Looking for a fork bracelet, earrings made out of grass or maybe a handbag made from vinyl? Then look no further than the artisan market in Medellín.
Held on the first saturday of every month, the San Alejo Market is a melting pot of innovation, creativeness and absolute genius.
If you’ve explored all the shopping malls and need something more than conventional shopping in Medellín then the artisan market is the place to go.
You’ll find handicrafts that you never even knew existed, and the best thing about it is – they’re all so unique that you’re guaranteed to be the only one wearing a bracelet made out of a fork (that type of fork anyway).
They can practically turn anything into jewelry and dried grass is no exception…
Since 1981 this talented lady who lives in the Andes near the small town of Amaga has been doing just that and I was lucky enough to join her two weeks before the market to see her in production mode.
Taught as a child, she spends her hours weaving together the grass before adding seeds for beads, transforming it into earrings, arm cuffs, and necklaces.
Creating the jewelry takes three to four hours for a small pair of earrings, or up to four weeks for a sombrero – a masterpiece which is still an absolute bargain at 20,000 pesos ($10).
And to make it even more economical, she grows her own grass then dries it to give it a special yellow color before working her magic with a needle and thread to bind the grass together, ready to sell as the finished product at the market.
She was just one of the stalls in this funky market and meandering around, vibrant colors and pure creativity just jumps out at you from every stall; sculptures made out of batteries, palm leaves woven into baskets and even hanging lights made out of pumpkin seeds.
Is there anything these people simply cannot make?
In fact, it’s so authentic that sellers are eager to show you how homemade it all is by creating it there and then so you know it’s definitely not made in China.
The man who made this bracelet had great pleasure in telling me how he transformed a fork into a stunning piece of jewelry.
Made out of an antique silver fork (not just any fork), a fork bracelet takes four hours to make.
Finished with crystals before being bent into a bracelet, this bracelet looks like something you’ll find in a vintage shop (for half the price!) and will only cost you 50,000 pesos ($26.50). An absolute bargain if you compare it to UK or USA prices.
You can even take part in a live auction as artists sell the paintings they’ve just created in front of your very eyes by bartering with the crowd (just don’t do what I did and opt in at the first price before realizing that you could have got it so much cheaper).
You can literally spend hours mooching around and searching for the perfect gift for yourself or a loved one and there’s even something for the kids: fairy dolls for the girls and leather strappy sandals for the boys. But if you really can’t decide, then buying a ‘surprise’ will help those who are indecisive.
In colored paper, a surprise is literally just that and until you buy it, you won’t know what’s in it. It’s like Christmas all over again.
When you need a break from shopping and sampling some of the local produce, there’s entertainment laid on for you as the circus comes to town.
Watch the juggler, the pogo stick man or the salsa dancer as you regroup before getting ready to work your way around the second half of the market.
There’s even more to explore…
Felt bags with colorful parrots, espadrilles to keep your feet cool in the warm tropical weather and colorful bowl candles as well as even more jewelery from bronze bracelets to tin arm cuffs and a necklace which stops half-way around your neck – genius!
If you’re into the hippy scene, there’s a good range of crystals to add to your collection. And yes, there is even jewelry made out of precious stones too. They have literally got everything here and I even spotted pairs of flippers being sold.
So where is this funky market with everything under the sun?
San Alejo Handicraft Market is held in Bolivar Park with the nearest metro station at Parque Berrio.
Just keep walking past the Botero statues in Plaza Botero through a shopping market then head left and you’ll find the market at the end of the precinct. Look for this sign and you can’t go wrong.
If you’re looking for the perfect gift, the artisan market is definitely where it’s at. Just don’t forget it’s on the first Saturday of every month so you don’t miss out!