So you're sitting around the cottage and it's raining cats and dogs. You get out your craft supplies. What are you going to make? A Popsicle-stick house? No way. You'll crochet a striped cozy for your iPod or snip your empty pop cans into cool cuff bracelets.
While it's no secret that knitting has dominated the DIY world for the past few years, there's now an explosion of interest in all forms of craft, from felting to printmaking, all with a distinctly ironic edge.
Nowhere was the trend more apparent than at the recent Renegade Craft Fair ( ) held in Brooklyn, the new hotbed of North American hipsterism. Two hundred counterculture crafters from across the continent came together to present a stunningly diverse collection of goods.
Montreal's Red Rooster ( ) showed off its bird and lion-themed tote bags made from vintage and recycled fabrics. My Paper Crane ( ) came from small-town Pennsylvania with a family of food-inspired stuffed toys (golden toast was happy; burnt toast was sad). Brooklyn's Perch ( ) presented handmade ceramic birdfeeders, but it also showed salt and pepper shakers shaped like bird feet, for feeding humans.
"People have preconceived notions about what a craft fair is going to be like," says sewing enthusiast Kathleen Habbley, who founded the fair with jewellery designer Sue Blatt in Chicago in 2003 (this year's Chicago edition is scheduled for Sept. 16-17). "And then they come here and it's just totally different."
One of the first pioneers of the alt craft show is Leah Buckareff of Toronto's Coldsnap Bindery ( ), who started the Pedal to Metal shows in 2002. Buckareff makes handcrafted journals and also manages the Toronto section of the popular Church of Craft website.
"It's really growing," she says of the number of people now heeding the call. And part of that growth is fuelled by the explosion of the on-line craft community. Event listings, tips and tricks are traded regularly on websites such as , , , and . And for the truly prolific, finished products are sold through websites like and .
Nathalie-Roze Fischer, another passionate Toronto crafter, has just opened the boutique Nathalie-Roze & Co. to sell the work of about 70 different practitioners (including herself), and to offer workshops on everything from sewing to soap-making (1015 Queen St. E., 416-792-1699, nathalie-roze.com).
At a time when many consumers are looking for an alternative to impersonal, mass-produced objects, crafting is turning out to be a good business.
Dana De Kuyper of Montreal, for instance, has attracted plenty of curious shoppers with her collection of Damned Dollies ( ). Plush, aggressive-looking figures that might share DNA with zombies, these one-of-a-kind dolls take the notion of cute in an entirely new direction.
"Some people actually get kind of scared," De Kuyper says. "But usually people are excited and laugh a lot. They say, 'That one looks like me,' or 'That one looks like my friend.' "
Although she started making dolls as a hobby five years ago, they received such a positive response that she eventually gave up her day job to focus on them full-time.
The sheer creativity of products now being churned out has even led some to question whether crafters aren't crossing into the more rarefied disciplines of art and design.
It's a question that will be underlined during the first Modern Art Design Exhibit (MADE), to be held tomorrow at Toronto's Gladstone Hotel (modernartdesignexhibit.com). It will feature designers who are making objects with a new sense of artistry.
Montreal's Serigraphie Cinqunquatre ( ), run by Jason Cantoro and Alice Jarry, typifies the contemporary artist-maker philosophy. With a studio that produces show posters and cover art for bands, Cantoro and Jarry also create moody screen prints (most recently with sea creature and animal themes) as their more creative outlet, and sell them at craft fairs.
Neither of them is interested in debating the difference between art and craft; they attend events like the Renegade Craft Fair to be with like-minded people.
"It's more like art," Cantoro says about the pair's work. "But we're not afraid of interacting with real people. The galleries are kind of an alien environment for us. We don't mind saying we're doing a [craft]sale instead of an art show."
Lacking the patience for pretense, today's crafters just want to take creativity into their own hands.
Special to The Globe and Mail