3 local artists discuss their crafts ahead of inaugural Alexandria’s Makers Market

At the weekend event, you’ll find hand-painted ornaments, customized holiday decor and witty Christmas cards from these Alexandria-based makers.

Finding unique, personalized presents during the holiday season isn’t always easy.

Yet this holiday season, purchasing individualized presents for your picky mother and hard-to-shop-for brother will be a lot easier, thanks to the inaugural Alexandria Makers Market coming to Port City Brewing on Sunday, Nov. 24 from noon to 6 p.m.

The affair will feature knickknacks, tchotchkes, holiday-themed decor and more, all designed and created by 25 Alexandria-based vendors. 

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Before the event takes place, we chatted with three of the makers—Meg Biram of Meg Biram Studio, Laura Hooper of Laura Hooper Calligraphy and Martina McDonough of Narwhal Design Ink—to find out what they are looking forward to about the market, the items they will be selling and the joys of the holiday season. 

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Monday and feeling like . #amirite Already looking forward to a pizza dinner with friends.

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Meg Biram: Entrepreneur, full-time blogger, consultant and artist

What are you most looking forward to about the inaugural Alexandria Maker’s Market?
I’m excited to see how people react to my products and see what they enjoy the most. It will be a great learning opportunity for me as I continue to make products in the future. There’s nothing better than seeing people in person react to your product. I also can’t wait to see the other vendors! Hopefully I’ll have a chance to walk around and see them! 

moon ornaments
Photo courtesy of Meg Biram

You’ll be debuting ornaments at the event. Where does your design inspiration for those come from?
My personal vibe is a neutral palette and edgy style. I like to mix modern, global, and edgy things together. I also love the idea of a traditional, real green Christmas tree but decked out with unexpected ornaments. Like a black-and-white tree theme or going for all neutral colors like a mix of tans, whites, and golds. I felt like there wasn’t what I was looking for in ornaments on the market, so I made them myself. 

lip ornaments
Photo courtesy of Meg Biram

Do you make custom-made ornaments?
I will do custom ornaments, yes. I actually have a heartbeat ornament where you can send me someone’s heartbeat and I’ll recreate it on the ornament. It’s a great way to break the news that you are pregnant to people during the holidays by giving them the custom heartbeat ornament as a gift, or just for yourself. I’ve also had people say they want it because someone in their family just got through cancer, so I think the heartbeat just represents life and I love that. 

I’ll also do custom one-off ornaments at the event and I’m developing some custom designs for wholesale orders, local shops, and the Alexandria Scout Guide—part of the proceeds of that ornament will benefit a charity.

Will you be selling anything else at the event?
I will also have my hand-painted clothing, my screen-printed clothing that I designed, a few pieces of art and art prints. If I can somehow get a few other surprise products in by then, they will be there also.

evil eye ornaments
Photo courtesy of Meg Biram

What’s your favorite part of the holiday season?
To me the holidays are about quality time with people you love, which usually also involves food and wine. But spending time with the people that mean something to you in life is really what it’s all about. I also love snow. Please give me a white Christmas! I love holiday parties, hot beverages, and just the cozy factor of the winter. 

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Thought it might be time for another #fridayintroductions! We’re Laura {on your viewing left} & Alyssa…sister duo behind @lhcalligraphy. Originally from Los Angeles, Laura & the biz moved to Alexandria, Virginia 6.5 years ago & Alyssa relocated to Alexandria as well in 2018. We’re completely different in so many ways, but both bring our strengths to the business to best serve our wedding calligraphy/stationery clients as well as our calligraphy students & online shop supporters. Our workshop students tell us they enjoy our “sister banter” & we think it’s pretty cool too that we get to work together…even if we sometimes drive each other a little crazy ‍♀️ – Alyssa & I love sharing this art form with so many of you, so THANK YOU for being here & supporting our small family business as well as calligraphy as a whole. – Say hello below & tell us where you’re following along from…sometimes this app can feel a bit lonely, so let’s let each other know we’re not talking into the void Workshop: @theschoolofstyling Photography: @allyandbobby Venue: @mcalisterleftwich HMU: @teaseandblush

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Laura Hooper: Calligraphy artist and business owner with her sister, Alyssa Law

What are you most looking forward to about the Alexandria Makers Market?
Meeting fellow Alexandrians and knowing our hand-lettered items will be brightening their homes for the holiday season. Throughout the year, we focus on workshops, wedding client calligraphy and stationery production, so the holiday collection is really the only time that shoppers can get personalized pieces of my art outside of wedding work and my fine art paintings. We love doing the lettering in person because it’s truly mesmerizing for others who aren’t around it every day and we have so much joy seeing that. 

pumpkin and plant with calligraphy
Photo courtesy of Laura Hooper Calligraphy

What products will you be showcasing at the event?
We will have our hand-lettered pumpkins, perfect for Thanksgiving place settings and centerpieces, along with ornaments, votive houses, decorative pots and stocking hangers, all available to be customized with hand-lettering on the spot. Additionally, we have a selection of hand-poured candles, napkins, cutting boards and mugs all featuring my pointed-pen script.

