Today I am Loving

The blog “Junk Mail Gems.”  Written by a fellow product designer, I found this blog via one of my other favorites, Girl on the Rocks.  Both of these talented ladies are extremely resourceful when it comes to “junk,” recycling everything from post-Halloween jack-o-lanterns to net produce bags, turning them into truly useful items like baked goods and dish scrubbers.  Both women also have a thing for the patterns inside security envelopes, which they’ve turned into gorgeous nameplates, collages, price tags and yes, other envelopes.

With the holidays coming up and the economy slowing down, crafty recycling just makes good financial (And organizational) sense. I’m knitting my double balls of discontinued yarn into little “scarflets” that fasten with (leftover) buttons since they are too short to wrap.  The single balls of yarn are becoming pom-poms and “ribbon,” which will adorn my recycled holiday gift-wrap.  Also, I’m turning my canister of cut up credit cards (yes, I save them, shut up) into a wreath for the Hayes Valley “Circle of Joy” benefit auction.  The leaves are pretty much done, but I still have to add the flowers.

credit card wreath for hayes valley circle of joy benefit auction

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but to me, it really is the thought that counts.  That’s why I like handmade gifts so much.  They’re completely original and really show that you are loved, because they took valuable, valuable time. I probably won’t hold on to that sled-shaped peppermint candle holder from Wal-Mart, but I will treasure those mittens, that cheese board, and those earrings until they disintegrate.

Call for Artists: Holiday Wreath Benefit

This fall, the Hayes Valley Merchants’ Association will be reviving an old tradition: the Holiday Wreath Benefit and Art Walk.  Bay Area artists will be creating wreaths to be displayed in Hayes Valley businesses and sold via silent auction. All proceeds will go to support Opportunity Impact.  Each artist who signs up to participate will receive a wreath wire frame (about one foot diameter), with total freedom to interpret the piece from there.

Verbal commitments from artists are requested by Wednesday, October 1st — that’s less than a week from today.  You will receive your wreath frame 1-2 weeks later, with the actual piece due to the Merchants’ Association by Black Friday, 11/28.

The pieces will go up for display and auction from 11/28 until the following Friday, 12/5, which is the date of the block party.  The auctions will close at 9pm that evening.  Every wreath site will have maps with all of the other wreath sites listed as part of the art walk.

Obviously, this a promotional opportunity, and not a paid one, but it’s a nice way to get another exhibition line on your CV while giving back during the holidays.  You only need to prepare one piece for it, and the merchants’ association goes nuts with publicity.  The last time they did this they even got a five-minute segment on the KRON4 evening news!  The Merchants’ Association is looking for approximately 30 artists and spots are steadily filling up, so if you want to be a part of this benefit, speak up (i.e. post a comment or e-mail me)!

Parks for a Day 2008

This past Friday was the 4th annual international Park(ing) Day.  Park(ing) Day was started in 2005 by San Francisco art collective Rebar, and has become increasingly popular ever since.  Ten merchants in Hayes Valley signed up to do it but I only saw five parks (and one neighborhood-wide installation).  The parks were heavily used during the lunchtime hours, and I think if more merchants participated, the neighborhood could become a real destination for this event (though people would have to take the bus!).

Propeller Modern created this little oasis, which people took full advantage of during lunchtime.  Those bright green bicycle parts were part of an installation through the Reaves Gallery.

For those without a lunch, Honey Ryder made snacks and lemonade available.

Zonal put a piece of public park in their park,

while True Sake’s park was the art.

Momi Toby’s liked the extra outdoor seating so much, they kept their park all weekend.

Park(ing) Day September 19th

Next Friday, September 19th, is National Park(ing) Day!  Begun just three years ago by San Francisco art collective, Rebar, and supported by the Trust for Public Land, Park(ing) Day now occurs in over 50 cities worldwide.

Here’s the gist: you and your friends cordon off a metered parking space in your neighborhood and turn it into a public park for the day (while feeding the meter, of course).  Some people lay out rolls of sod or astroturf, while others use kiddie pools to create “water parks.”  Rebar has put together a very easy and detailed “How-To Guide” for putting together your Park(ing) space, so there’s really no excuse.

Many small businesses use Park(ing) Day as a way to draw traffic to their stores.  The shopkeepers in my local merchants’ association in Hayes Valley are commandeering at least three spaces for the event. When you think about it, participating in Park(ing) Day makes perfect sense from a business perspective.  Not only do you create a crowd-drawing spectacle right in front of your store, you are encouraging people to linger there, sometimes for hours.  And in the long term, anything that discourages driving and encourages walking (and therefore, window-shopping) swings the pendulum away from big boxes and back towards neighborhood institutions.

