Powering the Craft Movement

Poptart and I wrote about volunteering one’s crafting skills last year when we helped build a community garden, but other skills are also vital to keep the craft movement strong. Craft fairs often need people who can help with set up, take down, customer service, vendor support, planning and much more so even when you’re not crafting, you can help fellow crafters succeed. Rather than seeing other craftspeople as competition, Poptart and I see them as partners in a craft revolution that is showing Americans just how valuable and heartwarming handmade and local can be. We are a community, and communities rely on the active participation of their members. That’s why Poptart and I believe so strongly in volunteering.

This past weekend we volunteered for the SF Etsy Indie Holiday Emporium held at Pier 35 in San Francisco. I have to admit that Poptart had to do a bit of convincing before I agreed to help with this event because it took place on Black Friday weekend in one of the most popular tourist areas of the city, and Poptart wanted to volunteer for the 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. shift on Small Business Saturday. However, her adventurous spirit and promise to provide plenty of coffee finally won me over, and we signed up.

Poptart found out about the event on Facebook from the SF Etsy page; the show would take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and about 168 Etsy Sellers would have booths. Poptart and I decided we wanted to help with set up and vendor support so we chose the early shift. This allowed us to avoid the holiday crowds on the commute into the city. We also chose public transportation to avoid parking drama. Finally, we didn’t take any purses or bags and wore light jackets in case there was nowhere to leave our things (there wasn’t). These are just some planning things to keep in mind to keep your volunteer experience as stress free as possible.

The best advice we can give you is don’t be shy. If you have a talent for a particular task let organizers know. They are often grateful for your enthusiasm and feedback. They also don’t have time to babysit or micro manage, so being confident in your abilities and with your task is important.

After getting a feel for the scene, Poptart and I quickly found a place we could be useful. We helped mark vendor spots at the pier, answered vendor questions and directed them to their spot, helped vendors set up their booths, and helped vendors haul their equipment and merchandise to their spot. There was very little parking in front of the pier for unloading, so many vendors were stressed and scrambling. It felt good to help relieve some of their stress by watching their merchandise while they parked, helping them get all their things where they needed to be, and troubleshooting any obstacles that popped up.

Poptart and I greatly enjoyed the experience. It was hard, fulfilling work that was appreciated by event organizers and vendors. Many event organizers came to us to thank us for our help, and vendors even stopped us after our shift ended to express their thanks. SF Etsy even dedicated a post to us on Instagram and Facebook:

Besides receiving warm thanks, each volunteer also received a gift certificate to use at the event as well as an adorable helper pin made by Rebecca Saylor of OodleBaDoodle that we got to keep. It felt great to check out the booths after our shift and know that we helped put everything together. The shopping after was, of course, a big bonus. Poptart and I found a truffula tree as well as new prints by two of our favorite local artists, Amy Rose Moore and Nidhi Chanani.

Another incentive to volunteer for craft fairs is the opportunity to meet and interact with your favorite crafters and artists. We were delighted to receive our marching orders from Rebecca of OodleBaDoodle, one of our favorite Etsy sellers (check out her adorable pillows!). We also got to speak with Amy Rose Moore for the first time.

But of course, the greatest incentive to volunteer for craft fairs is the knowledge that by doing so, you are crafting a better tomorrow, a tomorrow where goods are made and sold locally, artists and crafters are treasured for their skills and imaginations, and shoppers are not beholden to big box retailers. Long live handmade!

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Having Fun while Helping Mother Earth

Earth Day is April 22, and there are many crafty ways you can participate in the love-fest for our home. One way to get involved is to participate in art and craft fairs that use and advocate the use of leftover material and tidbits that would normally be considered trash. Richmond Art Center’s Upcycle fair is just such an event. The activities they offer at this FREE hands-on event show visitors how to use creativity to turn trash into treasures.

Upcycle is still new (this year was its second go), and already it’s run like a years-hardened event. The organization, atmosphere, and layout create a low-stress, high-fun environment with activities for all age and skill levels. The event is held at the Richmond Art Center, mostly in the inner courtyard, and this year it took place on Saturday, April 12, from 1-4 p.m.

The activities Upcycle offers makes even the grownups give in to the gleeful cries of their inner child, especially when presented with the opportunity to make something like a drawing robot. Poptart, the seasoned crafter, put me to shame at many of the booths, but  I still walked away with something I was proud of. We tried most activities, and though some booths were busy and required people to wait to participate, the wait was worth it. Besides, it was entertaining just watching what everyone chose to make. It was also heartwarming to see kids enjoying learning about the value of reusing materials and giving the earth as much of a break as possible.

The first activity we did was make screen-printed patches with Joyce Shon and Monica Gyulai. They explained how screen printing works and what to do and then let us apply the ink to our patches. Poptart then made a robot that draws by itself at the California 4-H Foundation. The gentleman at the booth taught everyone how to attach markers to a paper cup and to attach the battery pack and rotor to the top of the cup. The table and the nearby ground were covered with paper, so when a robot was finished, it could be set loose on a blank canvas. This was my favorite station. I loved seeing all the robots humming away and imagining the chaos they would happily cause in each creator’s home.

We then made bracelets out of bike inner tubes with Holly Carter. There were numerous examples available to guide one’s design, and Carter was generous with advice and instructions. All of the equipment and supplies one could want were available, and we were impressed with everyone’s results. There was a young girl next to us who created two bracelets like a pro.

The final activity we did was make a metal leaf with Ed Lay. He taught us how to fold the metal, cut it, pound the side to elongate it to the shape we wanted, and then fired the metal to make it pliable enough to open and finish. He was able to tailor his instructions to any skill level and age, and everyone seemed to be happy with the result of their work.

Other activities that were a joy to observe was the creation of a garbage can by Daud Abdullah and visitors using glass shards, glass beads, and other items, the blending of smoothies by stationary bike with Urban Tilth, the weaving of small rugs with Susan Sterling, and the creation of hats with Kiki Rostad. There were many more booths and activities to choose from. While enjoying the activities, we were treated to the otherworldly yet delightful sounds of the Crank Ensemble. They had a variety of what appeared to be hand-crafted instruments that made a music to resonate with one’s inner funk and quirk.

We walked away from this event with a wonderful variety of creations, and everything was free! However, many booths had donation jars to help make up for the materials used.  All of the activities were quick and easy to complete, and visitors of all ages seemed to enjoy them. Check out the Richmond Art Center website to learn more about the booths and performances: http://www.therac.org/html/calendar.html#upcycle.

Also, check to see if similar craft events are happening in your area. With a little creativity and a big imagination, you can craft a better tomorrow for the planet, and you won’t be left empty handed.

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