Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cottage Industry

The Renegade Craft Fair is making its way across the country, and when it came to New York last weekend it landed at the epicenter of DIY: Williamsburg (for those who haven't seen the Hipster Olympics, click here. Empanadas are the new cupcakes)

Vendors from around the country brought their knitting, jewelry, clothing, paper products, silkscreening, comics, zines, posters, patches. etc. to the McCarren Park Pool. Some favorite shops and designers were on hand, like Perch! and Ferdinand Home Store [truth in advertising disclaimer: Diane, the owner of Ferdinand, is associated with Peapod Records in Portland, Maine, the label that just released a CD from Hearts by Darts, my brother's band]


Plenty of letterpress, lots of silkscreening, way too many baby onesies with cute remarks, and a lot of animals in ironic combinations. If the modern-day DIY craft movement had a calling card, it would be a squirrel playing the drums.

A patch designed by the Ferdinand Home Store.

You might argue that one of the founders of this thrift-meets-industry movement is Volksboutique's Christine Hill. This year Volksboutique turns 10 and when you review Hill's mission statement, it reads like crib notes for the likes of Ready Made and Etsy. From her Web site:

The term Volksboutique was inspired by the East German concept Volks-Eigenen Betrieb - the socialist terminology for collective ownership and a production label indicating products made by and for the people.
Volksboutique is an exercise in labor, in public service and conversational skill and in making the most of what one's got.

Volksboutique is an entity incorporating everyday life and artistic practice.

redefines what "art" means and what skills become artistic.

Volksboutique is not theater. It is a production of life.

Volksboutique is Self Starter. Cottage Industry. Do-It-Yourself. Be Your Own Boss.

Hill, who lives in Berlin, was in Baltimore a few weeks ago for the opening of a new exhibit she's a part of at the Contemporary Museum called Cottage Industry. The show includes six artists involved in "the creation of innovative and conceptually engaging business and cultural ventures, both actual and pseudo." Artists like Fritz Haeg, of Edible Estates fame, who unveiled images of his Baltimore project (with photos by Baltimore's Leslie Furlong).

"By often locating their work directly in the social/commercial sphere, the artists in Cottage Industry integrate an entrepreneurial interest in branding and free enterprise with artistic influences ranging from the happenings of Fluxus and the 'social sculpture' of Joseph Beuys to the legendary 'Food' cooperative of Gordon Matta-Clark and Pop Art’s fascination with commodity," the curatorial background explains. "For these artists the delineation between art and living—and between artistic and commercial product—becomes nearly indecipherable."

Fritz Haeg, Christine Hill, and Contemporary Museum Executive Director, Irene Hofmann, at the opening of Cottage Industry.

Volksboutique display, above and below.

Smockshop is a collective that generates income for artists not yet making a living at their craft. Each garment is one of a kind, and is "sewn by an artist who reinterprets the original smock design based on their individual skill sets, tastes, and interests."

My husband is not going to be happy about this picture...He's walking in front of a photo montage of Fritz Haeg's Edible Estates project.

Outside on the streets of Mount Vernon after the opening, some cottage industry-like exchanges happened: Here's my brother collecting a painting he bought over the Internet from artist Alyssa Dennis.

Cottage Industry is up through August 24th.