BUST Craftacular Applications are Up

For all the east coasters out there (or folks who can travel light), BUST magazine’s annual Holiday Craftacular has posted its application page for this year’s NYC show.  The 2009 Craftacular takes place Sunday, December 6th from 10am-7:30 PM.  Their booth fee seems steep, but it looks as though they’ve moved the show from Brooklyn to Chelsea, so it might very well be worth it.

Happy New Year

Fall is the beginning of my year.  It always has been.  In the first place, I’m Jewish, so I celebrate the new year in the fall rather than in January.  I take stock and make my resolutions in the fall.  Fall is also when school starts, and when people come back after having a long break.  Fall is when I naturally feel compelled to start in new directions and when the economy begins to ramp up again.

This year my main goal is to take those new directions and make them more, um…directed.  I’m trying to set clear, achievable goals for each of my current projects, which I am trying to cull and focus in service of a greater professional goal: an independent and sustainable career as a creative professional.

I’ve decided I need help with this, so I’ve been in contact with Lisa at the Renaissance Business Center here in San Francisco.  Renaissance is a non-profit dedicated to helping people start and/or grow small businesses.  What makes them different from SCORE, SBA and the SBDC is that they are much more focused on providing intensive, long-term assistance.  Two programs I’m currently looking at are their 14-week business planning course (which has been described as a mini-MBA program), and their 1-3 year business incubation program (probably the virtual incarnation).  I’ve got a tour and orientation on Wednesday.  Hopefully they can help me focus and kick my ass a little.

In the meantime, I’ve been applying for some holiday shows, and trying to create new wares for them.  The one I’m currently most excited about is DesignerCon in L.A. (formerly Vinyl Toy Network).  It’s sort of a combo trade fair/cash-and-carry for folks who make the kinds of things you see in designer toy and comic shops — plush and vinyl collectibles, limited-edition prints, and character-driven art of all kinds.  At $125 for a one-day booth, the cost is comparable to your standard craft fair.  I’m planning on showcasing/selling Sweet Meats on one side of the booth, and presenting samples of my plush design work on the other.  DesignerCon is on November 21st, which gives me a concrete deadline by which to have my new web site and business cards done, as well samples of next year’s toy line.

A little bit further down the list is a book proposal.  I’ve heard from fellow crafters that writing an instructional book is extremely difficult and takes about a year of full-time work to complete.  According to Crafty Chica Kathy Cano-Murillo, just writing the proposal takes a week.  Things being what they are in publishing, writing a book is often not very lucrative, assuming that your proposal even gets picked up a by a publisher in the first place, which is unlikely.  On the other hand, authoring a successful book significantly increases your profile as an expert in your field, leading (hopefully) to press, more clients and higher rates.  What doesn’t get picked up you can always publish on your own, so I’m keeping it as an option for now.

As for making a Thing-A-Day, I’m still doing it, though I’ve fallen back on the “work on an existing project for 30 minutes” net a couple of times this week.  Yesterday I made and decorated a cake for my friends’ 26th/30th birthdays, but I didn’t like it enough to photograph it.  Otherwise I’ve mostly been working on re-making my pieces for the Plush You show next month.

It’s going to be a busy fall.  I’ll keep you posted about what I learn along the way.  Happy New Year, everyone!

New Renegade Holiday Fair in San Francisco!

That’s right, Chicago’s favorite indie craft fair is adding a a second city to it’s holiday fair line-up this year!  Luckily for us San Franciscans, Renegade chose our very own beautiful city by the Bay.  If you loved it in July, you’ll love it even more in December, because the holiday season is when customers come holding cash and lists, and vendors come with all the inventory they can carry.

The fair will take place on December 19th and 20th at Fort Mason, which is a very warm and cozy location (despite its size), as long as you’re not near the front doors.  You can find the application here, which is due by October 9th, along with the $300 booth fee and $10 application fee.  If you are accepted into the fair, you will be notified by October 16th.  If not, your booth fee will be refunded by October 23rd.  For more info, you can visit the FAQs here.

Bazaar Bizarre SF Holiday Show Application is Up!

This is my favorite craft fair.  Period.  The organizers take such good care of you in every way.  It can be tough to get in (the odds are about 1 in 3) but the organizers make a commitment to bringing in a significant number of new vendors every year (at the last fair in May it was 50% new vendors).  You can find the application here.  Last day to apply is September 21st.  Notifications are sent on September 30th.