I’m looking forward to spending some time in my neighborhood’s “parks” next Friday.  If my friends weren’t all working, I might even put together a space myself. To get an idea of what to expect, check out these photos.

One note: Park(ing) Day and all of its accoutrements are protected by a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Attribution license, which means: 1) You cannot use your Park(ing) Space to directly sell or promote your business’s products or services (i.e. you can set it up in front of your store, but you cannot label it with your company’s logo or offer free samples) and 2) any signage, web site or other written materials on or referencing your Park(ing) Space must say “Original concept by REBAR.  www.rebargroup.org.”

Review of May Events: Capsule Design Festival

I have attended two previous Capsule events as a shopper, but this was my first time as a vendor.  All in all it was worth it (I made about twice the cost of my booth) but it wasn’t an investment with major returns.

The event happened on Sunday, May 25th, from 11-6, on several blocks surrounding Patricia’s Green in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. The booth fee is a fairly steep $190, considering you are not provided with shelter, parking or furniture of any kind.  We all got nervous when it rained the day before, and a chance of rain was predicted for the day of the festival as well.  Luckily, things stayed dry.  If nice weather had been assured, the turnout may have been better, but nonetheless there was a pretty steady stream of customers throughout the day.  I was set up on Linden Street, however, and a fellow vendor told me that his table on Octavia Street between Hayes and Grove was only receiving about half the traffic — a good thing to know considering you get to choose your own table location.

Compared to other craft/handmade events, the Capsule Festival has a reputation for being a little too cool for school.  It’s definitely hip and on the high end price-wise, but it seems like a good venue for artists whose goods are too time-intensive and costly for the average craft fair.  At Capsule, there are plenty of buyers who are prepared to spend over $100 on a well-made item, provided you accept plastic.

Scattered thinly amongst the uber-hip artisans were a few typical “street fair wear” booths.  Their goods may have been technically handmade, but not by anyone in the U.S.  I heard complaints from some artists who were placed next to such ventures, since their prices were glaringly cheaper, and a few customers were so relieved to finally find a “bargain” that they failed to realize that they came out to Capsule just to shop at H&M.  I know that Capsule juries it’s applications, and I know that they walk the fair themselves, so I can’t imagine they allow such vendors to return in the future.  It used to say specifically on their website that Capsule is not a venue for mass-produced discount merchandise, but I can’t find that statement anymore.  Maybe the definition of “independent design” has changed?

Depending on my schedule and how busy I am in general, I may sign up for the October Capsule Festival.  It’s right in my neighborhood so it’s ridiculously convenient.  It’s also nice to have an event earlier in the holiday season.  You can do some first-hand market research before the big rush and adjust your inventory accordingly.

Tip: Sunscreen the [email protected]$T out of yourself before any seven-hour outdoor event.  I had such a wicked raccoon tan I couldn’t take my sunglasses off in public for a week.

Craft Fair for Designers (SF)

If you’ve ever wanted to sell your wares at a craft-fair-type event, but you’re more of a designer than a crafter, this is the fair for you! The Capsule Design Fair is held semi-annually in the Hayes Valley neighborhood in San Francisco, and also sometimes at the 111 Minna gallery downtown. I’m ashamed to say this, but I live in Hayes Valley and have shopped at the Capsule fair for the last couple of years, but I never figured out who ran it or how to join it until now.

capsuleThe 2008 fairs are happening on May 25th and October 19th form 11-6. They are always outdoors, but I’ve never seen it rained out. One of the nice things about the Capsule fair is that is often coincides with the Hayes Valley Merchants’ Block Party, the Linden Street Fair, and other events that make the neighborhood a true destination on that date. Most times I’ve visited the fair, the surrounding residential blocks have also had giant communal yard sales — another draw for passersby.

You can register to be a designer at the Capsule web site (yes, crafters can participate, too). Once you’re approved, you can also reserve your booth right on the site. The fee for the day is $190 (a little steeper than usual) and gets you an 8x 10 booth (a little bigger than usual). I can personally vouch for the great attendance at this fair, and it’s an especially great place to show if you carry goods that typically price you out of the traditional craft market. There are lots of vendors with average price points of $100, for example, but be aware that customers willing to spend that much will want to be able to pay with a credit card.

Resident Tip: arrive really early — by 9am at the latest — to get first pick at the local yard sales and skip the huge line at Blue Bottle Coffee on Linden.