Another craft fair coming up. Another exposure of my person (in the form of sock monkeys, zippered pouches, and the like) to an audience of strangers, begging for acceptance (and remuneration), validation for what I do.

I am not an artist. I do not think of myself as such. I’m much more of a crafter, a maker of things that may evoke emotion – sure – but are more likely to elevate something merely functional into something functional and cute. My ideas are not wholly original. The idea for potato-printing clothing and note cards came from Martha Stewart. Sock monkeys have been around since the dawn of crafting time. I used a tutorial for my zippered pouches, and a pattern for the baby clothing. My ideas come from books, from craft fairs, from craft forums and boutiques. I try to put my own spin on them (for instance, you’ll never see a Rockford Red Heel sock monkey), but at times I feel like a hack.

When I go to craft fairs, in addition to shopping for things I can’t live without, or couldn’t make myself, I observe trends in crafting, patterns in the wares. One year, everyone had apparently invested in screen-printing set-ups, for all the booths were peddling screen-printed T’s with various proprietary designs on them. Now, ironic taxidermy is hot. The themes that are in vogue right now are owls, squirrels, and other woodland creatures, playing, I guess, off the taxidermy theme. Anatomical hearts were all the rage a few years ago. Now Scrabble tiles and boards are being reused and evoked in myriad ways, from magnets and jewelry to throw pillows and spiral-bound books.

Don’t artists learn by imitating masters? Don’t they develop their own style by first practicing techniques, honing their skills, and emulating work they enjoy?

I took a low-tech printing class last year at the community art center, and my instructor told us explicitly to copy others’ work. She said we were changing it enough (through the reproduction process) to avoid overt copyright issues, and, what’s more – we were giving it our own spin. That felt reinforcing to hear her say, but I still doubt myself. I find myself wishing I could present something not only completely new, but completely me.

As I wait for Oriental Trading to send me those headband and bobby pin blanks so I can imitate the hair accessories I saw at the Art Star Craft Bazaar a few weeks ago, as I feverishly hope that the accessorizing-with-zippers trend is not past its prime, I wonder if I’ll hit my mark this time, or be relegated to the spot next to the face painters, to spend all day hidden behind a line of strollers and popsicle’d children.

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