists are donating their time and skills,” Runion said. “It’s a really beautiful collaboration when that happens.”
Runion referred to the market as a “web of creators,” given the means to showcase their work and see the reaction from the community in a relaxed yet “bizarre” environment.
Runion said many shoppers in Carytown are drawn to the market by an alluring aroma of soaps, candles and other products.
“I think 70 percent of what draws people in here is the smell,” Runion said.
The market has been held for 14 years and will continue annually in the future. Besides this holiday segment, the market is also featured at other locations throughout the year for day-long or weekend events.