Flea Market Profile: The Big Heap

The Big Heap Vintage and Handmade Festival is not your typical vintage or handmade crafts fair. Considered one of the top gatherings in the West for indie crafts, vintage style and repurposed designs, the flea market distinguishes itself by only allowing vendors to sell pieces of the utmost quality, with real technique behind them—not the usual hobbyist handicrafts found at other fairs. “We’re looking for the best ‘pickers,’ junkers and indie artists that are doing anything that’s innovative—things that are going to set trends,” says cofounder Lori Cowherd. “They’re not just the same thing you’re going to see everywhere else.”

vintage festival

The Big Heap Vintage & Handmade Festival (Photo courtesy of Cave Creek Thieves Market)

A spinoff of the larger Cave Creek Thieves Market, The Big Heap is typically held in April and November each year in Cave Creek, Arizona, just north of Phoenix and Scottsdale, with roughly 100 unique vendors drawing in 10,000 to 15,000 people to each fair. Focusing on unique crafts, clothing, furnishings and other oddities, Lori says in a nutshell that the flea market “is a refreshing take on repurposing, upcycling or upstyling.”

Here, you’ll find anything from birdhouses to blacksmithing, benches repurposed from old Chevy truck floors to mid-century furniture, and antique typewriters to coats fashioned from scraps of old sweaters. “We’re looking for quality things put together well, with a good design sense—things you don’t usually see,” says Lori. “We call our vendors ‘creative scientists’ because they’re out there in their basements, or their ‘labs,’ creating and innovating things that other people are going to pick up on; it’s going to be a trend.” Some items are salvaged, while others are peculiar finds spotted by an eagle-eyed picker.

Photo courtesy of Cave Creek Thieves Market

While the aesthetic tends to lean more toward the masculine, neutral and classic, the items here appeal to both sexes. The Big Heap attracts more men than the other indie craft shows in the area because of its interesting lineup. “We want the best,” says Lori, “from vintage clothing to furniture designers, and we’re looking for people who are repurposing things and reassigning some kind of new use or value to older things.”

Here’s what you can expect during your first visit to this unique flea market. At The Big Heap, there’s plenty available to delight your indie tastes, and you’re guaranteed to find several pieces that inspire or intrigue you, or ones that speak to your own particular style.

• What you’ll find here: A variety of vintage furniture, mid-century modern pieces, jewelry made of remnants of other vintage jewelry and other vintage items, upcycled clothing, vintage clothing, architectural salvage, birdhouses and other odd finds.

Photo courtesy of the Cave Creek Thieves Market

• What you won’t find here: Bath and body products, scented candles, fine antiques, fine art, dreamcatchers, collectibles, figurines, guns or holiday-themed ephemera; and nothing new or mass-produced.

• Live entertainment: A local bluegrass band performs during the festival to entertain the masses while they find what strikes their fancy.

• Dining: As part of the larger Cave Creek Thieves Market, food trucks are on hand to cater to your every foodie desire.


by Margie Monin Dombrowski

Photography courtesy of Cave Creek Thieves Market




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