Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Renegade Craft Fair - July 16-17, 2011

Alma and I did not go to the beach today. Instead, we returned to the vicinity of Chinatown for the Renegade Craft Fair at the Los Angeles State Historic Park in downtown Los Angeles. It was a very cool way to pass the afternnon and we plan to go back again today for a second day.

The park itself is a modest little 32-acre affair located just to the east of Chinatown. When we arrived yesterday at about 4:30 p.m., the western segment of the park was filled with tented booths of various craft vendors. The access road bordering the park had about 6-7 of the gourmet mobile food trucks one has started to see in Los Angeles at trendy art events. In addition, there were booths set up where attendees could actually participate in various crafting workshops like paper printing, sewing and crocheting and even woodworking.

My response to the Craft Fair mixed equal measures of exhilaration and depression. First of all, I was simply blown away at the variety of ingenuity, creativity and originality of the various exhibitors, ranging from candle-makers and jewelers to silk-screened t-shirts and prints and other odd wares. The booths were filled with a variety of vivid colors and scintillating shapes. "Eye candy," I said to Alma, when she asked me if any one vendor stood out to me. Truth is, I was equally pleased by all the vendors. I was especially struck by a group calling itself the 'Collage Lab' ( had a lot of vintage-looking materials that were collaged toegether and then decoupaged onto canvas and ceramics. Really beautiful stuff.

You can see a display of many of the artists and crafters here:

So why was I depressed? We asked one of the vendors, a gentleman who did screen printing of ingenious-looking posters touting locally grown fruits and vegetables (in support of local farming) and he told us it cost $400 for a booth for two days at the fair. Based on what I saw, few of the vendors there were making sales at a level that would allow them to recoup their costs simply for the booth. There was  a lot of browsing by attendees and I did see a few people carrying modest purchases. But I had the distinct impression that few if any of the vendors there would see $400 in sales from the event. The California economy is so bad right now and Alma and I are good examples. True, we saw many things that we loved. Even if we have no space on our walls for hangable art (thanks to Alma's own skills in that area), we can always use a new cushion, candle, t-shirt or knick-knack. But we have no discretionary income right now, all our income being soaked up by expenses. I suspect many of the fairgoers are in the same boat.

Add to that the amounts of time and energy required to schlep goods to the fair, to set up and arrange booths, and to break down each day when the fair concludes and you see truly a 'labor of love.' No one is getting rich off their work at the Craft Fairs, that's for certain. And, yet, the crafters and artists persist. It's both heart-warming and depressing at the same time.

We are going back today to look at some of the exhibits in more detail. Anyone in the Southern California area reading this can find out more about the vent in general at this link:

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