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Crafter Interview – Rachel Johnson from Swap-bot

Reported by Simone Collins

I am so happy to be sharing my interview with Rachel Johnson from Swap-bot with everybody today. Rachel is not only a crafty business owner but she is also a reporter for Craft Critique (and lucky for me, a personal friend). Her crafty talents, as well as business savvy, have made Swap-bot what it is today; I am sure some of Rachel’s insights will be inspiring as well as informative.


Name: Rachel Johnson

Crafty Business: Swap-bot.com

Where can we find you online? Swap-bot website, Swapbot blog, personal blog, Ace Department, and reporting for Craft Critique of course!

When did your business begin and why did you started?
My husband and I created Swap-bot in the fall of 2005 after participating in some blog-hosted swaps. We thought swapping was a fun hobby and a great way to “meet” people online, but organizing the swaps by hand is a hassle. Swap-bot takes the hassle out of hosting swaps by organizing and assigning the partners and sending out reminder emails. Swap-bot also has a feedback system which helps keep all of the swappers honest.

Tell us about Swap-bot.
Swap-bot is a service and a community of creative individuals. Our goal is to connect artists, writers, and crafters via the snail mail. We currently have over 40,000 members from all over the world, and the site gets over 3.4 million pageviews a month. I work on Swap-bot full-time and am the site’s only administrator. I do everything for the business (customer service, marketing, blogging, accounting, strategic planning, etc.) except the backend programming. To support the site financially, we publish ads.

Describe your typical day.
I like to get my household chores out of the way in the morning before I sit down at the computer. Then, I get a large mug of coffee (with chocolate soy milk) and sit down to go through emails. My day is technically flexible — I often go to the grocery store or go running — but in general, I spend the whole day in front of the computer.

I receive a LOT of customer support email, which I try to keep up with on a daily basis, but it is difficult. I often spend a good amount of time mediating disputes and investigating questionable accounts. I also monitor the Swap-bot forums and try to write a blog post every day. I update the Swap-bot twitter account and Facebook page a couple times a day and I often spend a few hours each week working on design projects for Swap-bot, like business cards, postcards, or other collateral.

To supplement my income I also do freelance graphic design work for other clients, so I usually have quite a few projects in the air each day.

What keeps you motivated?
The awesome, dedicated Swap-bot users! It is sometimes easy to get caught up in the small day-to-day problems of running a large community, but I always get a renewed sense of purpose when one of our users tells me how much they love Swap-bot because it has helped them meet new friends or renewed their creativity. Our long-time members who have completed hundreds, or even thousands (!), of swaps really inspire me to continue trying to improve the site.

What keeps you on track with your business? Tools? Tricks?
I hand write a To-Do list about once a week. That helps me to remember all of the big important tasks. I also have a pretty complicated system of flagging and filing email that keeps me organized. But other than that, I basically just keep showing up each day and getting as much done as possible. We have been working on Swap-bot for almost six years, and I really think that longevity and perseverance are our only “tricks.”

Any websites or programs you use to help with your business? Which ones and how do they assist you?
I use Goggle Docs for my financial spreadsheets. I like that I can access it online from anywhere and that it is inherently backed up.

I use Google Analytics to track our site traffic.

I love Hootsuite for managing my many social media accounts. I think it is the best Twitter tool out there.

All of my blogs are built on WordPress.

For all of my graphic design work I use the Adobe Creative Suite. I think I use Photoshop every single day of my life!

What is the biggest challenge in your business?
Oof. That is easy — constant complaints. Did I mention that I get a lot of email? Ha! A good portion of it pertains to problems, disputes, site glitches, etc. Most issues are easy to fix and respond to, but sometimes I get some really hurtful email about really random things — often things that are not in my ability to fix or even speak to. Those emails bring me down even though I know that the only proper response is to ignore them.

Any advice you would give to someone just starting a crafty business?
Perseverance is key. It takes a while to establish your brand and build relationships. I know that it is hard to hear, but it usually takes years — not months — for a small business to see real profits.

