“Art” & “craft” Experiment or My Wife is Torturing Me This Summer

I don’t understand the appeal of craft fairs. I’m all about going to art exhibits. I enjoy other independent forms of creativity – fiction, films, performance, music, theater. But for some reason, craft fairs just irk the shit out of me.

But. I love my wife. And they make her happy. Especially if she has a bit of pocket money to buy stuff.

So this year, she’s decided, for the sake of our blog, that I should go through some public torture for the entertainment of others.

She’s a giving person that way.

Hold it right there, mister. We both agreed to this experiment. The experiment is, can someone begin to love craft fairs by attending as many as we possibly can. As of right now, we have 30 on our calendar between now and the end of October. I also extended the term craft fairs to include festivals, pop-ups, artist studio openings,expos, etc.

It’s not just about “craft fairs and Joel’s torture.” Instead, we are exploring the world of arts and crafts. What makes something “Art” with a capital A versus “arts and crafts?” It is a fun experiment and a time to ponder philosophical questions.

Besides calling these art and craft fairs “public torture” is snobbish, Mr. Hagen. 

On Saturday, April 16, we began the craft season in St. Paul with not one, but TWO fairs. Both with entry fees.

not sure what to think
Me, outside the depot. Feeling dubious about this whole operation.
Ready to get to craftin
Becky, outside the Depot, looking FAAABULOUS and enjoying every minute of this.

The day began at about 11 at the St. Paul Union Depot, where they held the Lowertown Pop “We Pop Up. You Pop In,” event with a couple dozen vendors. The nice thing about this one, as opposed to the fairs I’ve been dragged to in the past, was the ample space, the tables, and the presence of artisan foods.

Becky let me sit and write while she roamed. I did spend about 4 minutes walking around, and some booths were pretty nifty. I particularly liked the Bruno Press and their collection of greeting cards. Their slogan “Bruno Press is an old school letterpress printshop. Don’t let the potty mouth scare ya, we are good people.”

We loaded up on foods – chocolate from Groveland Confections, a honey ginger drink which is a crafted, historically delicious and versatile outdoorsman’s beverage made by the Superior Switchel, salsa from Double Take Salsa, and Cajun spice made by Minnesota Nice Spice. All in all, that’s my kind of craftin.

honeystuff

braceletbeads

Of course I let him sit and write, there were several booths that caught my attention. I had my chakra read at an incredibly cheap price and then purchased a lovely bracelet for my meditation practice from From Your Mat. But I was mostly there for the honey. Beeline Honey comes from honey made at the Union Depot. It is home to five rooftop beehives. I read about the hives before this show, and knew I wanted to help support the endangered honeybees. Guess what everybody is getting for Christmas!!

Depot
Train depot – lots of room, pretty building.
candles
Candles! Good for smelling.

I also purchased a few pretty homemade candles by HipNoses. They have an extremely long burning life and the smells are fantastic. I had a great time, and I was encouraged that Joel didn’t look as bad as I expected.

This is what a craft fair should be! Quick. Pleasant people. Lots of room to breathe.

Then, we went to the dark side. The American Craft Council at River Center.

Alright, I know that saying anything negative or going against the American Craft Council is like going against the mob. Joel doesn’t seem to understand that. What we saw at this year’s ACC Fair was the crème da la crème of the American Craft World; like the Oscars for film: it is an honor to be nominated as possible fill-ins if one of the artists doesn’t make it.

Every type of art has their own “Going to the Show,” “Making it big, “Getting the Call:” This “getting call” is the ACC for many artists because then they become “found” and their pieces turn from one-of-a kind-objects to mass produced items where they can make money being a craft artist.”

Someday I hope I get called up, we all do, in whatever field we are in. We have, at least, to tip a cap at these artstis because through hard work and dedication they made it to the majors.

A disclaimer for the remainder of the blog: The writer’s commentary does not reflect the views and the opinions of The Bacon and Ice Cream Blog.

bunker time
Concrete bunker

Becky stopped me at one point to make sure I wrote this down. “I cant’ stand people who are so egotistical and don’t notice the people around them and trash the stuff right in front of the artist. They say things like ‘I can do that’ or ‘Isn’t it just like Betty’s?'”

In no way do I condone that sort of snobbery. Look, not everything is my cup of tea, but that’s not the point of a craft fair. I admire people who put all their effort into mastering a way to express themselves and who take that out into the world and are able to sell it to others who appreciate what they do. It’s all subjective, and maybe that’s why crafts are so cool. You can do a thing, make a thing, and you can find other people who like that niche thing. It’s not mass-produced, so it doesn’t need to be mass-appreciated. It’s more personal than that. You meet the artist, you dig their stuff, you create a one on one relationship.

How to sell
This guy knows his audience – wooden Christian stuff, dogs and cats and penguins.

That being said, craft fairs can still be overwhelming. I present my notes, unedited.

A concrete bunker of a show with six aisles of stuff. Becky looks content and loves chatting with the artists and complimenting their stuff. The wooden pottery is impressive and beautiful, but I don’t understand fabrics so I glaze over them. After 1.5 aisles, I’m spent. It took an hour to do that much.

There’s a crowded quality to this fair. A feeling that if you pause to look at anything you will be in the way, and a simultaneous hatred of anyone else who stops to look at anything. When Becky stops, I don’t know where to go to be the most out of the way. Stopping to wait causes bottlenecks. Soon I miss Becky and wonder if she will ever return to me.

She does. Looking content and happy.

Most of the stuff here starts at $50, and I’ve seen some in the several thousand dollar range already. I don’t know what it’s like to have disposable income for pretty things that make you feel good to have at home.

So Many SCARVES!

not feeling the best
Me, beginning to feel the effects of being in the shit.

One artist shears sheep every year of their lives and makes a blanket out of the wool from each sheep. You get a picture of your sheep.

Whose crafts these are I think I know,
I’ll sit her and drink my frozen mango

All work and no play makes Joel a dull boy

Frozen
Mango
is my
Friend

Did I do something to deserve this?

 

Why. why. why

Quoth the raven, “canvas floor.”

 

Becky came to get me after she went through a few more aisles. Even she had lost her steam against the growing crowd. She showed me a few things on the way, most impressive of which were the booths set up to teach about the various crafts, like this one.

fabric class
Fabric class
Classes
Pottery class

The only piece of art I still can’t live without was made by Jac from West Grove Design. She makes amazing jewelry designs of lakes. I’m still working out how to purchase Lake Itasca.

This first foray into fine crafts created cravings for carnage. I’m not sure how this experiment will continue, or more accurately how I will continue surviving in this experiment, but for now, I am.

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4 thoughts on ““Art” & “craft” Experiment or My Wife is Torturing Me This Summer

  1. There’s a woman at the Craft Council show who sells jewelry rings made with dolls’ eyeballs, and I WANT ONE. Except they’re, like $200. Sigh.

    Superior Switchel is amazing! I love that stuff. Also, she has a recipe on her website for a hot toddy involving switchel, apple cider, and bourbon that’s really a fine cool autumn beverage.

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