This past weekend, April came in like a lamb heralding spring through the Bay Area. The beautiful weather coupled with San Francisco’s Marina District was the perfect backdrop for a trip to the Renegade Craft Fair, which returned to San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center on April 1 and 2.
The Renegade Craft Fair touts itself as “the world’s largest curated showcase of independent craft and design.” Started in Chicago in 2003, the fair has since expanded its reach to 23 events in 12 cities throughout the US and UK. San Francisco plays host to the exhibition three times this year—future dates include July and November.
As a curator and regular attendee of craft fairs, I’ve come to recognize certain trends in the maker movement. Like most, this show had its fair share of bags, jewelry, and succulents, but also included some standout pieces that I’m excited to share.
One of my favorite discoveries was Oxgut Hose Co., based in Emeryville. The name is derived from the material used to make the first fire hoses used in ancient Greece. Oxgut Hose recycles decommissioned fire hoses to create a variety of products including furniture, mats, and totes. The hoses used are unexpectedly colorful—Oxgut assured me that they do not dye or alter the appearance of the fire hoses, but instead carefully select the most interesting pieces from local firehouses. My favorite in their line is their Weekender Bag—an elegant combination of style and durability.
The Los Angeles based Ryze Project also had a number of beautiful bags on display. The online retailer partners with European designers and makers to bring products to the US market. Of particular note were the limited edition hand-painted bags by Pendular Pocket (Spain) and the Lemur Leather Goods (Denmark) wallet which folds like leather origami. Check out the video to see it in action!
I’ve been happy to see there’s been a distinct uptick in the inclusion of graphic design and illustration at more craft fairs. And who can resist the lure of cute notecards, stickers, patches, and pins? Not I, that’s for sure!
I was excited to discover the sweet and silly array of alpacas, hedgehogs, sushi, and other creatures by illustrator Christina Lin of Le Trango, as well as the “happy” pins and patches by Design + Happiness. Both shops feature fun and colorful designs (often with groan-worthy puns) suitable for the child in all of us. To make life even sillier, Le Trango just announced that they are currently selling in select Target stores in southern California.
While jewelry design is as hot as ever, I must admit my slight bias against the plethora of minimalist styles I saw at Renegade. I’ve seen my fair share of thin gold chains, triangle-shaped pendants, and small, delicate earrings over the years. That said, I very much enjoyed the designs Hyun Yu of Hyworks (Los Angeles) whose jewelry is delicate enough to appeal to minimalists, yet modernist enough to appeal to design lovers. Her Air Mobile, Abacus, and Roller earrings, for instance, recall the work the kinetic experimentation of Calder but still have a contemporary feel.
I also appreciated the graphic elements in the jewelry by Molly McGrath, which I found both boldness and delicate at the same time. The open geometric patterns of her cuffs and rings give her work an airy Art Deco feel.
Renegade showcased a number of wonderful household and utilitarian items as well. One of my favorites was the Journal Bandoliers by San Francisco based Clever Hands. These ingenious, adjustable straps solve the frustrating problem of not having a pen or pencil handy just when you need it to jot down your latest brain storm. The bandolier wraps around a journal or notebook and features small loops to hold a pens, pencils, or other small items. No journal? Clever Hands has you covered there as well with small bookbinding kits that include all the tools, supplies, and instructions to make your own.
If you’re like me, you grew up drinking your neighbor’s Kool-Aide out of paper Dixie® Cups. Now, as a grown-up, I still too often find myself drinking beverages out of white take-out paper cups. Perhaps this is what draws me to the campy, nostalgic feel of Candy Relic’s Rubber Paper Cups (Portland, OR). Cast from an actual cup, they are in every way the familiar paper vessel we’ve come to expect from our favorite coffee shop. The cups are made in porcelain and dipped in colored rubber for a fun, bright twist. Just don’t try to crumble it up when you’ve finished your last drop!
True to form, Renegade Craft Fair was a fun and satisfying excursion for anyone who loves hand-made objects. While there were many more makers and objects worth noting, I couldn’t possibly include all of them here, which makes me look forward to the next fair.