What do you love most about owning your own crafty business?
I really love working for myself and being in control of my own success or failure.

Besides crafting, what do you love doing?
I love exercising! I train with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training and I highly recommend it. I completed the New York City Marathon in November!

Where does your inspiration come from?
Besides our awesome Swap-bot users, I am inspired by huge collaborative projects, like Wikipedia, that demonstrate how incredible humanity can be.

Who are your favorite crafters?
Well, the big mama, Martha Stewart, of course! I also really like Kal Barteski, Jessica Marquez, and Tyshawn Henry.

Tell us about your crafting space.

I have a small office in our Brooklyn apartment where I do all my work, and which houses all of my crafting gear. It has a big wrap-around desk and a large paper storage chest, but it is basically a small space covered in clutter.

If you lose your crafty mojo, how do you find it again?
I join an interesting swap!!

What trends are you noticing in Craft?
Well, cupcakes are definitely on the way out… Bright colors, fringe, and confetti seem to be trending lately.

Where do you see your business in 10 years?
I really hope Swap-bot is still around and swapping is still a popular hobby — hopefully postage doesn’t go up too much! I also love creating new websites. My newest one is AceDepartment.com, a community site for entrepreneurs that I co-founded with my friend Jessica Alfieri Wright. Over the next ten years I hope to continue expanding my online presence and making friends along the way!

Thanks to Rachel for sharing her thoughts about crafty business and how she makes all the magic happen over at Swap-bot. I encourage everybody to go and check out all the fun, it is a great place to be inspired as well as make new friends with similar interests and some of the swaps require absolutely no crafting.

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: Flip Pal Mobile Scanner

Reported by Rachel Johnson


Years ago, I worked for an art magazine, and scanning fine art images was a big part of my job. Since I had access to a professional grade scanner at work, I never got around to purchasing a scanner for home use. Since nearly all of my photography is digital, I mostly got by without one, but there were always instances when I wished I could scan an old photo or an illustration. It just never seemed worth it to go buy a huge, desktop scanner/printer combo for just a few projects or photos. It was a constant conundrum — I wanted to scan things, but I didn’t want to own a bulky scanner that would just take up room on my desk.

The Flip Pal Mobile Scanner solved my conundrum! The Flip Pal is a mini, battery-powered scanner that you can take anywhere. It is approximately 10 inches wide, 6.5 inches tall, and about an inch thick. It weighs about 1.5 pounds. It comes pre-loaded with batteries and a 2GB SD memory card. All you have to do to start scanning is take it out of its packaging. You don’t need to hook it up to a computer or plug it in; just switch it on, and press the scanning button! Magic!
The Flip Pal also comes with a simple instruction booklet and a handy thumb drive “SD to USB converter” that you can use with the SD card to load the scanned photos onto you computer. The thumb drive also contains special Flip Pal photo software that runs on Windows computers and can help you edit photos and stitch together large photos from multiple scans. However, I use Mac computers, so I was not able to access the software. Instead I used iPhoto and Photoshop to easily edit all my scans.

I got married long, long ago in the age of analog photography, and for years I have been meaning to scan some of my wedding photos. A perfect project to test out my new Flip Pal!
The scanning surface is 4 x 6 inches and can scan at a 300 dpi or 600 dpi resolution. Three hundred dpi is a standard print resolution, and scans made at that size can be printed at their original size. Scans made at 600 dpi resolution can be successfully printed up to twice their original size. Many professional scanners work at much higher scanning resolutions, but for nearly all hobby and craft purposes, 600 dpi is plenty large. Plus, each scan is very fast! I scanned over 80 wedding photos and didn’t even use up half of the battery power!

Each scan is displayed on the scanner’s small screen after it is completed. The digital display helps you make sure you positioned the scanned item correctly and allows you to review all of the scans you have made during a session.

Another great feature of the Flip Pal is that you can remove the cover and “contact scan” larger pieces or things that will not fit under the cover. Once the cover has been easily pulled off, you can flip the Flip Pal over and scan… well, really anything!

