A knack for craft: Wicker Park’s Renegade Craft Fair

People from all different walks of life, hailing from every end of the city, flocked to Wicker Park Sept. 7 and 8 to set their eyes on the beautiful artistry that was presented by some of the brightest talents in indie crafting.

While passionately pursuing artists of all skill sets and techniques, the Renegade Craft Fair made its debut in Chicago in the fall of 2003 with the hopes of creating an event that would be embedded in the streets of the city for years to come. Now, 10 years from the introduction of this event, the fair has established itself as one of the premier and most well respected events of its kind. Through the utilization of a diverse group of artists, the fair has fused traditional crafting techniques with a more modern design to develop a body of work that is not commonly viewed.

The DIY community has established itself as a strong force behind the creation of the fair. The individuals that founded the craft fair wanted to focus on integrating and involving youth in workshops and other unique opportunities. As expected, this driving force prompted the founders to search for more up-and-coming artists trying to get their work viewed by a new, larger demographic, rather than filling their space with well-established artists who had already made a name for themselves. What has been produced from this vision is a fair that offers more reasonably priced goods for onlookers to view and hopefully purchase by the end of their experience.

Local artists traveled from as far as the northwest corner of the country to be present at the prestigious twoday festival. Artists came from Oregon, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, and many other locations. One company in particular, Little Canoe, located in Portland, represented a long time participant of the fair.

“I started at the fair a couple years ago and have decided to come back every year since,” said Brooke Weeber, founder of the company specializing in original artwork, greeting cards and prints.

Loyalty to the fair for several years was a constant theme possessed by a wide majority of the artists that were present at this year’s festival.

“The Renegade Craft Fair just has such a respectable reputation within the community that it’s hard not to want to be a part of it year after year,” said Weeber.

In addition to being held in high regard, the fair has provided artists from outside of the Chicagoland area the opportunity to present their work to a group of people that would not have otherwise been aware of their artwork. Methane Studios, which originally started in Ohio and is now based in Atlanta, raved about the new business chances that the fair has brought to them.

“We’ve been lucky enough to come across a decent amount of wholesalers who wanted to carry our products after coming through this event for the third time,” said Mark McDevitt and Robert Lee, co-founders of the design and illustration studio.

Even through all of the hard work and long hours that the artists put in to have their work prepared for the event, the artists have always kept one thing in mind.

“I do this because it’s fun,” said James Flame, owner of James Flame Posters and Prints located in Asheville, N. C.

Commonly intertwined with the DIY community is the general sense of enjoyment and excitement wrapped around the many different handcrafted works that are presented each and every year.

“Simply put, my goal through all of this is to continue to get better and of course hopefully come across people interested in buying and utilizing my work,” said Flame.

Success has been apparent for the Renegade Craft Fair since its debut through the additions of new fairs in many cities throughout the United States and even overseas in the UK. Austin, Brooklyn, and London are only a few of the new cities the fair has ventured to in hopes of spreading their grassroots and handmade message that is typically not heard by everyday citizens.

“At the end of the day, it’s rewarding to create some form of art for yourself, with your hands, and to also have somebody be interested in that art and want to have it is remarkable,” said McDevitt.

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