I have just made myself some english porridge and a latte and I’m listening to “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper, so I am here and happy and ready to share a very special collection with you!
This past weekend, the Renegade Craft Fair made its yearly stop on Division St. four blocks from my house. And I was is heaven. Seriously. Anyone who has read this blog with any sort of regularity knows that I am pretty into hand-made creative whozits and whatzits (especially textiles), so this was like all my favorite doors of the internet were brought to my neighborhood and flung right open for me to touch and taste and see! And it was so, so good.
It was actually a really busy weekend for me, but I rearranged my life to be at the fair as much as I could. I love fairs, festivals, civic events, really anything with booths. These sorts of things make me giddy and in a holiday mood, just very genuniely happy, so I made it a point to let happiness be happiness and find my way to the Renegade Craft fair three separate time over the course of the weekend. First, alone after a long day volunteering at a thing that I did not want to be volunteering at. Second, early in the morning with Isaiah and our pup Ferdinand peeking at the fair before it was open, watching vendors set up and munch granola bars. And, third, with my sister, in the evening, where I got to show her all my favorite booths. Which is what I’m going to also do for you today! I’m going to show you all my favorite booths from the craft fair, because most of you weren’t there, and some of you probably were!
I love the spirit of the thing, the fact that we live in a place where it is possible to make things and sell them, to self-publish, to carve out a space for oneself and one’s creativity in the big world. Modern making is a very woman-forward space (not that men aren’t present, but it was clear that the vendors at Renegade were predominently female), very empowering and plucky. Folks are making things and making things happen. Folks are redefining entreprenuership through making beautiful goods. Good things are happening.
Usually at craft fairs, I sort of creep around booths hoping that the makers won’t notice me and try to talk with me. I get pretty sheepish and nervous at these things, probably because of some mixture of the fact that I’m terrible when first meeting new people and because I’m sort of starstruck by makers in general. But, this time I was far more bold than I usually am. I struck up conversation! I asked questions! I made eye contact! I stepped into the community even just a little bit and tried to be a real person, tried to honor the intricate work being sold by the bundle, tried to engage in some way. And I had a much better time because of it. I feel like I met some people, even in just a tiny way, and now I’m excited to show you the incredible work these people do.
When I am looking at a maker’s goods that I know I can’t afford (basically anything above $15 is out of the question at this financial juncture) I always want to tell them somehow that I would if I could. That I wish I had money to buy their work and support them. That I hope someone will. Because I’m sure every maker is just a little crestfallen when they talk to someone who seems really interested, someone just like me, and then that person walks on to the next booth. I’m sure that’s a little bit exhausting and sort of heartbreaking, when your life’s work is literally out on the table and lots of people are looking but no one is buying. I’d buy something from each of these people if I could, but I can’t. So, instead, I try to make it a point to let them know that I’m taking their card. I try to let the maker know that I am interested in their work, that I don’t want to forget them, that they stood out to me. Because they did. I only take a card when I really want to remember. I know that I’m just one person out of a sea of hip, fancy, art-devouring fair-goers, but I hope that encourages the maker even just a little bit. I’d hate to add to a sense of downtroddenness in them by just admiring and then moving on.
It’s tender business, this buying and selling, and I don’t know what to make of it, really. I’m not a person who buys things very often, to tell you the truth. I’m a fantastic window shopper, with wish lists stashed on every hard drive I’ve ever had. I love curating collections of beautiful things (as witnessed on this very blog), but I’ve never been a person with enough money or the temperment to buy things on a whim or without forethought. It takes a lot for me to swipe my credit card (unless I’m buying something like a donut or a slice of pizza, in which case I follow my whims all over the place).
At the craft fair, my habits of spending money were sort of at the front of my mind. Because a craft fair is exactly the sort of place where I actually want to spend my money. I want to support people who make and sell their own things. I want to buy from the maker so much more than I want to buy from some big box big corporation. In general, this is becoming easier and easier to do, what with online commerce becoming more and more accessible and finding my way to a maker is only the internet away, but it’s still so easy to spend money instead at Target or at Zara or at terrible places that are actually sort of not helping anybody at all. Things cost more when you buy them from humans rather than corporate robot machines. Things take longer to get to you, things may not be uniform or perfect. It’s a habit shift, a practice in choice, mindfulness, priority-alignment, but it’s a habit shift I want to learn to make.
My father is a small business owner. He sells and repairs lawnmowers in a small river town near Pittsburgh. Every time someone buys a lawnmower from my dad, they have decided to buy a lawnmower from a human rather than from Home Depot, and for that I am glad. That is something good about the world. That is something that I want to carry forward. Giving my money to other people, not to corporations that I don’t understand, that don’t need my money at all, that is what I want to do when I spend my money.