The clear back allows you to position the scanning surface correctly. I scanned a few of my large wedding photos and also a few older photos that are affixed to a scrapbook this way.
It was incredibly easy to import the scans onto my computer. You simply put the SD card into the USB converter and plug that into your computer. Then, you can import photos just as you normally would off of a digital camera. If you have an SD slot on your computer, you can use that instead of the USB converter. I imported my scans into iPhoto and did a little bit of cropping and editing. The whole scanning process was completely user friendly and easy.

I am thrilled that I finally got some of my old photos scanned, including the two above of my grandparents. I love my new Flip Pal!
Pros:
  • Small size makes it completely portable and easy to store.
  • User friendly and extremely easy to use.
  • No set up – simply open it up and start scanning!
  • Patented flip-and-scan technology – literally flip it over and scan anything!

Cons:
  • The included Flip Pal software only works on Windows computers.
  • The scanning surface is small – 4 x 6 inches.
  • Maximum scanning resolution is 600 dpi – some project may call for a higher res.

Giveaway!
The fine folks at Flip Pal are giving away a Flip Pal Mobile Scanner to one of our lucky readers. Just leave a comment on any Vendor Spotlight: Flip Pal Mobile Scanner article (there will be 2) answering the following questions:


Have you ever used a portable scanner, like the Flip Pal? What projects would you complete if you had a Flip Pal?

One comment per person, per article, please. You have until Monday, December 20th at 6pm CST to enter.

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Event Review: World Maker Faire 2010

Reported by Rachel Johnson


What do you get when you combine a craft show, a technology expo, a science museum, crazy inventions, Martha Stewart, music, costumes, and delicious food? The World Maker Faire 2010 that took place last weekend in New York. I attended the Faire on Sunday and it was quite the scene!
The Maker Faire was held at the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens (the location of the 1939-40 and 1964-65 World Fairs). Exhibits were spread throughout the interior of the science museum (seen above) and also in the surrounding park area. There were craft areas, technology areas, building and construction areas, demonstration stages… too many different booths and exhibits to keep track of!

I made sure to visit the Craft Pavilion, which had a Craftzine.com booth (seen above), as well as a Lion Brand Yarn station where you could learn to knit or crochet, and a Xyron table where you could play with all of their different craft tools and pick up your own, free sticker maker! Score!


Martha Stewart Living was one of the main sponsors of the Maker Faire and the magazine had a huge booth where you could make butterfly wands and giant papier mache bones. They also had two spooky backdrops set up that you could pose in and get your photo taken by their professional photographer. I forced my husband to pose with me in the butterfly library (all of the resulting portraits can be viewed in the Martha Stewart Living Maker Faire Flickr group).

One of the things that I was most looking forward to at Maker Faire was the Bust Magazine Craftacular that was held in conjunction. I always love a good craft fair, and this one was billed to have over 100 vendors and appearances by some big name craft personalities.
Since I am not a vendor, I can’t be sure, but I would guess that the Craftacular was maybe not as successful as many would have hoped. It was spread out in the parking lot outside the Hall of Science and was a little lackluster. Because it cost $25 to get into the Maker Faire, some visitors may not have been in the mood to shop once they got inside. I didn’t see any purchases being made. However, some of the excitement may have been drained by the second day, when I visited. Plus, it was over-cast and a little rainy on Sunday, which didn’t help. All that being said, there were some awesome vendors to check out. Here are some of my favorites…

Sharp Shirter had really funny, manly t-shirts – their banner definitely caught my eye!

Perch Ceramics had absolutely beautiful bird houses and other delicate ceramic vessels. I loved these salt and pepper shakers.
Kate Durkin’s booth was beautifully presented and her hand-stitched animal pillows are adorable.

I just had to take a photo of this booth: Jersey Shore Baby. Very funny — and somewhat disturbing — baby clothes.

After pursuing the Craftacular, my husband and I ventured out to explore the more technological and mechanical offerings at the Maker Faire. We saw lots of crazy contraptions like the crazy lady “chariot” seen above. There was also a “jet-powered pony” ride (that was incredibly noisy), a life size mousetrap game, recycled “junk” art areas, the Maker Shed, kid-powered rides, a robot fabrication tent, and much more! It was a lot to take in and eventually we had to stop for a food break.

