Last month I participated in the 3rd Annual Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Market in San Francisco. With over 250 vendors and endless DIY crafts and activities, Renegade Craft Fair never disappoints. As a seasoned Renegade Craft Fair vendor, I was curious to find out just what goes into planning such a large scale event. I was lucky enough to catch up with Sue Daly, Renegade Craft Fair Co-Founder and Director over email a few weeks before Renegade hit San Francisco to find out just what goes into planning such a rocking event. She is an expert at marketing handmade crafts and over the last few years Renegade Craft Fair has created significant buzz for the indie business movement.
I later caught up with Renegade Production Coordinator Justin Rathell, Madelon Juliano, Curatorial Associate, and Sarah Spies is the Director of Vendor Relations and Media and Marketing Liaison at the Holiday Market in San Francisco to say hello.
A little bit of background...
The very first Renegade Craft Fair featured 75 vendors at Chicago's Wicker Park in 2003. Sue Daly and a friend were on the look out for fairs to introduce their own crafts to the marketplace and quickly found that there was a lack of venues that catered toward emerging and independent makers. With a focus on emerging talent, moderately priced goods and a young audience, Renegade was bound to be a success! Since 2003 Renegade Craft Fair has grown by leaps and bounds. With shows in major cities like Chicago, Brooklyn, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and now London, the Renegade Gang is busy year round. What follows is my interview with Renegade Co-Founder and Director Sue Daly.
So tell me Sue, why do you love Handmade?
"I love all things having to do with art + design, and the personal quality of handmade things. I like seeing the things people dream up, and seeing how talented people can be in making something that's nice aesthetically, and well made. If a lot of things you can use and wear and put in your home are like functional pieces of art, then why not? For the most part it's all really affordable, and it's so much nicer than having something that's more generic and cheaply made."
How many people make up the team at Renegade Craft Fair?
"There are five of us altogether that work for the Craft Fair, and two others that work at our brick and mortar store. So, seven people make up the Renegade Gang altogether."
When do you start preparing for the Holiday Market? From start to finish, about how long does it take from initial preparations to the day of the event?
"We start booking our dates at least a year or more out, so that's the first step. We launch our event dates in the beginning of each year, so we try to make sure all of our dates are set by then. Then we launch our artist applications, typically in late August and they last about a month. Once all of the applications have rolled in, we jury every fair and make our decisions which is a very time consuming process. We have to review over 1,300 applications in all and narrow it down to about 600 booths for four events. Once we've accepted all of our vendors, that's when the full-time preparations begin - and that takes about two months until the day of the show."
With so much work to be done to prepare for large scale events like the Holiday Market, what is the most honored strategy for motivating the team at RCF to pull it all together for the big day?
"We are all very, very organized and work off of a tight schedule all planned out in the beginning of the year. We organize over 10 events per year, so we’ve got it down to a science at this point! The biggest motivation I would say is just feeling responsible for hundreds of artists, and making sure the event runs smoothly and is a success for them. I think we’re all proud of our work, and so falling short just isn’t really an option for our own sense of achievement too."
What makes a major craft event in San Francisco unique from other cities?
"In our experience, it seems like people in San Francisco appreciate the artists and their wares more than in some other places. They appreciate the quality, the time spent making something, the design involved - so it’s refreshing to feel valued. And as far as the artists go, the San Francisco show is the most competitive fair to get into around the holidays. There’s a thriving DIY craft community there, and so it’s exciting to be a part of!"
What are you most looking forward to about this year’s event?
"We have a bunch of cool workshops lined-up. The Museum of Craft and Design will once again treat fair-goers to a variety of hands-on activities, including a make-and-take bottlecap magnet project and a DIY mini-lantern ornament project. Tami Jo Studios will lead attendees in the perfect holiday keepsake craft, a make-and-take accordion album. The crafty DIY folks from Workshop will be on-hand with quirky hands-on activities, helping attendees make their own glass terrariums and terrarium ornaments. Attendees can also make their own wrapping paper!"
What is a piece of wisdom you would share with crafters and vendors at your events?
"Save your pennies! There is so much to buy, you will want to take more with you than you anticipated. Since it’s so close to the holidays, you can buy a lot of your Christmas gifts there - so don’t stock up on too much before you check out what the artists have available! Many things are affordable, unique, and made in limited editions - so come early and beat the crowds."
A big thanks to Sue Daly, Justin Rathell, Madelon Juliano and Sarah Spies for their time and boundless energy! For more information about Renegade Craft Fair please visit the links within this post.
Signing off by the Golden Gate,