So, when you don’t have much money to spend (the plight of the twenty-something) and you’re at a craft fair, what do you do? You smile, you ask for a card, you tell the maker that you think that what they have made is beautiful, and you remember. That’s enough, I think. I hope.
Here’s a list of the artists I wanted to remember, the cards I took and carried home with me in my bag, the things I’d buy if only I had the money.
- We Are Always Moving Industries. Minneapolis, MN. The thing that caught my eye at this booth is this fantastic waxed canvas lunch bag, reminiscent of brown paper bags, crinkled and soft. I also loved their wooden milk crates. I spent a minute talking to the woman at the booth about the lunch sacks, and she was really kind. I’ll probably say that a lot about people in these accounts, that they were really kind, but it’s true. Good people making pretty special things. Check them out. I’m thinking about buying a lunch sack in retrospect in the natural color, so that my work lunches will feel a little more cozy and in place. We will see. (@waamindustries)
- Calica Studio. Ontario, Canada. This booth was manned by two gal pals, a collaborative textile-designing duo who had met in college and never stopped working together even though they live in two separate cities. They were only selling one thing, a magnificent printed scarf, so soft, and beautiful. I was interested in the piece that had inspired the pattern for the scarf, a chaotic machine embroidered wonder. Check out their website for a collection of gorgeous silk scarves. I want one of each. (@calicastudio)
- Hillery Sproatt. The blankets Hillery makes caught my eye from their spot on the table in their corner booth. Beautiful, vibrant, gorgeous, woven in the USA and designed by Hillery. I’d love to drape one over my couch. So hard to choose a favorite, but this one stood out to me. (@hillerysproatt)
- Anthology Objects. Chicago, IL. Dainty, gorgeous ceramics. I was especially drawn to a garland she had hanging in her booth, sort of like this. And the striped vases, all fabulous. She also has some really cool sculpture stuff going on. And she is based in Chicago. (@anthologyobjects)
- Nikki Darling Confections. Chicago, IL. I bought these candies both days I was at the fair. Seriously. The vanilla sea salt was by far my favorite, but the lime fruit chew I sampled was also excellent, like a homemade starburst. (@nikkidarlingco)
- Son of a Sailor. Austin, TX. Listen, I’m not a big jewelery girl. I pretty much just wear my wedding ring and some earrings sometimes. Usually at craft fairs I skip over the jewelery booths because I find them to be repetitive and not what I’m most interested in or impressed by, but this booth made me double back and take a look. I love this jewelery, the careful use of color, the thin chains, the shapes. Really special. I loved this bracelet. Also their dog collars! (@sonofasailor)
- How Could You? Brooklyn, NY. The embroidered pins by this maker are SO COOL. All the embroidery, detailed, textured, nuanced, amazing work. (@howcouldyouclothing)
- Rebecca Mir Grady. Chicago, IL. A treasure of the craft fair. Rebecca’s booth primarily displayed her jewelery, which was lovely and well made but not what I was interested in. No, off to the side was a small shelf of tiny books, hand made and filled with line drawings, maps of the arctic, tales of exploration, incredible artifacts telling of other lands. Friends, check this out. It is very special work. (@rebeccamirgrady)
- Sarah K. Benning. You guys, I got to meet an embroidery star! I’ve been following Sarah on instagram for years. She is one of my very favorite embroidery artists, and she was there in the flesh sitting in a booth at the craft fair! I got up my courage to talk with her about granola bars and Netflix. She likes to watch The Office while she stitches! How about that!? Truly a lovely person, the kind of person we could all be friends with, and her work was more gorgeous in person than on the internet. So cool to meet her and tell her that I think her work is beautiful. Isn’t it awesome when the internet suddenly becomes an IRL wonder? (@sarahkbenning)
- Cortney Heimerl. Milwaukee, WI. Last but not least, MY FAVORITE BOOTH AT THE FAIR! Cortney’s booth caught my eye right away with the hanging quilts (!!!) and the colorblocked American flags she had on display. I’ve been so itchy to start quilting, but intimidated by my lack of other friends or mentors quilting near me. It was really special to be able to walk up to Cortney and tell her that she is doing something that I want to learn about. I asked her questions, I told her about the quilts I own made by Isaiah’s grandmas, about how I’m so excited to try it myself but I don’t quite know how to start. The third time I visited the fair, I bought this pattern, the one that she said is best for beginners. She was lovely, and I wished that I could have dinner with her or something to ask her a thousand more questions. Check out her quilts on her website. Soon I’ll be posting about my first stab at quilting–as soon as I can rustle up the supplies. Someday I’ll buy one of her flags, and most likely more patterns too. (@cortneyheimerl)