When the weather shows signs of warmth and the park begins to fill with picnic blankets and puppies, I know that craft show season is just around the corner. Among the chirping birds and blooming tulips is the sound of whirring sewing machines, snipping scissors, and a veritable garden of craft projects coming to life. The Renegade Craft Fairs have become a cornerstone of the blossoming DIY craft world and a pioneer of indie craft shows across the land. The first Renegade Craft Fair of 2010 kicks off this weekend in Austin, Texas. Be sure to swing by the Etsy crafting area at each fair to create a project of your own and meet Etsy Admin in real life.
Onwards to our interview with Sue Daly, Danny Orendorff, and Madelon Juliano, the people who make Renegade the amazing event that it is today…
Here at Etsy, we’re big fans of the Renegade Craft Fairs. For those among us who might not be as familiar with what you all do, could you tell us a little bit about the history of the Renegade Craft Shows? Where did you get your start and what is your mission for Renegade?
Thanks, we’re big fans of you, too! The Renegade Craft Fair began in 2003 in Chicago’s Wicker Park as a venue for emerging and indie craft talents to showcase their work in a public setting. At the time there were many young makers of handmade goods without a lot of opportunities to sell their works directly to the public, outside of small markets and consignment boutiques. Many had websites and participated in early online craft forums — this was, after all, before Etsy made life a TON easier! — but no large-scale, free-to-attend, outdoor event existed specifically for indie-craft makers in the Chicagoland area. It’s important to note the “indie” element, because while Chicago has numerous fantastic craft, art and street festivals and trade shows throughout the year, we wanted ours to really hone in on the blossoming DIY and indie craft communities.
After the event did so well in Chicago its first year we knew we had to do it again. Upon the realization that this model for a craft fair could succeed in other hubs of artistic, independent and entrepreneurial energy, we expanded to Brooklyn in 2005, San Francisco in 2008, Los Angeles in 2009 and will be having our first show in Austin this weekend, May 15 and 16, 2010!
The mission for Renegade is really based in our beginnings, in a sense. Our task, as we still see it, is to provide opportunities and an alternative public venue — one that is free to attend, in urban settings and extremely eclectic — for makers of handmade objects.
This year we’ve really bolstered the interactive and educational components of the fair by partnering with a number of local and national craft organizations to lead workshops and demonstrations at the fairs, including Etsy! The event will always primarily be a shopping event and an opportunity for craft-makers to reach larger audiences and network amongst one another, but we’re very excited to see more and more organizations interested in setting up some kind of skill sharing activity at the events. Attendees always leave our events with armfuls of great new purchases, but also with the inspiration to get to crafting themselves. Now we’re able to cater to that urge a bit more in the moment! And, we’ll have music and DJs from independent radio stations! With our recent expansion to Austin we had to get some great music going!
Well, great weather always produces great memories! In all seriousness, though, some of our proudest moments occur when the rogue, punk rock marching bands we work with (like Mucca Pazza and the Hungry March Band, right) come storming through the events. It really produces these sudden outbursts of celebration and reminds all of us, despite how stressed and crazy busy we may be at that moment, that these fairs are INCREDIBLY fun!
In the future, we’d love to continue to work with craft organizations on the development of educational workshops at the events and we’re really excited to see craft-makers expand their portfolio of skills and products. More than any other years, this year we have seen such an incredible diversity in the goods and aesthetics being produced. We only expect that diversity to expand in future years!
Sue: I’m a bit of a shopaholic, so it’s really tough to narrow it down to just one item! One favorite buy are these geometric laser-cut earrings made by Molly M. Designs. She uses her architectural training to come up with amazing designs for jewelry and small prints. I love these two little houses I bought from Nora Aoyagi — one is especially great, because it’s painted to look like a little haunted house. I kind of have a thing for little houses, so another favorite purchase were these grouping of houses from Kindling. They make beautiful housewares from recycled wood.
Danny: I have three! One is this outrageously funky orange and teal screenprinted poster from Chicago’s No Coast art collective promoting a Prince Dance Party! The second is a gorgeous, multi-color woodblock print that says “Slow Down! Speed Kills!” from Tugboat Printshop that Valerie and Paul gave to me on my birthday in San Francisco. Lastly, my bearded man screenprint T-shirt from Species By The Thousand (I’m wearing it in the picture above). Erica makes incredible drawings and selects the perfect nude, organic material for a tee — I wear it like twice a week!
Madelon: Tanya Aguinigas’s work never ceases to blow my mind. When I saw her booth at last year’s Renegade San Francisco Holiday Sale I flipped out! I ended up purchasing a hand dyed cotton square scarf that I’ve been wearing a lot this spring (Chicago’s been chilly!). On top of that, Tanya is an incredibly nice person and allowed me to sit and drool over everything she made. I also purchased a “bike lock holster” from Fabric Horse which I’m excited to use a lot more this summer when I don’t want to lug around a giant shoulder bag.
What is the number one reason people should visit a Renegade Craft show this summer?
Because there is, truly, something for everyone. It’s also an incredibly awe-inspiring realization to know that everything for sale in this park or building has been handmade by someone standing in that same park or building. While the fairs feature hundreds of vendors at a time, don’t feel overwhelmed — instead, take your time! It’s a lovely way to spend a weekend meeting new people, seeing (and buying!) incredible craft objects, learning new skills at a craft workshop and maybe catching one of those punk rock marching bands!
Will you be visiting a Renegade Craft Show this year? Do you have a favorite memory of a Renegade past? Share with us in the comments below!