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Monday, July 11, 2011

Observations from the Renegade Craft Fair

Posted By on Mon, Jul 11, 2011 at 1:00 PM

Wendy Gold has her way with the world in customizing globes for ImagineNations. - GIL RIEGO JR.
  • Gil Riego Jr.
  • Wendy Gold has her way with the world in customizing globes for ImagineNations.
Over the weekend, local artisans joined forces at Fort Mason for the San Francisco Renegade Craft Fair. The fair started in Chicago's Wicker Park in 2003 and has become a popular institution among the creators and lovers of "fine art and craft." It was the fourth time it's happened in San Francisco, and it continues to represent DIY/indie craft culture and our obsession with it.

A clear trend surfaced during my visit Saturday: reused, environmentally friendly materials for useless objects. (See some of my most memorable finds below -- and view a slideshow of the event here.) The most common crafts included things made from (reclaimed) wood, ironic (vintage) jewelry, salvaged photographs, and crocheted objects. (It's odd that I didn't see any made from reclaimed or organic thread.)

I believe crafts are important. Creating something with your own hands is among the most rewarding things anyone can do. The commercialization of crafts, though, is complicated. Often the people who are into crafts would rather make the works themselves instead of paying someone else who's already done it -- I don't think it's about the cost, it's really about the desire to experience the process. Crafting brings us back to a tactile activity that most people lack in their daily lives and occupations. (Hello, computers.)

You didn't have to look far at the Renegade Craft Fair to see people taking pictures and ooing and aahing at the workmanship, but I saw few handing over their credit cards. And the ones who did seemed to do so impulsively, with little interest in the particulars of the craft. Because those in the D.I.Y. community would rather, well, do it themselves, the smart artisans have focused on luxury and are making things that provide less and less utility, as if to say, "I know that you know you don't need this, but you want it nonetheless and you can afford to blow your cash."

Now, just because something is useless doesn't mean it is fantastic, beautiful, and totally cool. Just the same, something that has no utility can still enhance your life. At that point, however, I would argue that means it is art rather than craft, but that's an argument that's raged since time began. Whatever the case, it's just a funny phenomenon. The fair was a confirmation that we must really like stuff.

Next: Some of the most useless crafts I found.

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Stephanie Echeveste


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