Thanks to the chainification of America (venti crapuccino to wash down that TGI O'Fuddruckers, anyone?), a typical shopping trip is more likely to involve corporate logos, mega stores and malls than privately owned boutiques. How fittingly cool, then, that one of metro Detroit's last remaining and certainly one of the most irreplaceable independent bookstores is hosting Craft-O-Rama, a fair selling one-of-a-kind wares by local crafters, designers and DIY-ers of every ilk.
The event is mostly organized by Book Beat staffer Gabby Buckay, who sells her own line of revamped vintage lingerie called Scarlett's Daughter. You may have seen her stuff at Fourth Street Fair or Dally in the Alley. Now, her items are also for sale on the popular indie shopping site Etsy.com, at www.scarlettsdaughter.etsy.com. Buckay is co-organizing the event with fellow Book Beat employee Andy Linn who, with his sister Emily, designs a line of greeting cards, hats, silk-screened bags, specialty soaps and other adorable items called City Bird (www.citybird.etsy.com).
Buckay, an affable, enthusiastic chatter, says she dreamed of working at Book Beat as a kid. The fair is a natural fit. "We were talking about it and my boss (owner Carey Loren) was like, 'We'll have a craft fair here.'" Loren, she says, has always shown support for artists and designers. "I go to the Renegade craft fairs in Chicago and New York and every time I go he's like 'Get stuff for the store.'"
In addition to Buckay and Linns' designs, you can expect to discover such treasures as fetchingly colorful appliquéd T's from Sarah Burger of Citizen Jane (www.citizenjane.etsy.com), quirky, delicately wrought charm necklaces, earrings and other baubles by Chain Chain Chain designer Regina Pruss (www.chainchainchained.etsy.com), and an array of goodies by Tom Nardone, a welder, pinstriper and maker extraordinaire whose brilliantly offbeat creations include Big Foot snowshoes and pinstriped bowling balls. There'll also be choice items by printmaker Tommy Carey, whose current inventory includes monster-imprinted tiles, and both silkscreen and traditional woodcut prints. Other crafters will supply handmade jewelry, clothing, ceramics and other cool finds.
Organizing the event has proven easy for Buckay, who was already linked to a network of fellow artisans. "Most of my friends are crafty people," she says. Plus, Buckay sees this as an opportunity to further the local indie design scene. Although the DIY movement has hit big in larger cities, she says "there's not a lot happening in Detroit with this movement yet, and it's cool to be able to do something beneficial." The first step was to make Craft-O-Rama participation free, in contrast to the steep $250-per-booth rate at the Renegade fairs in Brooklyn and Chicago. "I want to make it open to everybody. The more the merrier!"
Her inclusive attitude demonstrates what's driving more people to participate in the craft movement, whether through making or selling goods. Handmade goods offer a human connection. They've got character, and reflect the personality of their creator.
"You can go to Target and get a shirt but you don't know who made it and if it was under horrible conditions," Buckay says. "You can't control the environment or the government. But you can control what you buy. I don't want to give my money to corporations. A handmade item is something that's kind of just yours. There's the classic cliché of going to the prom and seeing another girl wearing the same dress as you. Even though it's not that life-crushing, it's still like, 'Oh crap!'"
Speaking of dodging clichés, the same can be said about Book Beat, a metro Detroit landmark and book lover's wonderland that counterpoints the clinical consumerist atmosphere in Borders and Barnes and Nobles. Open since 1982, it's the kind of cozy place you can get lost in for hours, browsing through stacks of unusual titles, from poetry and art books to graphic novels and bizarro cult classics. The children's section is so outstanding it could spark even the most stale grown-up imagination. The stuffed-to-the-rafters shop also serves as an artistic meeting place, hosting regular readings and literary events. Although most independent businesses have been feeling the economic pinch of late, Book Beat still thankfully stands. While you're picking out some exciting new wares at Craft-O-Rama, don't forget to peruse the literary fare too. At the sale, you might even come across something specially designed by the owner himself. "I've been making felt pins and sending them to friends," Loren says. "I'm a side crafter, but I'm into it."
Craft-O-Rama is 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, June 2, at Book Beat, 26010 Greenfield, Oak Park; 248-968-1190. For more info, visit www.thebookbeat.com.
Christina Kallery is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]