Craftland Application is Up

The annual Providence, RI holiday season craftavaganza (yeah, I said it) is back and the application is now up. The show takes place 12/4-12/31. Craftland works a little differently than most other shows you’re used to in that they don’t charge a booth fee (it’s in a retail store), they take a commission — 30% if you volunteer 12 hours, 40% if not.  This makes it a really good first show or one to try out new products — you only pay money if you make money.  It’s also good if you can’t be in town but your products are easy and inexpensive to ship.  Early bird deadline is 8/14, final deadline is 8/31.  Apply here!

Oh, and if you’re psyched for Craftland but already booked up for the holidays, get psyched because Craftland is going year-round!  That’s right, folks, seven days a week at 235 Westminster Street in downtown Providence, RI (oh, the nostalgia!).

Mitch the Neon Monster

Yesterday I finished the final Neon Monster prototype, otherwise know as “Mitch 4.”  After four intensive weeks getting this beloved logo monster just right, I sent him off across the ocean to be cloned several hundred times.  I’d love to take the night off to celebrate but Renegade SF starts tomorrow (come say hi!) so there will be no rest for the weary.

mitchfullsmmitchquartermitchrightmitcheye

Next week I will be sharing the whole Mitch process with you in an excruciatingly long and detailed article about how to create a 3-D plush character from a 2-D drawing.  This will not be an Uglydoll-type tutorial, people — anyone can make a fabric sandwich — this is the real deal.  Your plush characters will have real dimensions (like sides!), real 360º forms and real soul.  I may have to split it up over two or three posts, but it’s full of photos and diagrams and riveting text so stay tuned.  It’s going to be a special summer.

Renegade L.A.

This past weekend I participated in the Renegade Craft Fair’s first ever Los Angeles show.  I’ve never done a Renegade show but I kept hearing form other vendors that the L.A. show was nowhere near as good as last year’s San Francisco show, which is coming up again next week.

Renegade L.A. was held in the California Market Center, the same venue where Unique L.A. is held.  It’s not my favorite space.  Firstly, it’s downtown, which is dead on the weekends, so there is no casual foot traffic, but I’m not sure there’s any place in L.A. that gets much random foot traffic full of eager craft buyers.  Secondly, it’s located on the 13th floor of the CMC, which can make loading in and out a nightmare.  This wasn’t as much of an issue with the Renegade Fair as with the Unique L.A. show because Renegade had fewer vendors.  Thirdly, the 13th floor is a labrynthine mess.  People can’t figure out where they are or what they’ve already seen.  This makes your success extremely dependent on your booth location.  If you’re near the elevators and bathrooms, you’re fine, but once you get into the deeper recesses of “the penthouse” traffic dwindles significantly.

I made a little more money at the Renegade fair than at Unique L.A., even though there were fewer shoppers, because Renegade skews more toward my usual demographic, which is less fashionable/trendy and more indie/crafty.  I don’t think I’ll be able to do any more L.A. fairs, though, because my sister is moving back to NYC.  That means no more helper and no more free room and board.

The best part of fairs like Renegade is the awesome people you get to hang out with.  I got to chat with Jenny Hart and Rob Mahar (each just shopping for a change), both of whom I never get to see because we all live in different cities.  I also exchanged hand signals with my L.A. “booth brother,” Adam from the Poster List.  We’ve been placed across from each other at every L.A. fair we’ve ever done, but he speaks quietly and I’m hard of hearing, so we communicate via sign language.  Adam is a real hardcore craft vendor.  He never leaves his booth during show hours (eight hours a day at Renegade!) and never starts packing up early.  I know he hides Starbucks lemon loaves under the table, but how does he pee?!

I also met a ton of fantastic new people this weekend, most of whom will be at Rengade SF this weekend, including my awesome neighbor, illustrator Caitlin Kuhwald.  How gorgeous is this painting?

I also got to know Robert Goodin, who traded me this jah-mazing refillable sketchbook (which I have been sorely needing) for a giant ham

woodsketchbook

…and all the ladies at Krank Press, where I bought the perfect little birthday calendar (which I have also been needing).  Each page is letterpressed in three colors and contains California planting and harvesting information for each month in addition to spaces for each date.  The whole calendar was only $15!  What are they, crazy?  I know underpricing is a craft-world epidemic, but how can you even survive on that?  Geez, when I think of the cost of paper, inks, binding, printing plates, AND the very skilled labor is takes to print 14 pages three times each, I’m a little astounded that Nor can eat three meals a day.

birthdaycalendar

I also got to chat a while with the gals at dust and co. and Porterness, where I scored this tote for a cycling friend who hates Prius drivers even more than he hates tomatoes.

fuckyourprius

Elijah at Figs and Ginger gave me a deal on these totally sweet earrings in exchange for some fashion advice…

…and Erin Dollar (also an underpricer in my opinion) wowed me with her varied crafty talents.

