hen most people think of arts and crafts, two images typically come to mind. Some think of the classic church basement craft show where retired ladies hawk doilies.Others might remember second-grade art class, where they made handprint turkeys and might or might not have eaten paste.
But what about a marketplace of young urbanites buying and selling items like handmade books, yoga mat bags and vintage jewelry that draws a crowd of thousands?
That’s exactly what goes down at the Crafty Supermarket, Cincinnati’s premier indie craft showcase, which hosted its Holiday Show Nov. 20.
“Indie crafting is based on the DIY concept,” Crafty Supermarket co-organizer Grace Dobush says. “It’s a handmade movement.”
Dobush, 28, is an editor at Family Tree Magazine, a bookbinder/printmaker and author of a business guide for fellow part-time indie crafters, Crafty Superstar: Make Crafts on the Side, Earn Extra Cash and Basically Have It All. She probably knows what she’s talking about.
Having always loved crafting — “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making things,” she says — Dobush wanted to bring the indie craft scene to the forefront of Cincinnati. In 2009, she attended the Summit of Awesome in Washington, D.C., an aptly named annual conference to sustain the handmade movement with seminars, workshops, speakers and other general awesomeness. It was there where Dobush first met Alisha Budkie, a graduate of UC’s DAAP and shoemaker also based in Cincinnati.
The pair enventually hooked up with Chris Salley, co-owner of the Northside gallery/shop Fabricate and program director of Girl Scouts of Western Ohio. Fabricate (which recently re-opened at 4037 Hamilton Ave.) caters to creatives with plenty of locally produced handmade items, and the materials with which to make them, to be exhibited and sold.
The talented trio hit it off and wasted no time producing the first Crafty Supermarket in November 2009. Drawing 20 funky sellers and more than 1,000 shoppers, it was clear that the indie craft movement was growing in little ole Cincy. There have been two more similar events since, each drawing even more buyers and vendors.
One such vendor was a crafting newbie, 31-year-old Kate Dignan. She created Uniquely Upcycled, a line of apparel, accessories and home decor made from renewed and vintage materials. Dignan, unlike the aforementioned DIY veterans, just joined the handmade gang when she inherited her grandmother’s Singer sewing machine in December 2009. Eager to learn, Dignan taught herself to sew and began planning new projects.
“We’ve become so disconnected from materials in our post-industrial, throw-away culture,” Dignan says.
What better way to counteract that than by not only getting in touch (literally) with materials but also creating something new and useful out of something that could be in a landfill? That’s indie craft mentality, for ya.
So you don’t have to be Martha Stewart to make cool projects, but where to start? When looking for a springboard for crafting ideas, the answer isn’t always in a craft store. While essential for some basic supplies, big-box shops often lack the ingenuity and unique materials to inspire most new-wave crafters.
“Indie craft is sort of the anti-kit craft,” Dobush says in reference to the cheaply pre-packaged, all-in-one-box craft kits that fill commercial craft depots.
Dobush advises entering the blogosphere, where countless alt-craft ideas await for you to glimpse, tweak and steal (often with accompanying video tutorials).
Dignan suggests that you go to your favorite expensive retailers and peep their latest styles.
“I’ll go into stores like Anthropologie when I need inspiration,” Dignan says. “I immediately get a ton of ideas I know I can make for less. It’s my personal way of stickin’ it to the man.”
Once you have an idea, Dobush and Dignan suggest shopping for materials at thrift stores, vintage shops and estate sales first. You’re more likely to find “where-the-hell-did-you-find-that” items on the cheap and build rapport with your suppliers.
“Don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t expect perfection and have fun with it,” Dignan says. “Don’t be afraid to just jump into a project.”
Just as people fill up with turkey and mashed potatoes during the holidays, landfills are pushed to their limits this time of year. If you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint this season, creating and upcycling your own gifts and holiday decor is a good place to start.
Grace Dobush’s books and paper goods can be purchased at www.graciesparkles.com.
Alisha Budkie sells her sustainable, vegan footwear at www.smarterthangoldfish.com.
Kate Dignan’s items and other handmade local gifts can be found at Fabricate (4037 Hamilton Ave., Northside), Park and Vine (1202 Main St., Over-the-Rhine) and Atomic Number 10 (1306 Main St., Over-the-Rhine).