Found on the Fringes

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Nastia Voynovskaya/Illustration


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The term "recessionista" may not have successfully integrated into anyone's vocabulary since the rippling financial meltdown of 2008. But corny buzzwords aside, the crisis pushed - or, perhaps, picked up by the collar and shoved - people of all economic levels to roll up their shirtsleeves and rework their mundane lifestyles using a more artistic eye.

Even though the public and private sectors both undeniably still suck, these trying times have infused even the most practical domestic projects with a spirit of ingenuity, giving rise to do-it-yourself home improvement, clothing design and crafting. Neither dilettantes nor artisans in the traditional sense, neophyte craftspeople abound on personal blogs and online marketplaces like Etsy.com.

Whether you're interested in a planter made from a discarded stripper shoe or more conventional wares like homemade curtains, there's someone out there that makes what you need or will teach you to do it. Perhaps the physical embodiment of the indie craft community, Renegade Craft Fair makes its way to SF's Fort Mason Center this coming weekend for one of its annual D.I.Y. art and design extravaganzas held in five metropolises nationwide.

While visiting Southern California with my roommate last summer, I had the lucky opportunity to visit Renegade in Los Angeles, which takes place the week before the San Francisco event. Although they're both curated by Chicago boutique Renegade Handmade, I anticipate an altogether different spirit at this year's San Francisco stop.

It may seem paradoxical to stage a national-scale operation that emphasizes small pockets of local culture, but Renegade draws together the independent artists of its host city and whatever other designers, potters, and print or jewelry makers are willing to come from around the world. Whether they're establishing themselves within their city's creative community or looking to expand their online clientele, artists get the chance to mingle and discuss their work with enthusiasts in search of one-of-a-kind gifts or inspiration for their own creative projects.

At last year's Renegade in LA, I headed straight for the clothing swap, which was a sectioned-off part of the room away from the vendors' booths. Admission to the swap consisted of a bag of your old clothes-a small sacrifice for access to a thrift-store bargain hunter's nirvana. Amid tables of donated tops, bottoms and everything in between, it felt like the cogs of a vital, breathing recycled clothing machine were in full rotation.

As people perused each other's unwanted items, artists bustled around the silk screens and sewing machines, teaching whoever cared to learn how to hem a skirt or impress a design onto a t-shirt. When I pestered an instructor from Sew LA for the nth time about how to attach my Lego-print lightning bolt to a crop top's sleeve, I was oozing with gratitude - not blood from the needle pricks of my own clumsy thread-and-needle adventures.

With a different slate of artists and crafting workshops, Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco will undoubtedly present its own set of local offerings. I, for one, am looking forward to making jewelry out of old toys with emiko oye [sic] and Shana Astrachan, blushing at the phallus-shaped pincushions from The Prick Cushion and flipping through adorably illustrated notebooks from Little Otsu. Whether you have the luxury of dropping Jacksons on unique handmade goods or are eager to begin a creatively practical endeavor yourself, nothing stirs up the status quo of commonplace objects like a Renegade.


Blush at phallic pincushions with Nastia at [email protected]



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