I was very impressed by this year's 6th annual Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn's McCarren Park. The quality of work continues to go up, the crowds continue to grow, and booth displays reflect a seriousness I thought was missing in the early years of this fair. Also unlike prior years, the weather was perfection.
This big story to my eyes this year: DUDES. For a fair I've historically found to be somewhat of a third-wave feminist estrogen fest, there were many more guy vendors this year than I've seen in the past, including Dan Made Pottery and Fuzzy Ink. (Maybe the fair is going post-feminist.) This might explain the profusion of facial-hair themed work -- beards and mustaches continue to be major indie craft icons -- as well as a greater sense of variety than before. Though I must note: guest blogger Stephanie Carter began her review last year by observing "mustaches are the new owl," so this is clearly an evolving, not a new, phenomenon.
Besides beards and mustaches, the squid continue to be the unlikely animal icon of choice (Cleo Dee had some good examples), with various woodland creatures -- deer, squirrels -- a distant runner-up. And unlike the first year I attended, there were barely any owls to be found (except in Mat Daly's booth, 'cause he designs the Renegade Craft Fair posters which almost always features an owl). There were also plenty of cute-ugly stuffed animals, and in a way this make-an-ugly-thing-cute strategy is what all the squid and beards are about, too.
"The 80's" was another evident aesthetic theme, showing up in Seibei's old-school video game imagery and RHLS's remixed spandex clothing. Overall, fashion design at Renegade has (mercifully) expanded well past the realm of screen-printed tees.
It was a huge show with some 250 exhibitors arranged around the park, and I felt bad for the vendors who weren't in the main loops -- there were some spots very easy to miss. Some might say the organizers should have been more selective, but I kind of liked the overwhelming turnout and variety of vendors.
The crowd also showed more variety than I remember in the past. Sure there were plenty of "hipsters" showing us what the cool kids are wearing these days, but there were plenty of style civilians there too, including an influx of yuppies who live in the new condos surrounding the park, and others who may have entered the fair from the street fest taking place on Bedford Ave. Based on appearance of attendees, it seems the indie craft fair is feeling more accessible to the masses. A good thing.
Now, I'm not sure how much actual business was happening -- while I saw a lot of enthusiastic browsing, I didn't see a lot of transactions taking place or shopping bags in hand. But the vendors I spoke with had pretty modest expectations for this year, and I hope everyone did at least ok. (Jae, visiting the fair for the first time, noticed the abundance of screenprinted tees and commented, "You know who's really making money on this fair? American Apparel." Ugh.)
Another thing I didn't see much of: laminated tear sheets from magazines and blogs featuring a vendor's work stuck all over their booth like so much flypaper (which I criticized in 2006). This is an improvement because it makes the work and the booth speak for itself. It also suggests an increasing confidence on the part of vendors and buyers alike to not need the "approval" of mainstream media to be desirable or valuable.
To see all my pics, click here. (You can view pics as a slideshow by clicking the link at the upper right when you get there.)
Previous Greenjeans coverage of Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn:
Posted and images by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.