I got this delicious Cauliflower Salad from Scratch Bread and liked it so much that I had to spread the word. Yum!

Overall, the Maker Faire was a lot fun and a great one-day adventure. I am so glad I attended it because I had been hearing about the previous Maker Faires for years and had grown increasingly curious. The Faire was definitely a family-friendly event, with lots of activities geared directly toward kids, like the alien parade shown above, and the Young Makers Pavilion, not to mention the full interactive science museum with a 60,000 square foot outdoor Science Playground. We saw a lot of families and all of the kids seemed to be having a great time. If you have children, I would definitely recommend attending a Maker Faire!
Did you attend the World Maker Faire in New York? What did you think? Have you attended previous Maker Faires in other cities? How did they compare?

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Three New York City Textile Craft Resources

Reported by Rachel Johnson
There are so many neighborhoods, shopping districts, and stores in New York City that it is hard to know where to even start when looking for craft supplies. I felt overwhelmed and lost when I first arrived, but have slowly discovered some fantastic craft supply resources. Today I will share three off my favorite places to go for textile craft (like sewing, knitting, crocheting, etc.) supplies: Purl Soho, Mood Fabrics, and M & J Trimming.
Purl is a beautiful, little store in Soho (obviously) that recently moved to a new location on Broome Street. The shop walls are lined with bins of gorgeous, natural fiber yarn and racks of cotton fabric. They also sell unique trims, thread, craft kits, needles, etc – just about everything you’d need to make unique and lovely craft projects. Last time I was there, I picked up delicate, Japanese pom pom fringe and a cute pack of Sukie stationery. The store is an absolute delight, and even though some of the prices seem high, I can always find a little something that I need to take home.

If you live in NY, you can take knitting, crocheting, and sewing classes at the store. Everyone else can shop Purl’s stylish selection of supplies online.

If you are a serious seamstress, you must visit Mood Fabric in the garment district. It is a giant three-story warehouse space stuffed full of every type of fabric imaginable. It is a bit daunting to visit if you plan to simply browse, but if you are looking for something specific, they are sure to have it. They also have rows and racks of ribbon, thread, and trim, all of which is mainly intended for use in fashion and interior decor. Last time I was at Mood I was too overwhelmed to choose any fabric, but I did manage to purchase some pretty radical neon ribbon.

Mood has been featured on the tv show, Project Runway, which has increased its popularity (and perhaps its prices). There are many other fabric stores in the garment district, but I have not visited any with the amazing selection found at Mood. Visiting the store is definitely a fun experience, but you can also shop much of their selection on their website.
M & J Trimming is a store I learned about years before moving to New York and longed to visit. As evident by the name, it is a store devoted entirely to trim – ribbon, fringe, sequins, tassels, cords, buttons, lace, etc. The store was opened in 1936 in the garment district and it has since grown to 5,000 square feet full of trimming. My favorite is the grosgrain ribbon!

I don’t do a lot of fashion sewing that requires fanciful trim, but I love using it within scrapbook pages and other paper crafts. I also like to use fabric ribbon when wrapping packages, so every time I am in the neighborhood, I pick up ribbon from M & J. Their selection is unrivaled (if you aren’t in the neighborhood, you can shop online).
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If you live in New York, or if you are visiting the city, I recommend putting these three textile craft stores on your crafty sight-seeing list.
What other NY craft stores do you love and recommend?
Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Craft Apps for the iPhone

Reported by Rachel Johnson
I’ve been using an iPhone for several years, but never really got drawn in by the whole “App” culture. Previous to this review, I only had games and a handful of free social networking Apps on my phone, so I was excited to try out a few of the craft Apps that are available.
I tried out four Apps that are all related to scrapbooking or paper crafting in some way. The first two Apps are functional digital scrapbooking tools, and the second two are content-based Apps. Keep in mind while reading my reviews that there are inherent limitations to crafting and reading content on a small iPhone screen, which even the best Apps can’t offset.

