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City of Craft

City of Craft (event link), Toronto's largest craft event of the year, goes down this Saturday (December 1st) at the Theatre Centre. The day long event will feature craft-based installations, demos, and free workshops, alongside a curated craft fair filled with contemporary, stylish, and offbeat handmade goodies.

There will be more than 60 craft vendors and exhibitors from Toronto and Montreal, installations like Soft City and StreetKnit's hand-knit house, Toronto Zine Library's entire collection of zines, workshops and a craft materials swap.

I recently caught up with Becky Johnson, one of the organizers, to find out a little more about the event.

Why did you decide to create City of Craft?

City of Craft was created out of a perceived need for greater communication between varied sectors of craftspeople in Toronto (and beyond). We wanted to create a venue where emerging crafters, established craftspeople, community organizations, and craft-based installations could exhibit side-by-side. Although there is always a lot going on in this city, we felt this mash-up approach would deliver a unique and needed type of event.

How much effort was involved organizing this?

This Saturday's event marks the culmination of months and months of work. The three of us coordinators (Leah Buckareff, Jen Anisef & me, Becky Johnson) have been working steadily since the spring. All of our vendors, installation artists and activity leaders have also been working independently for uncountable hours. Not to mention the work our volunteers are putting in....People have really stepped up, offering their time and services to make this event not only possible but beyond our imaginings.

Organizations like the Toronto Zine Library and StreetKnit have really gone above and beyond to flesh out their respective installations. I'd say if we have any goals for future events, it would be that we get paid for our time (so as to avoid eviction from our apartments).

What about the event excites you the most?

I am most excited about the interactivity of our programming across the board. I even consider the craft fair component an interactive event. Even though holiday shopping is central to the craft fair, I think that meeting the person who has made the thing you are buying is an experience that transcends mere consumerism. It is still shopping - but not shopping that is blind to the manufacturing process.

What sort of workshops will be available? How do people sign up to participate in one?

All of our activities just require that you show up! Based on the notion that we all having crafting in us, the giftwrap-making workshop hosted by the Church of Craft also has a big self-guided aspect to it - you just dive into the materials provided and see what emerges.

Aside from the scheduled workshops (listed on our website), there are also interactive demos hidden all over the event. The Trip Print Press will be bringing their foil stamper on site and local screen printer, Jesjit Gill, will be on hand to help attendees pull their own silkscreen print. And there are more surprise happenings hidden throughout.

What is the current state of the local craft community in Toronto?

That's hard to say. In fact, the crafting culture here seems to be so big, diverse and healthy that the largest hole we saw in it was communication. As with many things in Toronto, the greatest challenge is staying informed about all that is going on. We get emails every day from local makers, teachers and event organizers - really, an overwhelming amount. Having traveled a lot to craft fairs out of town, I think we are in a uniquely good situation here in Toronto. As a group, we crafters now have to work to educate the consuming public further, because craft is already happening here on a major scale. And the quality of work being made is exceptional.

Why is now the right time to put on an event like this?

Well, if you mean the holidays (which I assume you don't), I think it's a good time of year to subvert consumer dollars away from mass-produced shopping mall fare and towards the consumables of local makers. Local and handmade goods have a lower environmental impact and are usually ethically made (I say 'usually' because sometimes we don't really pay ourselves ethical wages).

If you mean 2007, I think it's arbitrary. I believe his kind of event is timeless and always useful. The three of us just decided to make City of Craft happen now out of a collusion of mutual timing. City of Craft feels like the extension of a long history of similar independent arts event in Toronto.

What sort of turnout do you expect?

1,000,000 people. Get there early. Oh, the first 100 people get a free bag of goodies. I just finished assembling them. Trust me, they're great.

I notice the event is free to attend. How is City of Craft supported financially?

City of Craft is currently funded very modestly through vendors fees, fund raising and sponsorship (with special efforts having been made by Mill Street Brewery and the Good Catch General Store). There is a lot of sweat equity invested. All of our installation artists have graciously donated their time and efforts for this first year, which is really astounding. We are working on greater public and private funding for next year (although we choose to keep our private sponsors limited to local businesses and/or organizations that reflect our indie craft values). But feel free to buy a raffle ticket at the event. The proceeds go to covering our production costs.

Photo of Soft City by Hakka Moy on Flickr


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