What do you get when you take six Atlantic craftspeople that have never met before and put them in a 20 by 10 foot booth at the Toronto Gift Show?

A whole lotta collaboration, brainstorming and fellowship.

For four days, as one of five lucky exhibitors with the Atlantic Craft Alliance at the recent Toronto Gift Fair, I pitched my heart out about vinegar to retailers from across Canada and came away with new customers, some hot leads and several new friends.

Leigh McFarlane of The Soap Company of Nova Scotia was simply one of the best salespeople I have ever seen in action (and as an ex-publishing person that is saying a lot). Upbeat, in constant movement, sharing her enthusiasm and passion with others – she was a true inspiration. Her ultimate aim is to create more jobs on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia. And her beer shampoo in a bar is fantastic!

Sylvie Roy makes natural lip balms in multiple flavours in Fredericton NB  – she is funny and endearing and deceptively low key. After meeting Sylvie everyone who came into our booth became a lip balm person (if they weren’t one already!).

Joanna of Field Day Paper is an artist who is all about drawing and observing the natural world. Her cards (Farm, Field, Forest and Holiday categories) are gorgeous and have to be seen to be believed. It’s tough for an introvert like Joanna to also be a salesperson so she had her good extravert friend Maya on hand to help her out. They were hilarious together. Total yin and yang. But in a good way.

Speaking of helping each other out, Jenn Huntley of Bambee Apparel (gorgeous bamboo and merino wool leggings, skirts – the fabric was TO DIE for) was there with her sister Melanie (the two run Lady Luck Boutique in Halifax).  Think of the Kardashians if the Kardashians were cool and nice and funny and stylish.

Speaking of funny, Cassey Collins is the brains behind Classy Cards – her tagline is The Cards that Say What Everyone is Thinking. You’ve seen these online – “Let’s Drink Wine and Judge People” being one of my favs.  She is a powerhouse. And a creative force. And she loves wine so I love her.

So six of us in the booth (eight if you include helpers Maya and Melanie) and not a cross word was spoken. Six women who had never met before the show. Who had all invested considerable money and time to attend.

Everyone under a considerable amount of pressure but you would never know it.

We laughed, brainstormed and encouraged each other over four long days (in the compound), sustained by expensive sandwiches and potato chips (with some vinegar on the side for sampling!).

As makers, our products are wildly different but I think the motivation behind them is similar. We all want to connect with others and to tell stories about why we make what we do. And to share our enthusiasm and passion for the things we make WITH OUR HANDS.

They are all Wild Mothers at heart.  And they were the best gift I could ask from the Toronto Gift Show.

(Special thanks to Bernie Burton, executive director of the Atlantic Craft Alliance, for bringing us all together. And to Doug Phelan and Jo Ann Innis of ACOA for their encouragement during the show. And to the Government of NL (Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation) for travel support.)