Strung Out: The Phoenix Craft Rave Brings A New Wave of Creativity

Editor's Note: Crafting is bigger than ever, it seems, and the bug has certainly hit Phoenix. And yet we've been to far too many craft fairs and other events that, well, sucked. Poor attendance, crappy crafts -- we've stopped believing the hype. Which is why, frankly, we skipped this thing called a Craft Rave, held this past Saturday at Bragg's Pie Factory on Grand Avenue. Um, whoops.

Turns out it was the one of the most successful craft-related events this city's ever seen -- it drew sponsors, as well as hundreds of eager participants, and actually earned the organizers some money. We asked Jackalope Ranch contributor and Craft Rave co-founder Cyndi Coon to fill us on what made this event work when others don't.

I'm a professional artist and crafter and have been on the craft scene long before it was trendy or was called indie. I did my first craft fair in Muskegon, Michigan in 1992 and I have done many, many fairs since both locally and nationally. What I have learned over the the years are some hard facts about craft fairs: They're more social than sales opportunities; they're not a way to make money, but are a chance to network; and they're a place other crafty people will come not to shop for products but to shop for ideas.

I cannot tell you how many times I have watched someone pick up one of my handmade pieces and say, "I could make that." And I am more then happy to share exactly how I made something and tell them they should make one -- no matter how it is made it will be different from mine as everyone's style is different.

Now, the craft cool has finally hit Phoenix and fairs have been popping up all over in the past five years. I realize now more than ever that to make a living as a crafter, you need shops to sell your wares.

That doesn't make craft fairs obsolete, but what, I thought, if you could shop for ideas at a craft fair?

Find out how the first-ever Phoenix Craft Rave came to be -- and when the next one will be -- after the jump. 

Local crafters Lisa Jacobs (aka Sticker Club Girl) and Kathy Murillo (aka Crafty Chica) swap crafting secrets and stories at the Craft Rave.
Local crafters Lisa Jacobs (aka Sticker Club Girl) and Kathy Murillo (aka Crafty Chica) swap crafting secrets and stories at the Craft Rave.
Photo by Cyndi Coon

The Crafty Idea

The notion of "shopping for ideas" comes back again and again in conversations with other artists and crafters. Early last summer I had coffee with Kathy Cano-Murillo, aka The Crafty Chica (and the mama of all things crafty). She and her husband Patrick Murillo have been doing craft fairs for 20 years and we shared a lot of the same stories and experiences with each other regarding craft fairs. We also share the belief that we crafters are in this together and giving to one another is not only a good thing, it helps to make a better community.

During our chat, Kathy talked about an event in Sedona where people got together and handmade things all night long. We both knew instantly this was something Phoenix needed. No one needed another craft fair in Phoenix, we decided, but they do need a craft marathon where artists are saying "hey here is what I make, pay me five bucks and I'll teach you how to make it, too."

And so the first Phoenix Craft Rave was born.

Rave, to the general public, means all-night dance, techno music, drugs and glow sticks. We decided to look at a few of the other definitions (courtesy of our friend Webster). To rave, by dictionary standards is: to act irrationally, to speak out wildly, or act with extreme enthusiasm.

So the thoughts of hosting a craft rave came about to celebrate those that are irrationally addicted to crafting, speak wildly about crafting possibilities and who show extreme enthusiasm for crafting in all forms.

The Rave Review

The Crafty Chica and I hosted the first Phoenix Craft Rave, along with 15 artists. We didn't know if 50 or 500 people would show up, but we knew there was a spirit in Phoenix that was begging for some focused crafting time to learn with artists. 

A raver's needle-point felt project (top), and crafter shows off her paper bunting project (left) and crafty teacher Mary Beth Buesgen refuels (right).
A raver's needle-point felt project (top), and crafter shows off her paper bunting project (left) and crafty teacher Mary Beth Buesgen refuels (right).
Photos by Cyndi Coon

More than 100 people were in line before the doors opened Saturday at Bragg's Pie Factory. When the doors opened at 2 p.m., there was a line down the block, and the SWAG bags reserved for the first 100 guests were gone in minutes.

Sponsors also lined up to be a part of this first ever event. Ten hours of music pumped out of the laptop provided by local DJ EKB Star, along with 200 cupcakes by Rikki Cupcake, donated cookies, a churro cart, and tea and water donated by Arizona Tea. Dolce Coffee Bar came to sell coffee and hot chocolate and major companies donated to the SWAG bags and raffle give-a-ways including I Love To Create, Michael's , Provo Craft and Bazzill Basics Paper. (A regional director from Michael's came out for a few hours to check it out because the company was so excited by the idea.)

The event worked because people aren't given any other opportunities to see crafts and have permission to copy them on the spot, with the artist who came up with the idea. People asked me all night to hold this event once a month, and I laughed as I dramatically fell to the floor in exhaustion.

At the end of the night, I had to affectionately tell all of the ravers, "With all the crafty love in my heart -- get the hell out!" They just didn't want to leave, and like a raver, I arrived home at 1:45 a.m. and collapsed into bed.

What we learned after having several hundred people come -- and pay $5 at the door and between $5 and $15 per project -- was that the Phoenix community of crafters is ready to make and create, and that sometimes having a fellow crafter tell you it's OK to copy their project is just what it takes to get to making!

The Phoenix Craft Rave will return again next December. Check out the Phoenix Craft Rave's website to see more pictures and event info.

I Love To Create,


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