Coolibah screen shots


Cost: Free, but you can upgrade the app for $5.99 and buy additional kits for $.99 each
Coolibah is a digital scrapbooking App that allows you to create scrapbook pages right on your iPhone or iPad, using your camera phone photos or other imported images. The free version of the App includes some free digital papers and design elements and is fun to play around with. The upgraded version has nearly limitless options when used with some of the premium kits. This is my favorite of the crafting Apps that I reviewed because of its versatility and the wide range of available design elements. (You can learn more about Coolibah on their website.)
A page I created using the Coolibah App

Pros:
  • Free version of the App is available so you can try it out before investing in the upgraded version.
  • They offer many free kits that include digital papers and embellishments, plus over 130 premium designer kits available for purchase.
  • You can save your pages and go back to work on them later.
  • With the upgraded App you can export high resolution pages to use on your computer or print.
Cons:
  • The App crashed on my phone a couple times – but my phone is old.
  • With the free version of the App all of the pages include the Coolibah watermark.

eScrap screen shots

Cost: $1.99
The eScrap App from 300dpi.com is another digital scrapbooking App similar to Coolibah. It allows you to create digital scrapbook pages directly on your iPhone using your photos and their selection of digital papers and embellishments.
A page I created using the eScrap App

Pros:
  • Offers cool filters (like black & white and sepia tone) that you can use to alter your photos.
  • Has “quick page” options that are pre-made pages that you can quickly add your photos to.
  • You can export your pages via email, or send them to Facebook or Twitter.
Cons:
  • You cannot save your pages to work on later. You must export them when you are done or you lose them.
  • Elements are difficult to resize and position.
  • The selection of design elements is limited to what comes with the original App. You can’t purchase additional design kits at this time.
  • The pages are not high resolution.

Screen shots from The Daily Digi App


Cost: Free
The Daily Digi iPhone App is an extension of the The Daily Digi website. It is basically an informational App that allows you to easily browse the website’s latest blog posts, tweets, and scrapbook page images on your iPhone. This App does not allow you to do any actual digital scrapbooking on your phone, but if you love the Daily Digi website or just want to browse crafty content on you phone it is an excellent resource! I definitely recommend it, especially since it is free!

Screen shots from the Clear & Simple Stamps App

Cost: $4.99
Clear & Simple Stamps is a website that sells variety of designer paper crafting stamps. Their corresponding iPhone App is extremely simple. It basically shows you a new stamped project each day for inspiration. The daily project also includes step-by-step project instructions and a list of the tools and stamps used. The App is nicely designed and easy to use, but you can only view one project each day and you cannot save them for later viewing. The only interactivity included in the App is the ability to buy any of the supplies used in the daily project directly from the phone. I am really unclear as to why this App costs $4.99 when there are tons of project images available for free on the Clear & Simple Stamps website and the only thing you can do with the App is buy their products. In my opinion, this App should be totally free and I would not recommend purchasing it – just visit the website instead.
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Overall, I had a lot of fun playing with these four craft Apps. They are a great way to pass some time while you are on the subway or waiting for an appointment. However, crafters who are used to doing digital scrapbooking on a large computer monitor may find the phone-sized crafting very frustrating. The Apps are definitely not a replacement for your computer-based digital scrapbooking, but they are a great on-the-go diversion.
Have you used any of these Apps? What did you think? What are you favorite craft-related mobile Apps?

