December 1st, 2007 marked the very first City of Craft fair in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood. So what, you say, there are craft fairs every week. Well, that’s true and particularly as the holiday season approaches craft-type events start to pop up all over. But City of Craft wasn’t just a fair, it was an endeavour undertaken by Becky Johnson, Leah Buckareff and Jen Anisef with the mandate of bringing together the crafters and artisans of the area, rather than just giving them a place to pimp their wares.
“We wanted people who attended to come away feeling like they were included in the craft community, inspired to make something and we also wanted them to take home some handmade goodness,” says Buckareff, who hosted a wrapping-paper making workshop during the event.
As you would imagine, only the crafty of heart would start such an event. Johnson is the proprietress of the Sweetie Pie Press, a button and zine making affair; Buckareff binds books under the name Coldsnap Bindery and is Reverend Mother of the Toronto branch of the Church of Craft, a group that gathers regularly to make and talk about crafts; and Anisef runs the Toronto Craft Alert, a craft news blog, mailing list and community network. With all of this under their belts a big, united gathering of the crafty minds seems only natural. The idea came to them after attending the 2007 Craft Congress in Pittsburgh. They were the only Canadians who made it to the event, and after meeting craft makers from North America and the UK and learning about other craft communities they came home to further examine their own. Together they held CraftChat T.O., a meeting with the local craft community to discuss local craft related issues. People seemed to want more opportunities to come together to share resources, information and support for each other’s work, so the threesome thought up City of Craft.
Though she’s quite happy with how the event turned out, Buckareff thinks a change of season might be a good idea for the next event. “Part of our mandate was involvement and interaction with the crafty public and I think this would probably be better achieved at a time of year when shopping isn’t almost everyone else’s priority,” says Buckareff. While the space was packed with vendors selling their handmade goods to hungry Xmas shoppers (myself included), there were also interactive events such as the Street Knit Project, a group that encourages others to knit extra scarves and hats that Street Knit can donate to local homeless outreach programs; the Toronto Zine Library that had a reading room on site; and various workshops. There was even a mini plush city (called Soft City) that visitors could walk around in and feel like Godzilla.
When the event was through I asked Buckareff if they had thought about moving this event into other cities and provinces. “Hmmm….other provinces? I hadn’t considered this, but I think that once Toronto is fully realized as a city of craft, we could start working on the first ever Country of Craft!”