Handmade crafts are cool again thanks to hipsters. (The Echo Park Craft Fair/Facebook)
Once upon a time, craft fairs were bastions of itchy crocheted sweaters, grandmotherly quilts, and sad little glue-gun creations. But over the past several years, handicrafts have become decidedly hip. So-called maker culture, led by style-savvy artists versed in old-world handicraft techniques (see goldsmithing and wood whittling), is all the rage.
As a result, there are now two kinds of craft fairs: the ones that sell miniature oil paintings of sailboats and the ones that hawk baby hats screen-printed with devil horns. Etsy is a reliable source for the hip-and-handmade, but there’s no substitute for shopping a craft fair tailored specifically to ironically bearded, baby-sling-wearing urbanites.
Get crafty with the cool kids at one of these top-flight fairs.
Echo Park Craft Fair, Los Angeles
Handcrafted wood products (Photo: The Echo Park Craft Fair/Facebook)
Los Angeles enclave Echo Park is the West Coast’s answer to Brooklyn — practically everyone who lives here is in a band. Fittingly, the Echo Park Craft Fair is the ne plus ultra of hipster craft shows. Co-founded by shoe designer Beatrice Valenzuela and textile artist Rachel Craven, the biannual event typically features around 70 vendors, selling jewelry, leather goods, knitwear, ceramics, overpriced juice, and more. It’s not the quantity of vendors that makes this shindig a must, it’s the quality. Leather bag maker Agnes Baddoo and jewelry designer Gabriela Artigas are among the beloved local artisans who show up to sell.
When: The weekend-long fair is held every May and December.
Urban Craft Uprising, Seattle
Cute handmade dolls by Plush Goodness. (Photo: Urban Craft Uprising/Facebook)
Seattle-based retailer Kristen Rask planted the seeds for Urban Craft Uprising a decade ago at her store, Schmancy, which deals in demented-looking dolls and vintage games. The biannual fair now unfurls a few times a year inside the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, featuring 150 vendors. Look for handmade guitar straps from Couch, a favorite of Portlandia star and rocker Carrie Brownstein’s; quirky illustrations of animals dressed in suits and ties from Berkley Illustration; and all-natural beauty products from French Girl Organics.
When: Dec. 6-7.
Renegade Craft Fairs, various cities
Letterpress products for sale (Photo: Renegade Craft Fair/Flickr)
Some of the best urban craft fairs in the U.S. are organized and operated by Renegade Craft Fair, a Chicago-based organization founded by crafty gal Susie Daly. Its 14 annual shows, which take place in New York, Austin, London, Chicago, and San Francisco, spotlight DIY companies with plenty of panache. The Brooklyn Renegade show is especially awesome; among the standouts at the last one were beautifully etched ceramics from Little Bear Pots and modern stained glass from ABJ Glassworks.
When: San Francisco, Nov. 8-9; New York, Nov. 15-16; London, Nov. 22-23; Austin, Nov. 29-30; Chicago, Dec. 6-7; Los Angeles, Dec. 13-14.
Crafty Bastards, Washington, D.C.
The huge crowd takes advantage of the late summer sun. (Photo: Crafty Bastards Arts & Crafts Fair)
The mack daddy of cool craft fairs in the D.C. area is Crafty Bastards Arts & Crafts, run by the local alternative weekly, City Paper. This annual juried show spotlights handmade goods from the capital region and beyond. Find original art, tons of handmade jewelry, clothes (maxi dresses, tees), and edgy toys and décor for kids and grownups. A favorite find from the latest show: a wall mirror bordered by dozens of artsy doll heads made from pantyhose — think punk-rock Cabbage Patch kids.
When: The weekend-long fair takes place every September.
Austin Craft Riot, Austin, Texas
Accessories made of vintage fabrics by annemarie at the Austin Craft Riot. (Photo: Austin Craft Riot/Facebook)
The fun, low-key Austin Craft Riot at the Austin Music Hall is part craft fair, part flea market. Shop vegan skin care, artsy ceramics, screened tees, and an avalanche of art sourced from the greater Austin area. Food trucks, a cash bar, swag bags, and a superb kids’ play area make this one a decidedly family-friendly hang.
When: The weekend-long fair takes place every August.
The Queen City Craft Bazaar, Burlington, Vt.
Queen City Craft Fair (Photo: Queen City Craft Fair/Facebook)
Maker culture has thrived in artsy Burlington, Vt., for eons. Which makes shopping 7-year-old fair Queen City Craft a total treat. So many finds at this smallish show feel truly special. Witness: hand-knit autopsied frogs, mice, and aliens from aKNITomy; slabs of soap packed with oddball ingredients such as turmeric and Himalayan salt from Green Village Soap Co., and organic seed bombs and floor loom weaves from Boda Boda.
When: Dates vary for this one-day event.
Crafty Wonderland, Portland, Ore.
Crafty Wonderland at the Oregon Convention Center (Photo: Crafty Wonderland/Facebook)
This 8-year-old juried show in Portland, Ore., is so popular that it recently spawned a retail store — also dubbed Crafty Wonderland — to showcase goods from the 200-plus vendors that participate in the biannual fair. This massive, sprawling show, which takes over the Oregon Convention Center, sells everything from vinyl placemats to photo-printed pillows. So wear sneakers with that artfully disheveled flannel shirt.
When: Dec. 13-14.
Indie Craft Parade, Greenville, S.C.
Welcome! (Photo: Indie Craft Parade/Facebook)
All things handmade and homegrown are celebrated at Greenville’s, Indie Craft Parade — an annual sale that spotlights artisanship and benefits arts programs in Greenville County schools. Nab simple, supple leather totes from Hawks & Doves, modern-feeling sterling silver baubles from January Jewelry, or minimalist ceramic ornaments from Crave. Everywhere you roam, you’ll find stellar holiday shopping opps.
When: The weekend-long fair takes place every September.
Coterie Chicago, Chicago
Knot by Tiffa at the Coterie Craft Fair (Photo: Pitchfork Music Festival/Facebook)
“Maker and artist” show Coterie has its hipster credentials buttoned up — it’s part of the annual three-day Pitchfork Festival of indie music, which lures around 30,000 music fans to Chicago’s Union Park every summer. Take a break from crowd surfing to shop the selection of DIY goods, which this year included ironically artsy hand-embroidered T-shirts from How Could You?, boho-feeling resin-and-wood necklaces from Build With Wood, and interesting mixed-media art from Citizenshay. No earplugs required.
When: The fair takes place every summer as a part of the Pitchfork Festival.
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