POSTED ON OCTOBER 22, 2008:
Color Outside the Lines
Indie Emporium takes arts and crafts playtime to another level
The handmade movement is upon us. Like many of my peers, I enjoy practical pieces of art. My wallet is a testament. It holds money, pictures and my credit cards, but it does so much more than that. It begins conversations. It gets me into discussions of the arts. And, it's hipper than I am, so it gives my image a boost. Its creator is a local maker of all things fine, and one of the many talented vendors at last weekend's Indie Emporium.
October 10th and 11th marked Tulsa's second Indie Emporium (IE). The first occurred just under a year ago at Mathews Warehouse downtown. They moved it up on the calendar. Last year's was chilly. I attended both. I know.
The second emporium upgraded to the VFW across from Centennial Park on Sixth Street, and highlighted local craft artists.
IE had it all: handmade greeting cards, stuffed yetis, coin purses, faux mustaches, button rings, necklaces, clothing, pillows and homemade food like mom makes.
The venue itself was a change. The VFW has electricity and a kitchen and flushing toilets. The urinals are outfitted with Hanoi Jane urinal targets. A slightly different feel when compared to your standard portable toilet, but it gives your basic, boring urinal a little character.
All things considered, the VFW was one of the many improvements to this year's show. I can only hope that it will continue to improve, because I'll most likely be attending my third one next year. Outside of my own selfish interests, ongoing development of the event will be a good thing for local crafters, artists and the create-y folks in the area. It also benefits the community and fosters relationships between local businesses and citizens, but that moves our focus away from me and what I want.
Other notable improvements to IE '08 were the onstage demos. I took notes on how to make a stuffed ghost, a wrap skirt and also learned some basic weaving skills. I reviewed the notes and decided that it's going to take me some time to learn or, more likely, completely defeat me. Nevertheless, I appreciated watching artists create their wares. It was a thoughtful addition, and an area that could eventually come to be a hallmark of the event.
The event itself is quite a production. From the pre-party at The Collective to the designer fashion show to the post-party, this was more than just a craft expose. It was a weekend. I think most of it is a good thing; I know I enjoy getting together with friends to enjoy live music. I also found the fashion show to be a fun, fruitful way to feature clothing by our very own clothing designers.
For me the fashion show, emceed by local celebrity Steve Cluck of Louis & Cluck (IE hopes to have him back), was one of the more noticeable feats of the two day affair. Compared to 2007, there were more designers, models, attendees, and a much taller runway, which I imagined plummeting off of if I were modeling. My own fear of heights and falling from heights in public kept me off it.
One of the IE organizers, Christine Crowetold, said that the art gallery got quite a bit of response and that it was larger this year than last. The IE attendees voted for their favorite artist. The artists displayed their work at the gallery near the entrance. The winner will be awarded a show next month at the Collective, a fine example of local businesses fusing with local artists to build the scene. I touched on that earlier.
IE also decided to have a food drive during this year's event. Bravo! Each entrant who brought two cans of food received $3 off their entry fee. As a result, the IE raised 387 pounds of food for the food bank. Ms. Crowe added that this is something they will publicize a little more for 2009 because it worked so well this year.
My concern with the event is that its various components may deter from the actual craft fair. Or, at the very least, not be appreciated as a whole the way it should be. A potential attendee may only be interested in locally made goods, as that is the main focus of the event, and therefore may be completely oblivious to Cecada playing at 10pm on the VFW stage. But, their $5 ticket includes post-party music.
As a quick aside, I gained a lot of respect for the band members of Cecada Saturday night. You had to endure a lengthy and what seemed to be an uncomfortable sound check in preparation for the after party. I don't know if I would have had your patience. A tip of my hat to you, fellows.
I apologize for leaving midway through your set, but when one of the sound guys called the other an "asshole." I thought the evening might lead to fisticuffs over a microphone or two. I was also exhausted. Funny how a craft show can do that to you.
Crowe suggested music was an area the organizers looked to improve upon for next year. "We're going to rework our DJ situation and prevent the issues we had."
Growing an event is difficult. The organizers of IE did it. 2008 was better than 2007. They'll do it again in '09, but maybe defining and magnifying the focus of the event would help its popularity balloon. I don't know what that means. Who should go? Who should stay? Maybe it just takes time and there is a place for everything.
I can say that if the event component grows- the expose, the pre and after parties, and the runway show- it will be one of the premier events not only for local crafters, but also designers, musicians, and Tulsans.
"We, overall, thought IE was a huge success," Crowe concluded.
Solely based on my own fun meter, my only measure of success, I'd call 2008's Indie Emporium a success too. See you next year! Get a shorter stage for 2009's fashion show and I'll consider modeling.
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