Maker Faire vendor list]
Diana Fayt: Diana is both a traveler and a lover of home. She gleans inspiration from nature, the mundane and life’s stories. Her ceramic pieces are often narrative with marks of time, events and images seen and experienced and then drawn into the surface of her clay platters bowls and vases. By doing this she hopes to leave a permanent mark that expresses her vision of what she experiences in the world around her.
Remember when going to a craft fair meant wandering through a dusty church basement with your grandmother? Recall the mountains of Easter egg-hued pom-pom’ed hats, the macrame plant holders, the toilet paper and Kleenex box cozies? Yeah, you remember. So do I, but times have changed, and mercifully, so have craft fairs.
One of the best known and loved is the Renegade Craft Fair, launched in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois in 2003. It’s now going strong in four additional cities across the U.S.: Austin, Texas; Brooklyn, New York; San Francisco, California; and Los Angeles, California. Its massive success eventually led to the opening of Renegade Handmade, a permanent, brick and mortar extension of the Fair, affording a location for artisans to sell their goods year-round. The shop is sunny and vibrant, with something interesting to look at everywhere you turn.
I caught up with Sue Daly, the owner and one of the founders to ask if she was at all surprised at how these two enterprises have taken off. “I was definitely surprised when we started Renegade, just because there hadn’t been a way to measure the interest in the real world at that point. I knew the DIY craft community had momentum online, but was really happy to see people react so enthusiastically to the Fair and the artists and their work.
“It makes sense in retrospect — everything is so unique compared to what was available at other arts and crafts fairs, and especially what’s available in mainstream stores, and the like. I think bringing the DIY craft scene out, in more of a public marketplace kind of way, introduced people to well-designed items you can use and wear.”
But Sue is more than just an astute business woman with an eye on future trends, she comes from a family where crafting was always going on, and is a talented jewelry maker as well. “My mom was crafty. She was always working on some hobby project. Needlepoint, crochet and knitting mostly. She always wore folksy clothing and jewelry too, and I think I just grew up around interesting little accessories and everything. I’d tag along to the little boutiques and craft stores with her, and I think that inspired me most. When I was about 10 or so, I starting dabbling in jewelry-making and beading.
“So that’s how it all started. But then I grew up and starting making jewelry again in about 2001. I had some success selling pieces to co-workers and online, so I started doing arts and crafts fairs just for fun a couple years later. I couldn’t find an event where I really felt like my work fit in and wished there was a DIY craft fair to participate in. Then it occurred to me that it would be fun to start one. So, along with a friend, we started the ‘Renegade’ Craft Fair that year.”
As the old saying goes, location is everything and Sue possibly couldn’t have picked a better part of town to open her doors. On the day I visited, the shop was bustling with customers and curious passers-by, apparently oblivious to the recession that is plaguing so many retailers. Renegade seems to be fitting right in with the long-standing art and design vibe of the Wicker Park neighborhood. “The neighborhood loves our shop. We’re helping keep the arts alive in Wicker Park, and offer a completely unique shop in Chicago-at-large, too. Since we have a national presence with the fairs, we also get a lot of tourists and destination shoppers too.”
And, as if providing the community with a sunny storefront and shelves, racks, boxes and bowls filled with well-designed, unique handmade crafts isn’t enough, Renegade Handmade also plays host to several events and workshops. The roster of in-store events is as unique and varied as the merchandise. There’s something new to experience every time. “We began having in-store events and teeny gallery shows last September. It’s different all the time, so we don’t have regular workshops we offer or anything like that. We had two artists make things in our front display window one week, and they sold the items that were made at the fair at the end of the week.
“We had Jill Bliss paint us a custom mural in-store, and she had a show of her original drawings and accessories. We had a needle-work showcase featuring over a dozen artists for our last show. Jenny Hart came and gave an embroidery workshop, which was great. It’s been a lot of fun being able to showcase the artists and the work in this kind of way. The art shows fall under our Spotlight Series gallery shows that last about six weeks each time, while the in-stores and workshops are kind of pop-up events.”
And for those who are not local to Chicago, fret not. Since December 2009, Renegade Handmade has been selling online. “It just seemed like the next logical step in growing the store’s presence and success. With our national notoriety, we want give people who aren’t in Chicago the opportunity to buy the handmade goods we have available here.” So, Chicago has its hot dogs, its stuffed pizza, and now there’s Renegade Handmade bringing some of the city’s best handmade crafts to the world. The website is the place to go to learn about upcoming events in the store and at the Fairs, and to shop online. “On February 19th, we’re kicking off a new Spotlight Series event with Mummysam. She makes incredible soft sculptures with all natural materials. I’m a big fan of her work.”
You know what, Renegade Handmade? We’re big fans of you, too.
Renegade Handmade, 1924 W. Division St., Chicago, IL, 60622, USA.