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Biz Mister: Francois Vigneault Talks about Zines and Small Publishing

This August 22nd and 23rd marks the ninth anniversary of one of the Bay Area’s most anticipated gatherings of small publishers and authors, the SF Zine Fest.  I particularly like the Zine Fest because it’s more laid-back and intimate than something like Comic-Con or A.P.E., and it really celebrates the connection between Zines and other crafts.  I wanted to share some info about this event with you, and about the world of small publishing in general, so I went straight to the source and asked Francois Vigneault, the organizer of the Zine Fest for the past four years.

For those of us who are unfamiliar with the event, what is the SF Zine Fest?

The Zine Fest is a free annual festival celebrating zines (i.e. small-press magazines and other publications covering almost every imaginable subject and format) and other creative works coming out of the DIY ethos. The SFZF has been in existence since 2001, when Jenn Starfiend founded it; I have been involved with the Fest for the last four years.

This year the Fest is on August 22 &23, at the San Francisco County Fair Building (the same spot the Holiday Bazaar Bizarre SF happens in), which is this adorable 70s-style building right in the middle of Golden Gate Park, it’s really beautiful!

Every year we have hundreds of creators and small-press publishers selling, trading, and otherwise sharing their work with the public. Additionally, we always run a pretty expansive slate of workshops and panels on everything from screenprinting to nature journaling, hopefully inspiring the attendees to try their hands at making their own zines, mini-comics, or other DIY creations.

Who might be interested in attending SFZF?

Well, the short answer is anybody! We’ve been growing every year, and now we bring together over one hundred zinesters, cartoonists, poets, crafters, printmakers, and other artists with an audience of well over 1000 attendees. Of course, anyone who’s ever been a fan of a zine or indy comic should definitely come; with our mix of zine stalwarts like John Marr (Murder Can Be Fun), new stars like Esther Pearl Watson (Unloveable), and totally unknown (but totally awesome) first-time creators, you’re sure to come across something that will rekindle your love of DIY expression. But it’s also a great show for anyone who’s just interested in checking out what’s going on artistically outside the purview of the mainstream.

What are some highlights we can expect at this year’s Zine Fest?

As the Zine Fest gets a bit bigger, one of the benefits is that more and more out-of-towners are coming to the show… This year we have a major contingent of creators and publishers from Portland, Oregon, coming in for the show: Theo Ellsworth, Sarah Oleksyk, Sparkplug Comics, Tugboat Press and others… I guess it’s a great excuse to visit San Francisco!

Another new thing for us this year is that our posters will be extra-fancy: Aaron Cohick of New Lights Press and Hello! Lucky will be letterpress printing our Special Guest Andy Hartzell’s awesome zine love-in design! We will be selling them at the Fest and online to help raise money for the show; they are going to be really, really nice.

Oh, and it looks like we will finally get our act together and have an official Zine Fest party this year! We’re still working out the details, but as soon as we’ve got it set in stone, we’ll announce it on our blog.

Where do you see the small publishing/zine movement in the Bay Area going today?  What has it been like historically?

It’s funny, I realized the other day that the Zine Fest started well after what’s considered the height of the zine trend of the nineties, and yet we still grow every year! So I definitely think that any rumors of self-publishing’s demise are greatly exaggerated. I find that in the Bay Area there is a robust artistic community at large, and there will always be new folks making little publications to express themselves. If you just walk into a zine-oriented shop like & pens" href="www.needles-pens.com" target="_blank">Needles & Pens or Rock Paper Scissors you’ll be faced with dozens of titles, from the autobiographical to the political.

San Francisco has a tremendous history of small-press publishing. Robert Crumb, Spain, and other underground cartoonists are almost as symbolic of the City in the 60s as bands like the Grateful Dead, and of course there are the Beats: Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s New Lights Press publishing Allen Ginsberg’s Howl in the 1950s, there were only 1000 copies in that first edition! Of course, there is so much more; the San Francisco Public Library has an amazing Little Maga/Zine Collection with over a thousand titles. Andrea Grimes, who runs the collection, participated in a roundtable discussion at the Zine Fest a few years ago; I’m hoping to have her give a talk on the history of zines at this year’s Fest.

What is the role of craft at the Zine Fest?

A definite trend that I have seen at the Zine Fest is the increasing level of handicraft which folks are putting into their zines, mini-comics, and other projects. It’s become much more common to see zines with screen-printed covers, elaborate bindings, and other embellishments. I think part of the trend can be tied into the rise of the blogosphere; now that there are so many venues to share one’s writing and artwork online, I see a proportional  emphasis in the DIY publishing world on the tangible nature of the zine as object, something which the creator has invested time and love in so that it could exist as a real thing rather than just clicking “publish” and it is instantly on the internet. Of course, some of our creators really take this to the extreme, and their art is in large part about the craft that goes into it; for instance, every year I am just blown away by what Tom Biby and Jonathan Fetter-Vrom of Two Fine Chaps come out with, like hand-cut pop-up diorama books!