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Vendor Spotlight & GIVEAWAY: The Ultimate Tool by Crafter’s Companion

Reported by: Rachel Johnson
When a product bills itself as “The Ultimate Tool,” it grabs my attention! I was very curious to try out the many different paper crafting functions of the Crafter’s Companion Ultimate Tool, including scoring, trimming, envelope making, card making, box making, and embossing. However, when I received the purple plastic “suitcase” that is the Ultimate Crafter’s Companion, I was overwhelmed by all of the grooves, compartments and tools. Thank goodness it came with a full-color instructional booklet and DVD!
In addition to the booklet and DVD, the Crafter’s Companion Ultimate Tool comes with the carrying case, which is also the card and envelope scoring surface, an inner plastic “page” used for box folding and embossing, an inner plastic “page” used for shape embossing, two scoring and folding styluses, a cutting blade, a paper trimming ruler and three plastic pins used for the bow making function. All of the accessories are made from the same thick, sturdy, purple plastic and can be stored within the carrying case.
The instructional booklet taught me how to quickly create folded cards and envelopes, but without it I am not sure if I would have been able to figure out all of the functions and folds. There is basically no measuring involved for creating bifold and trifold cards if you start with a standard size sheet of paper or card stock. You simply line your card stock up to the top edge of the Ultimate Tool and then choose a scoring line depending on what size card you intend to create. It is very easy once you have folded a few and figured out the different lines!
Creating envelopes is nearly as simple as folding cards. I made envelopes of all different sizes using the envelope scoring lines on the Ultimate Tool and the handy chart in the booklet, which tells you how large your starting paper sheet needs to be for each envelope size. All of the envelopes and liners seen in the photo above were created within a matter of minutes once I figured out the simple process (I especially like the smallest size envelope because it is the perfect size for an Artist Trading Card and I enjoy making and trading those). Even though I have store-bought and handcrafted envelope templates that I have used in the past to make my own envelopes, I much prefer using the Ultimate Tool. It is a much quicker process with almost no measuring or intricate cutting. I think that the envelope function alone is reason enough to love the Crafter’s Companion Ultimate Tool… but it does much more!
Before attempting one of the more complicated projects on the instructional DVD, I tried embossing a few raised patterns on a few envelopes and cards. You have to be careful not to press too hard and rip the paper and you may have to make quite a few passes, but other than that, embossing is incredibly simple and produces a very pretty and unique result.
I also tried out the bow making function. At first, I was a bit skeptical about the little pegs that you can use to make bows on the Ultimate Tool. I mean, how hard is it to tie a little bow, right? Well, I was really surprised by how easily you can make PERFECT bows using those pegs and the technique described in the booklet. I sound like I am over-hyping it, but really the bows are so simple it almost seems like magic… and I didn’t even think I needed a new bow-making technique!
After trying out all of the simple Crafter’s Companion functions, I decided to try out one of the more complex projects on the DVD. I chose the “Pop-Up Card with Box.” It is a house-shaped box with a card that springs out when opened. Following along with the tutorial on the DVD was fun and easy (although, I did watch the tutorial twice just to make sure I knew what to do). The host walked me through how to make the inner pop-up card, then the box base and box top.
Constructing the elements was the easiest part of the project — decorating the card and box took a bit longer!
The end result is a really fun and uncommon birthday card – and this was just my first try! I am eager to make more of these three-dimensional cards. I really like how the Ultimate Tool has different scoring lines for the box top and the box bottom. It ensures that the top will always slip easily on the box. I also really loved the simple “magic ruler” technique that is taught on the DVD. It allows you create perfectly sized boxes without measuring. It is a time-saver!

The Ultimate Tool DVD is very helpful. It not only has twelve very original and complex project tutorials, but it also has tutorials for all of the more simple functions (card and envelope folding, bow making, etc.), as well as a great “Top Ten Tips” section with helpful info. I definitely would not be able to get the full use out of the Ultimate Tool without the DVD. In fact, there are many more projects I want to try, including pop-up cards, accordion books and envelope boxes.
The Crafter’s Companion Ultimate Tool has so many uses, I feel that I have barely scratched the surface. I am really impressed that so many different functions could be incorporated into one tool — it is a feat of engineering! Plus, there are additional plastic “pages” that you can purchase to augment its selection of embossing shapes. You can learn more about the products at CraftersCompanion.com.
Pros:
  • Numerous and extremely versatile paper crafting functions: folding, scoring, cutting, embossing, etc.
  • Reduces the amount of measuring required to make cards, boxes, and envelopes.
  • The booklet and DVD teach ingenious techniques for making very quick envelopes, bows, and boxes.
  • Everything you need for paper crafting can be stored and transported in the sturdy Crafter’s Companion carrying case.
Cons:
  • Learning curve – it takes some time to get comfortable with all of the different functions.
  • I prefer to use my table top paper cutter over the trimming ruler and cutting blade included with the Crafter’s Companion.
  • You need a fairly large surface on which to use the Crafter’s Companion. It is nearly two feet wide when fully open!
Have you ever used an all-in-one tool like the Crafter’s Companion Ultimate tool before? Do you like the idea of having all of your paper crafting tools in one portable box?

