In some ways, Rock Sugar began with a letterpress in a basement. Angela Ficorelli was a College for Creative Studies grad and stationery designer who specialized in crafting handmade, one-of-a-kind invitations. You know, the kind of invites that are so beautiful you save them long after the event is over, and debate whether framing them and hanging them up is oddly neat or just creepy. The kind of stuff you see on Instagram posts tagged #offbeatbride and #DIYgoals and Pin until the wee hours of the morning.
While platforms like Etsy and Pinterest have given the DIY/Indie art culture some overdue momentum, there's something special about an event that lets you meet the artists behind the work, which is exactly why Ficorelli set out to create something that would do that for engaged couples.
"For awhile I was selling things at Detroit Urban Craft Fair and something just clicked. I thought 'hey, there should be an event like this, except for weddings,'" she says. Ficorelli knew from her own wedding planning experience that finding local vendors to create those indie, Pinterest-worthy elements of a ceremony could be a difficult task.
"A lot of bridal expos aren't very personal. When I was planning my wedding, I found them to be so uncomfortable," she says. But as an artist, she knew the talent was out there. "While there are good things here in Detroit for weddings, there wasn't a good place for those artists that wanted to specifically market to brides."
And so in 2013, she and a team of other crafters hosted a DIY Wedding Showcase under the moniker Detroit Indie Wedding Ring. Described as a "consortium of like-minded businesses and entrepreneurs from across metro Detroit," the event, hosted at the Rust Belt Market, brought together vendors that offered high-quality handmade goods and exhibited a modern wedding design aesthetic.
Ficorelli said to "think of a real-life Etsy," although having the right look wasn't the only requirement. Vendors also needed to be willing to participate in and support the DIY community, which, while somewhat saturated, still emphasizes the spirit of collaboration over competition.
"It was the idea that we could create a fun community that supports one another," says Ficorelli, who planned another event, titled Detroit Indie Wedding, in 2014 with local maker Carissa Galloway. "During that show, we worked really closely with the team at Handmade Detroit. They took us under their wing, showed us how to put on a show, talk to vendors, how to promote, and it was really fun to collaborate with them."
For this year's event, Ficorelli and Galloway put out a call for local vendors using the same guidelines and are planning on having 15 vendors showcasing their goods and services at the show, which will again be hosted at the Rust Belt Market. The venue sponsors the event, along with with Handmade Detroit, Glass Action, and the Detroit Art & Business Institute.
"We try and get everyone involved and working together so the show feels cohesive," she says. Attendees are meant to feel like they're "surrounded by art" and to leave inspired by the vendors who want to use their passion to help couples create weddings that not only stand out, but leave a lasting impression on everyone who attends.
"The vendors are driven by their passion, whether it's handmade goods or photography. There's a real love and passion for materials and detail," she says. Couples are often able to do different and unexpected things thanks to being able to work directly with the artist.
"The vendors want to make something specifically for you, something that will hit you and your guests on a more emotional level — that's the biggest difference," Ficorelli says.
"Guest experience is a huge trend right now (and) decorations are like art installations. It's not just balloons and flowers anymore," she says. "It's about saying, 'come to our wedding and be a part of this entire experience we've planned for you.'"
This year, attendees (which hey, it's on Mother's Day, so bring your mom!) will have the chance to be inspired while Soul Deep DJ spins classic Motown jams — on vinyl, of course — and enter to win a variety of giveaways.
Rock Sugar is from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 8 at Rust Belt Market, 22801 Woodward Ave. in Ferndale. The event is free. For more information, visit RockSugarEvent.com.