Renegade Craft Fair – London 2015 (or, the beginning of a beautiful friendship)

The Renegade Craft Fair is a yearly event that takes place in several U.S. cities, and London. Here you find small businesses specialising in handmade stuff, from the more practical (a wooden cake spatula or tea towel) to the purely decorative cute dog drawing. This year’s was located at The Old Truman Brewery, in Brick Lane.

Before I go on, full disclosure: this might not be a completely neutral post. I went to this London event as a potential buyer, but only because my application to be a seller got rejected.

It all started when a very talented fibre artist in the U.S. I follow on Instagram contacted me. She wanted to do a fair in London, and would I like to be her stall mate? At this time we didn’t exactly know each other well, so I was quite surprised by the invitation. Turns out, we quietly admired each other’s work and Nicole Frost decided I might be a good complement to her hand dyed yarns, hand knits and fibre. I do go by gut feeling in a lot of things, and mine told me this was a great opportunity, so I said yes and we started to plan ahead.

Nicole has a track record of around 40 fairs, so she always assumed we would be accepted – after all, every application she’s ever done has had a positive outcome. She bought the plane ticket in advance to avoid the very high prices, and we kept going back and forth with all those details that make a craft fair preparation. Two weeks before the event itself, the devastating news came: we’d been rejected, with no special reason given. Welcome to London!
We were a bit heartbroken, but then decided to just make the most of it and enjoy our time together. Nicole would come anyway and we’d have fun dyeing fibre, watching the sights and felting.

 

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Nicole and I on our way to the fair. I’m standing on tiptoe.

 

 

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I know we Londoners are used to rain and overall miserable weather, but I do think the lack of falling water helped everyone out of their homes and to the fair. There was a fairly good attendance.
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Despite so many people walking around, I can say I didn’t see a lot of people actually making purchases. If you look at the photos, there aren’t a lot of shopping bags. The main price points ranged between £8-12, which I think is low for certain handmade items. Our items would have indeed stood out (negatively) because there’s no way to price a hand spun, hand dyed yarn at those prices, or needle felted sculptures that take eight hours to create.

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We saw quite a few nice stalls, and there were a few international ones, too. I liked the jewellery, the DIY kits and the drawings. There was indeed a lot of talent there, but I do have to wonder about the fairness of Renegade’s choice of sellers: we saw more than one stall selling the exact same handmade item – jewellery made from colouring pencils and wood turned bowls comes to mind. Surely it’s unfair competition? Not a lot of knitted items or fibre, although there was a stall selling knitting kits and another selling hats with pompoms.

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Here is Jen Cogliantry, who sold beautiful and unusual knitted jewellery.

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This lady here had some fun illustrated ‘Cats In Hats’ calendars. What a cute idea! I almost came home with one, until I realised I don’t really use calendars.
(There was also someone else selling the same themed items, fortunately with different illustrations.)

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Here Nicole is speaking with the Canadian Michelle, owner of Kiriki, who sells the cutest DIY embroidered kits. Look at the next photo. That little racoon almost came home with me!

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Alice Shields sells illustrated objects and ceramics. I was very tempted by her coasters and tea towels.

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There was also a street fair happening in Brick Lane, which made the street very busy. I was very boring and ended up eating at my usual Beigel Shop (yellow sign, on the right) – a smoked salmon and creamed cheese bagel for £1.60 each, where else can you eat this cheap in this city?!

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Photographic proof that Nicole was in London.

In the end, Nicole and I were very grateful that we didn’t get in. It would have been super stressful to prepare for it all, at probably a very meagre return. Instead, we had fun playing with fibre at my studio, sightseeing and “enjoying” all the walking that happens when one has to change Tube lines. I also made a good friend, and that is, indeed, absolutely priceless.

Did you attend the Renegade Craft Fair? What did you think of it?

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10 responses to “Renegade Craft Fair – London 2015 (or, the beginning of a beautiful friendship)

  1. I don’t really feel like a I deserve to have an opinion on craft fairs because it’s mostly formed at a distance! I’ve been to a number of small local type affairs and was mostly not excited by what I saw or heard – typically comments like: “£10 for that, I could make it myself”. Mmmm… It does seem that most of these events are commercial rather than curator based, although I’m sure that there are some great local events that we’d probably love as makers, but if you don’t live locally to them, you wouldn’t know about them and, if you did, everyone else would, and then it’d get all commercial and dull again – aarrrgghhh! You can’t win 😉

    Love the knitted jewellery and the fun embroidery kits ❤

    • I think your view is exactly right, lots of people looking and just claiming they could do it, or it being excessively commercial. For once I’d love to see a place organised around the beauty of the makes and less around profit…

      The embroidery kits were surely a temptation, Debbie!

  2. Wonderful! Looks like you two had a fab time 🙂 Thanks for the post. I haven’t been to too many fairs myself so it’s always good to take a peek xx

    • I can honestly say the best part of this day was eating bagels and going back home 😀 But I liked being there and seeing what other creatives are doing x

  3. At least there was a silver lining to your rejection. I didn’t attend this fair, but have attended similar ones and they vary so much. I think it’s a good idea to attend a craft show organised by the same people before committing to it – at least then you have an idea of what to expect. Glad to hear you had a lovely day 🙂

    • Oh, a huge silver lining for sure! It would have been super stressful indeed to prepare for such an event, and then have it be a disappointment in the end. Instead, we had a lot of fun dyeing yarn and talking, so I much prefer rejection in this case 🙂

      I’m actually going to my very first craft show this month, so hopefully it’ll be a nice experience!

  4. Love the Renegade fair here in Los Angeles? Takes place right before Christmas and what a shame they turned you down. (and thanks for reminding me of the Beigel shop where I ate my very first bagel, and still go to every time I am in London. Cheapest lunch in the city).

    • Those bagels remain epic! I hope I get to visit LA’s Renegade before judging on the whole event organisation – don’t want to be unfair, but I guess you can tell I didn’t find London’s particularly impressive 🙃

  5. Pingback: My California fibre and rock & roll experience | Felt Buddies (and stuff)·

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