We also always have a healthy showing from the broader craft community, from quilts to needle-felted monsters! Although our emphasis will always be on zines and self-publishing, we love to see creative types from other disciplines at the Fest, there is so much overlap between all these different crafty interests.

What advice can you give to people who would like to start small-/self-publishing?

The great thing is that it is a really easy field to try out! There are really no rules in regards to a zine’s content, format, theme, or even quality; everyone can and should make a least one in their lifetime. I personally feel it’s hard to go wrong if you just try and document some aspect of life which you find interesting, even if it seems silly at first. For instance, I’m a bird watcher, and I have a zine I’m bringing out for the Fest that’s called Bird Brain, it’s all the notes and sketches I make while I’m out doing that. It’s not like I’m going to necessarily have anything new to say about the barn swallows and great horned owls I’ve seen, but I think there will be some interest for people in just seeing my point of view on something I care about.

What are your hopes for the Zine Fest and small publishing in the future?

It’s funny, but I think the economic downturn will be good for the world of self-publishing and small press in some ways. During the recent boom, lots of great creators from the small-press world were (deservedly) getting publishing deals for their work in the mainstream press. Now that the economy is in rough shape, a lot of those folks are having their series canceled, unfortunately. But these creators still want to make their art, happily, so I foresee a return to self-publishing for them. It’s a really welcoming place!

As far as the Zine Fest, I basically just want to connect as many creators with the largest public that I can, and hopefully facilitate the development of new artists, too. I’d like to run more workshops; I love to see folks realize that they can express themselves through art and craft, from screen printing and bookbinding to illustration and writing. Everyone’s got a story to tell!

Photos: 1. SFZF 2009 Poster - Art by Andy Hartzell 2. Nicole Bennet from Family Style Jamboree zine.  3. Some of the many titles which have been featured in years past.  4. John Isaacson teaching a Zine Fest 2008
attendee about silk screening.  5.  L-R, Renée French (Micrographica) and Trevor Alixopulos
(Hot Breath of War).

No More Outdoor Fairs

Just got back from the Indie Mart.  I’m exhausted.  The sun was directly in my face all day and I spent a lot of time chasing down things that the wind blew over.  The poor guy next to me had to decide whether to leave his awesome woven collages in their condensation-filled plastic sleeves or to let the vintage paper sit out in the UV unprotected.

I don’t normally do outdoor fairs because they’re so uncomfortable. I think I’m going to have to forgo them completely, though, from now on.  Sweet Meats just don’t sell very well outdoors.  I don’t know what it is.  Cupcakes, on the other hand, seem to sell much better outdoors than in.  I’ll probably still do the Indie Mart (the booth fees are reasonable and the organizers are super nice), but only the indoor shows.  Anyone else find a huge difference in sales (one way or the other) between outdoors and in?  I’d like to explore this phenomenon further.

Lazy Sunday

Saturday night was a long night.  I vended at the Chillin’ Productions Anniversary Show at the Mezzanine, which went from 8pm-2am.  Though the event was packed, my location was hard to get to, so sales were just so-so. I didn’t pay a booth fee, though, so I really can’t complain.  By the time I packed everything up and got it back home it was close to 3, but A. was sick and didn’t come to bed until 5, and then our downstairs neighbor started in with the electric guitar at 9:30, so like I said, it was a long night.

I finally crawled out of bed at around 12:45 and only had the energy to make one more reader/writer set and try out my new Xyron.  Turns out, the 510 doesn’t handle shapes of less than 1” particular well because the roller starts so far from the “feed tray.”  I’m working on a little mod right now to extend the tray to just before the roller.  The whole reason I bought the Xyron, after all, is because it’s a pain to use a glue stick on tiny, intricate pieces.

Anyway, here’s the scan of set number 2.  I used a security envelope this time.  It’s kind of nice on the light blue stock, but I think I like the Air Mail stripes better.  They look so worldly and sophisticated. I also changed the time on the clock to four.  What do you think?  I’m torn.

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Today our media diet is officially over, but I still haven’t broken it yet because today is a very busy day.  I have to fulfill a custom order, pay my quarterly taxes, do the laundry, and start working on a plush monster prototype (if I get all the drawings).  I also haven’t done my books in almost a month and my sales taxes are due on July 1st, so I need to get back to that.