On the web: http://www.renegadehandmade.com
May 17 to 23 is American Craft Beer week. At events across the nation, the art of the Craft beer will be celebrated by beer lovers, independent breweries, retailers and homebrewers alike. The annual festival has been the largest of its kind since 2006 and shows no signs of going flat (pun intended). To mark the occasion, I have assembled a small sampling of clever, handmade items that make use of everything that remains when the beer is gone, such as the bracelet by Michelle at Art Again (above). Cheers!
San Diego’s Stone Brewing Co was founded in 1996 and is considered one of the fastest growing breweries over the past 10 years. In addition to the seven beers that they brew year-round, they offer five “Stone Special Releases” annually and have seen an impressive increase in production over their 14 years in business; from 400 barrels in their opening year, to 98,500 in 2009. With numbers like that, it would seem that the gang at BottleHood have their work cut out for them. Created out of a desire to do something positive for the environment and the local economy, BottleHood opened up shop with their recycled glass creations. This set of tumblers, pictured above, was made from four Stone Brewing Co bottles, collected from restaurants and pubs in the San Diego area.
The story behind the Flying Dog Brewing Company involves a couple of adventurous ranchers, Sherpas, a runaway donkey, Hunter S Thompson and, perhaps least surprisingly, a flying dog. Since its auspicious (or suspicious) beginnings in 1990, the company has grown to a relative giant in the craft beer world; shipping over 500,000 cases per year world-wide. Success hasn’t tempered their gonzo spirit, though, and that is evident by their slogan “Good beer, no shit” and the unmistakable label artwork. Tracy of Squigglechick Designs, previously featured here, has taken one of my favourite labels from the Flying Dog pack and fashioned it into this one of a kind luggage tag. No one would dare try to snag your suitcase with this on the handle!
While researching the craft breweries of the West Coast, two words kept coming up – “Gold Rush”. Prospecting must’ve been thirsty work because from California to Alaska, there was a lot of beer consumed between 1864 and 1867. Lucky for us, the tradition of excellent, locally-brewed beer in that region has continued to this day. The Alaskan Brewing Company, founded in 1986, is keeping that rich history alive with their Alaskan Amber. Brewed from a Gold Rush-era recipe, the beer is just one of the reasons why the independently owned and operated company has the distinction of being the most award-winning craft brewery in the Great American Beer Festival’s history. The notebook pictured above was created by Fairbanks’ Princess Paige from an Alaskan Amber 6 pack bottle carrier. It would make an ideal beer-taster’s journal or prospector’s notebook.
While handcrafted beers can be enjoyed year-round, this is a great time to get out and learn more about the fine, independent breweries in your area. Many have special events, including tastings and tours; to find out what is happening in your area, visit the American Craft Beer Week events page.
If you love yarn and making things with yarn, then your new favorite place is Fibre Space. A beautiful, full-service yarn shop in Old Town, Alexandria, Fibre Space is the brain child of Danielle Romanetti and the brick-and-mortar manifestation of her popular mobile knitting club, Knit-a-Gogo.
Danielle started Knit-a-Gogo in 2006, teaching knitting and hosting fibre-loving events at coffee shops and bakeries in the DC area. Two years later, her client list and faculty had grown so much, she knew they needed a permanent home. In 2009, after careful planning and research, Fibre Space was born.
Danielle has created the perfect haven for knitters and crocheters because nobody loves yarn more than she does. She has done careful research and works hard to find the most beautiful and high-quality yarns in every imaginable category, for any project, and at every price point.
Fibre Space customers know they can rely on the shop for lovely natural-fiber yarns from both national brands and local spinners and dyers.
One of the most popular brands in the store is Neighborhood Fiber Company, from a local hand-dyer who names the colorways after beloved DC neighborhoods. The yarns are a favorite with locals and tourists alike, for both the ties to the nation’s capitol and their gorgeous, saturated color, which is unusual for hand-dyed yarn.
Danielle stocks her store very thoughtfully, and would love to tell you why she has chosen any particular product. Just ask!
In addition to the beautiful array of yarns, Fibre Space also provides books, patterns, needles, roving for needle felters and spinners, and notions of every kind. There’s also a space to sit and hang out with your latest project, as well as classroom space and an always-full calendar of events.
One of the most unique events hosted at Fibre Space is the Yarn Tasting. Periodically, Danielle partners with a local Alexandria business – a chocolatier or a bakery, for example – and invites her customers to come in and experiment with a new yarn and taste some locally-made goodies.
No full service yarn shop would be complete without an educational department, and Fibre Space definitely does not disappoint. With six experienced instructors (in addition to Danielle herself), the shop provides an extensive schedule of knitting and crocheting classes, appropriate for anyone ranging from the spanking-new beginner to the seasoned veteran. Private and semi-private lessons are also available.
Additionally, Fibre Space also hosts workshops on unique projects and techniques, like yarn dyeing or spinning. Other events include a Lock In Sock In, and the monthly Friday Night at the Movies. You can even host your own knitting or crocheting event at Fibre Space!
Fibre Space is located at 102 North Fayette Street in Alexandria, Virginia, and is open seven days a week, extra late on Thursdays and Fridays. You can keep up with what’s happening at the store, as well as progress on Danielle’s latest project, at the Fibre Space blog.