GIVEAWAY!
We’re giving away one Ultimate Tool to one of our readers… just leave a comment on any Crafter’s Companion Ultimate Tool (there will be 2 today) and tell us what you’d use it for. One comment per person, per article, please.

Disclosure

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Event Review: Spring Handmade Cavalcade

Reported by Rachel Johnson

The Spring Handmade Cavalcade is a seasonal craft fair hosted by The {NewNew} Etsy Street Team (you may remember my reviews of the Fall and Winter Cavalcades from last year). On Saturday, April 24th, the Spring Cavalcade was held in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, at Berry Park, a biergarten/restaurant with a huge rooftop patio. The twenty-five vendor booths were spread out within the entire building and on the roof. It was a fun and casual setting that was very welcoming to the weekend foot traffic.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you that my website, Swap-bot.com, was an official sponsor of the Spring Handmade Cavalcade. That means that we provided financial support for the event in exchange for advertising in the event materials and a booth at the event (that’s me manning our table above). Compared to the amazing artist booths, the Swap-bot booth was very amateurish — The {NewNew} crafters are pros! — but we had a great time meeting all the handmade shoppers and spreading the word about Swap-bot. Over 1,500 shoppers passed through the event and many picked up some of our free swag.

The Swap-bot table was located right across the aisle from the Communal Table food booth, which was selling all of the wonderful treats you see above. This was a very good thing, because I forgot to pack snacks! We bought banana bread, pumpkin whoopie pies, and chocolate chip cookies over the course of the day. All of which were awesomely delicious. Deena Lebow, owner of Communal Table, does some catering and fair sales (like Handmade Cavalcade), but her real mission is hosting group dinners that bring “art, ideas, activism and food right to the table.” They sound like amazing events.

There were so many exceptional artists selling their wares at the event. I snapped photos of a few of my favorite booths (after asking permission, of course!). This colorful table belongs to Jen Pepper of Peppersprouts. She is a graphic designer who makes brooches, necklaces, trivets and more featuring laser-cut silhouettes. Her instant-film brooch is ingenious!

Above is Nguyen Le of KnitKnit. I first met Nguyen at an Etsy Labs Craft Night that she hosted on needle felting. She is extremely sweet and talented. She knits and felts everything from handbags to earrings with an artistic edge. I especially love her needle felted cameo necklaces.


These lovely, screen printed dresses were all made by Karin Persan of Better Than Jam. Karin is a textile designer who graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2002, and she now has her own store, the Better Than Jam Handmade Co-op in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

These sweet illustrations are from Virginia Kraljevic. I just loved their whimsical feel and the turquoise and lime color combos!
Like I’ve already said, there were so many fabulous booths at the Spring Handmade Cavalcade, but perhaps my favorite was Miniature Rhino. Jessica Marquez, the artist behind Miniature Rhino, makes vintage-inspired embroidery, paper goods, and “curious objects,” but my favorite of her offerings is her letter-writing service. You can purchase the service from her Etsy store and she will type your message (on her typewriter), and then mail it in a custom glass bottle within a tiny box to your recipient. Such a sweet and unique idea!
The Spring Handmade Cavalcade was a well organized, but laid back Saturday of fun blessed with excellent, sunny weather. But if you missed it, don’t fret! The {NewNew} will be hosting their next event, Crafts in Chelsea, on Saturday, May 8th. Will I see you there?
Summer is definitely craft fair season! What other craft events will you be checking out in your area?
Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!