Tell me more about the calligraphy starter kit, which is a part of your holiday collection.
The holiday collection is really fun for us because we spend all year sourcing really high-quality items that we can personalize by hand for our customers. We have a lot of people who purchase an ornament every year! 

Our starter kit has been a signature product in our shop for six years now. We’ve taught over 15,000 students through our in-person workshops as well as online course offerings  When you purchase the physical starter kit, you also receive access online to our two-and-a-half-hour video tutorial, walking you through all of the tools, how to prep them, how to use them, practice strokes and then demonstrating a full beginner alphabet, letter by letter, upper and lowercase. Our starter kit includes high-quality tools, curated to work well together for beginners, along with detailed, down-to-earth instructions on how to actually get them to work for you.

hand-written candles
Photo courtesy of Laura Hooper Calligraphy

Are you participating with other local makers to make your holiday items come to fruition?
Yes! Our candles are hand-poured by Maryland Candle Company and a limited edition of our ornaments are hand-painted by fellow local artist Katrina of Lindale Studios. 

Do you have any workshops coming up this winter?
We do! Our next workshop will be on Dec. 7 at our Old Town studio and then we will pick up again next February. 

hand-written calligraphy on house
Photo courtesy of Laura Hooper Calligraphy

What’s your favorite part about the holiday season?
Definitely decorating! I adore decorating my home and that is what originally inspired us to carry a line of hand-lettered holiday decor. I found myself lettering items for our own family and I wanted to be able to offer personal, custom items to our customers as well. 

Narwhal designer posing with work
Photo courtesy of Martina McDonough

Martina McDonough: Entrepreneur and illustrator

First of all, I have to ask: Why narwhals?
About six years ago when I lived in Hawaii, I became scuba-certified. I was diving a lot and became extremely interested in sea life, especially seahorses and whales. That’s when I learned about the coolest whale of all—narwhals! The first sketch I made of a narwhal became my logo because I just loved it so much. I find it fascinating that there is no narwhal in captivity and that the narwhal “horn” is actually a left canine tooth! They are just plain awesome and unique.

beer-themed holiday card
Photo courtesy of Martina McDonough

What are you most looking forward to about the inaugural Alexandria Makers Market?
I am very excited to sell with and meet other local artisans. I am also very excited to sell in person and interact with customers, as I mostly sell through my online Etsy shop, Narwhal Design Ink. Plus, I love beer! 

What will you be selling at the event?
I will be selling single holiday cards and eight packs of holiday cards, along with many others greeting cards for different occasions. I will also have my tank top collection, along with a few new designs! My wide variety of illustrations will be sold as prints that might be great for the home, office or even a yoga studio. Many prints include word play that can make the image funny, inspirational or a great gift.

have a narly christmas card
Photo courtesy of Martina McDonough

Talk to me about the process of hand-drawing each card and turning it into a final product?
I hand draw all of my illustrations with usually pencil or ink and then scan them into my computer where I add color and typography within Photoshop. I print all of my work on heavy-duty printers using a bright white premium paper and archival inks. I love being able to color-proof all of my work and be sure each one is perfect! As for cards, it’s the same process, I just score and fold to size and package up with an envelope. 

woman and her family 2018 christmas card
In 2018, Martina McDonough and her husband spent the holiday apart. For the annual holiday card, she edited images of her family together. (Photo courtesy of Martina McDonough)

What’s your favorite part of the holiday season?
This year, being together as a family will be my favorite part. I know it sounds simple, but my husband is in the military and last year for Christmas he was deployed for seven months and it was just my boys and I for the holidays. They are 2 and 4 years old now, so I am looking forward to coming downstairs to our Christmas tree in the morning, as a family, and seeing their excitement as they tear through the presents Santa brought.  

Last year I had to figure out how to do our Christmas card and piece two photos together. I do love the card, but I get emotional every time I see it. At least this year we can take just one photo all together as a family. 

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