After a miserably disappointing trip to Northern Liberties last weekend to not find the Philadelphia Independent Craft Market’s show (seriously — the address that was given led us to a padlocked theatre building with no signs of life anywhere), we tried again to have success this weekend.  Last time we went to the Art Star Craft Bazaar it was a much smaller affair on a blocked off coupla blocks in Northern Liberties, an up-and-coming hipster neighborhood that’s seeing a lot of changes.  This year it was down at Penn’s Landing, an admittedly more “legitimate” venue for a craft fair.  It.  Was.  Huge.  And also, I think, catered to a larger segment of the populati0n.  Not only tattooed hipsters with their babies dressed in goth onesies, but straight-edge looking people as well.  Parking last time cost nothing, and was just on a sidestreet.  Parking this time costs  flat rate of $13 or $17, depending on which lot you wanted to rape you.  We were trapped.  Penn’s Landing is a generic name for a number of waterfront sites.  Not knowing which one it was, we couldn’t park across the I-95 bridge (it cuts right near I-95) and park in the neighborhoods of Philly.  The waterfront area is full of pay parking lots, expensive restaurants, and old boats, some of which are expensive restaurants.  You get raped for parking no matter what.  So Mr. Apron convinced me to suck it up and just pay to park.  Actually, since he was driving, I didn’t have much of a choice.  Oh, and we brought the dog. 

This thing was huge!  I can’t even know for sure how many vendors, but I’d say 150 – 200, easily.  It was a bring-your-own-tent event for the vendors.  Each display looked like it belonged in the windowfront of an Anthropologie store.  Coordinating tablecloths, customized hang tags and labels, people processing credit cards — these were legitimate businesses.  Compared to my library craft fair, this was the big time.  It made me feel small and amateurish.  Like maybe why am I even bothering to try to do another craft fair when my booth won’t measure up?  I don’t have an EZ-up tent, I don’t have 25lb concrete weights to hold the tent down.  I don’t have labels or a sign with my as-yet-undetermined business name.  I wouldn’t know how to go about learning to process credit cards.  My displays rely heavily on luck and safety pins.  And my tables would be borrowed from my current crafting area. 

We sat down in a piece of shade so the dog, who had heretofore been lying down in the  middle of vendors’ tents to grab some rest, wouldn’t pass out.  And so we wouldn’t get heatstroke.  Mr. Apron and I talked about how I was feeling.  He said I could choose to make this about comparing myself and my crafts and my abilities and where I am in selling my wares, or I could relax and enjoy it as a consumer.  Or I could do both.  Everything we do that ties into my interests (early music, crafting, dogs, architecture, Balinese gamelan, clothing design) doesn’t have to be about unrequited dreams and abilities, about things I could do if I spent more time, money, energy, education on them.  I do get sad when we go to a music or theatre performance.  They remind me of how little I’m doing those things in my life.  When I was in college, music took up easily three evenings a week (9 hours) and at least as many hours of classtime, plus any practicing I deigned to do.  In high school, I was in maybe 2 plays a year as well as a pit orchestra or some other special activity (examples include performing Mozart’s Requiem with the local Mormon church, and playing with the Mayo Clinic orchestra).  And now?  I maybe sing a little Gilbert & Sullivan with Mr. Apron when I’m helping him rehearse for one of the 5 plays he’s done in as many years, and I listen to him playing banjo.  My bassoon sits in the basement, my clarinets next to me in a milk crate, plaguing me with familial guilt, as I come from a very musical family.  I used to recall with glee all the instruments I was proficient on — clarinet, bassoon, piano, recorder, (early music instruments:) dulcian, viola da gamba, krumhorn — or could play passingly — bari saxophone, folk harp.  Now I’m embarrassed at how low my skill level has fallen.  I’m overwhelmed at how much work it would take me to play well again. 

I guess the craft fair stirred up those feelings in a less-extreme way today.  I know I’m never going to be a professional craft artisan, making a living off of my etsy shop and schlepping to craft fairs up and down the eastern seabord.  I don’t want to, either.  I want to do enough crafting that I still enjoy it, not so much that I think of it as a business.  I don’t want to think of my art pieces as commodities.  So when Mr. Apron said I could do both — look at it with lessons to learn as well as fun for shopping — I needed to hear it. 

I did look at the other people selling baby onesies and compare prices.  I charge $10 or 2/$18 for potato-stamped onesies.  People today were selling them for as much as $25 and $30.  Granted these were appliquéd, so they took more hand-work, but even the screen-printed ($$ for start-up, but cheap per-piece costs) ones were$20.  The jumpers I sell (well, hope to sell) for $22 and $25 were going for $35 today, for an almost identical product.  I guess this is what you can get, or have to charge, in the “big time” of craft vending.  Maybe those prices would be way out of line for an elementary school or library craft fair, where you’ll see more crocheted doilies and plastic canvas angels than screenprinted tees with skull-octopuses and art prints of a very sinister-looking little red riding hood. 

On the whole, people loved Finley.  They pet him, commented on his unusual “beauty”, and even crawled under tables to get to pet him (adults did this).  He got some sample doggie cookies, and one man even gave us his tupperware from his fruit salad (dumping his fruit into a ziploc bag) so Finley could have a drink of water.  Someone asked us about our grooming choices for him (laughable right now with his full “mop” ‘do), and only one person was afraid enough to shriek and back away hysterically.  ‘Cuz he’s really intimidating.  Yup.  I bought something, too.  Not something like what I make.  I make a point of only buying things from craft fairs that I could not make.  It’s a head-band with a huge felt 3-D flower placed jauntily, so as to resemble nothing so much as a 1940s hat.  I chose the yellow one, as it seemed more vintage.  Mr. Apron bought something, too.  It’s that little red riding hood print I mentioned.  It’s pretty dark, probably more similar to an original illustration from Grimm Brothers than a modern Disney-fied cartoon.  But it’s awesome.  Just enough whimsey and fun.  In the end, I’m glad we went, even if we paid $13 to park, even if we were roasting in open sun for 2 hours, and even if our purchases were pretty pricey.  We supported independent artists, and bought things you can’t find at Costco or the GAP, no matter what you pay for them.

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