Last weekend, Erin and I visited the Renegade Craft Fair in Williamsburg in search of inspiration from the young and creative artisans that have sprung up all over Brooklyn.
Traditionally, crafts have held a unique place on the scales of imaginative art-making: they’ve conveyed family, community, and cultural stories that are at times intimate, decorative, sociological, and spiritual. And craft museums and fairs have been capsules offering a glimpse and insight into old craft-making, and craft art. (It takes a big history buff to relate and look past the “surface-bore.”)
In my teens, I always got excited about trips to the local art fair, then crazy disappointed at what I discovered: a buffet of ceramic butterflies, tie-dyed everything, made-for-the-kitchen wooden signs with clichéd family idioms, and all the rest. But Erin had a different memory. For her, crafts shows were reflections of her grandmother’s home and filled with surprise – chests of beautiful, handmade, and original trinkets and things.
So on this weekend, at Renegade, there we were, Melissa and Erin, a counter-balance of positive, and negative arts-and-crafts psyches, and this is what we found: refreshingly original crafts booths and displays (outrageously different than what any mall could offer up), terrariums housing mini-people, stuffed puppets, and watch-jewelry. Our visit made me think of something else. In our age of everything digital and over-reproduced, we’re desperate to find anything rare, pure, unique, and imperfect. The recent success of make-and-sell community Etsy proves this. Etsy has begun to chip away at the strongholds of more premium brands because our culture today has begun to reject the fake, homogeneous, and cold presence of the digital consumer experience and longs for something different, something that breaks the habits of creative recycling routines and pushes the level of invention.
Big, traditional brands can learn from Etsy and from arts and crafts fairs. To separate themselves from the pack, they should strive to be different, original and reject the mass duplication and rehashing of tired old trends. After all, anyone can get a billion prints of something made, but something made once? Now that’s worth something – even a trip to Renegade.
Check out our photos to see some highlights of our awesome finds.
Oh, and Erin – she was right after all.