Art, Naturally

Among the new attractions at the 27th Artscape is a DIY craft section

July 17, 2008|By Jennifer Choi | Jennifer Choi,Sun reporter

One man's trash is another woman's earrings.

Jewelry made out of vintage broken plates is just one of the myriad unique, handmade offerings available in Artscape's new do-it-yourself, or DIY, section.

Fifty 6-foot tables - stretching from the corner of Mount Royal Avenue and Charles Street north to Penn Station - will hold original goods, ranging from housewares and home decor to functional art and clothing.

"There are no glass-blowers in the DIY section," said Kristin Grey, coordinator of the new Artscape component. "This area has stuff that you really might be able to learn to do yourself."

Grey, a local ceramic artist, credits the art festival's decision to include the new section in large part to a major resurgence of the DIY craft movement. Rooted in the larger American DIY movement, which many believe began in the '70s punk scene, DIY subculture rebels against society's reliance on mass production and corporate exploitation of labor in developing countries and supports local businesses and eco-friendly living, she said.

"Members of the craft movement are generally people who value 'green' living and sustainability and want to reject big-box stores that help contribute to a lot of societal problems," said Grey.

Many of the DIY wares at Artscape consist of sustainable and recycled items. The inventory includes children's T-shirts and dresses made from old T-shirts; brooches, earrings and necklaces made of wool felt; hand-thrown clay works; handmade soaps; and fine jewelry made of sterling silver.

Though the traditional Artists' Market and the new section share many similarities, there are a few distinctions. The DIY area consists mostly of items less than $100 because the do-it-yourselfers often have less overhead costs and consider affordability a tenet of their philosophy. The DIY art also only contains items that the average person could probably make themselves and that are friendly to the environment.

To Grey, the craft movement is about a lot more than just social and eco-consciousness. She believes that handmade goods can really improve a person's life with their special and nonubiquitous quality.

"There's something amazing about holding a handmade mug in your hand," she said. "It's very intimate. It's fantastic."

Aside from individual dealers, Artscape also has two craft collectives participating in the DIY marketplace: the Charm City Craft Mafia, a group of crafters that sells handmade goods online, at craft shows and at local stores, and the Baltimore Etsy Street Team, an organization that meets to create goods and sells wares on its Web site. They will take up 12 tables.

"I think so many of these craft groups are forming because people want to meet and talk about their craft. It's a really supportive community," said Jen Menkhaus, head of Etsy.

Artscape, now in its 27th year, is the nation's largest free public arts festival. This year's event, the largest ever, features more than 150 artists, craftspeople and fashion designers; live concerts; performing arts; visual art exhibits on and off site; family activities; and a variety of food vendors.

Menkhaus believes that the new DIY section will make converts out of many old and new Artscape-goers alike.

"We really want people to know what we believe in, what we're doing and why we do it," said Menkhaus. "People are going to like taking these really nice things home with them and connecting with the makers of the products."

Artscape runs noon-10 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday and noon-8 p.m. Sunday along Mount Royal Avenue and Charles Street. Free. Call 877-225-8466 or go to


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