Renegade Craft Fair 2011 visits Chicago

No Chicago craft show is quite like the Renegade Craft Fair, Chicago's largest handmade event. Now in its ninth year, this huge and always-packed show filled several blocks of Division Street on Sept. 10 and 11 with handmade goods from Chicago and beyond.

Renegade tentRenegade crowd shot

At this year's Renegade, shoppers found high-quality handmade goods of all kinds, from upcycled jewelry and clothing, to letter-pressed cards and screen-printed T-shirts, to oddities one might never have seen before, like Wendy Bryan's plush bodily organs.

I Heart Guts    Wood Thumb

"Every organ has its own interesting fan base," said Bryan, of Washington, D.C., who creates and sells smiling plush hearts, lungs, kidneys, reproductive parts, and other organs through her business I Heart Guts ( A shopper, she said, might buy a uterus to celebrate a pregnancy, or a kidney to commemorate a relative who recently underwent a successful transplant. A former graphic designer and biology enthusiast who often drew happy fruits and vegetables as part of her day job, she started her business after she suggested to her bosses that she design happy body parts, "but they said 'No, that's too weird.'" (pictured above left)

A few booths down, David Steinrueck of San Francisco laced together bits of reclaimed wood to create unique, segmented men's ties. "It's been crazy -- we're selling out," said Steinrueck, of Wood Thumb (, who's done Renegade shows in other cities but was making his Chicago debut. (pictured above right)

  foldedpigs  Something Beautiful

Shoppers and vendors were blessed with a weekend of warm, sunny weather this year, but  Renegade veteran Meredith Host said that even torrential downpours don't keep Renegade shoppers away. "Chicago's pretty awesome. I was here in the monsoon year (in 2008) and you guys still came out to shop," said Host, of Kansas City, who owns repurposed restaurant dishware company foldedpigs ( (pictured above left)
Longtime vendors Matt and Marcie Zupancic of Chicago-based Something Beautiful ( say that Renegade customers are an educated lot who understand the time and effort that go into a handmade piece. (pictured above right)

"The customer knows they are going to get something here that they are not going to get anywhere else, which is a special thing," said Marcie, who along with husband Matt makes soaps, Chicago-themed candles, and reversible pendants. "That's what makes all of this worth it -- staying up late, burning the midnight oil to get it all done."

 "There is a certain energy and enthusiasm at this show that you don't see elsewhere," Matt added.

Heart Felt by Aviva16 Sparrows
According to crafter Aviva Kleiner, Renegade draws a diverse crowd -- families, Wicker Park twentysomethings, even some young girls dressed as anime characters. "At a lot of craft shows, you get a very indie scene, but everyone comes out for this," said Kleiner, of Heart Felt by Aviva (, pictured left, above, who had many sparkly and feathered hair accessories on display in her tent.
Renegade crafters also value the opportunity to interact with customers face-to-face. "Because I sell mostly online, my favorite part of Renegade is getting people's reactions when they see our cards," said Donovan Beeson, who co-owns the snarky card and stationery company 16 Sparrows ( with Kathy Zadrozny.  "I get to hear them read it out loud and laugh."  (pIctured above right)
Here are just a handful of the more than 300 innovative makers whose work caught the eye:

Abbey Christine    AD LOVE  

  Body Kit JewelryCakespy  


   Iamhome   Know your Flag   

Left:  Sarah Belknap of iamhome ( shows mixed-media pieces created from wood reclaimed from a family farm.

Right:  Know Your Flag ( shows Chicago pride by creating screen-printed posters celebrating the city's heritage.


    Lucius ArtMilton Margies  

Left:  Lucius Art ( uses vintage design elements and whimsical animal images in these art prints.

Right:  These soy wax candles by Milton & Margie's ( use repurposed teacups, jars, and other containers and smell fantastic.


    Moira K LimeMy Zoetrope   

Left: Moira K. Lime ( creates stunning metalsmithed jewelry with floral and botanical themes.

Right:  Michelle Cavigliano of My Zoetrope ( paints bright and cheerful watercolor pieces that lift your mood as soon as you walk into her tent.

      Oscar YaquianPurple Hippo   

Left:  This unique human head (who doubles as a business card holder!) was hand-sculpted by Oscar Yaquian (

Right:  Snarky cross-stitches by Purple Hippo Stitches ( gave many shoppers the giggles.

           Rest in Pieces           

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