The Sort-of-Sustainable Craft Show: Food For Thought

As many of you know, I’ve been on hiatus planning Strange Folk, which took place this past weekend in O’Fallon, IL.  We had amazing weather and an estimated turn-out of 10,000 people. On a shoestring budget, I set out not only to lessen this event’s impact on the planet, but also to wisen the public to the ways of upcycling.

The first part of this equation poses many obstacles. For instance, enough cash to order all the marketing materials I need printed on recycled cardstock with soy based ink from a company across the country (because no one does that locally) and offsetting the carbon emissions it takes to ship them to me. But that’s just the beginning. I’m truly starting to understand the woes of the organizers of this year’s Democratic National Convention, even if they had $70 million to work with. Pfft… pocket change in terms of going uber-green.

We are all aware of the myriad of personal commitments one can make to minimize their environmental footprint, but translating those to a mass gathering serves to highlight the true complexity of our problems. Even to the point of this “granola girl” questioning, at fleeting moments, the validity of throwing such an extravaganza in the first place. Is the pursuit of craftiness worth its weight in greenhouse gases? I feel the answer is emphatically “Yes.”

In a series of upcoming posts, I’ll tell you all about the good, the bad, and the green of putting on a large craft show. To whet your palette, we will start with a peek at one of my favorite projects for Strange Folk, our “Eco-Craft Exhibits.” Throughout the park, there were simple examples of how to re-use what is sitting around your house or headed for a landfill anyways. Our first table, “Food for Thought” showcased a variety of uses for glass jars (storing dry goods, drinking glasses) along with simple instructions for removing labels (soak in a sink full of hot water and 1/2 cup vinegar). Also, I made some pizza box solar ovens that you can use to make s’mores, or even bake cookies in!

Written by Autumn Wiggins

This 2008 interview pretty much sums it up:

1. How would you describe yourself?
An oddly situated performer of thought experiments

2. Do you have any anecdotes about your work (how you got started, frustrating moments, or funny stories)?
At this year's Maker Faire in San Mateo, I gave a presentation on how the trend of green crafting can ultimately address the problem of consumption and waste. Dale Dougherty,the publisher of Make and Craft, later had a gift delivered to me, a staple bound book of poetry: Music Like Dirt by Frank Bidart. This is the last thing one would expect to take home from an event so focused on renegade technology. To my surprise, it was an existential reflection on the human need to make things that I now find myself going back to whenever I need some inspiration to look beyond the materials and processes of crafting.

3. What kinds of things do you do for fun?
In my spare time I enjoy amateur astronomy, outdoor adventures, collecting domain names, and hanging out at coffee shops.

4. What interesting projects are you working on right now?
I'm working to organize community involvement in upcycling, and have a few top-secret website projects up my sleeves!

5. Where do you live? Kids, pets, spouse, occupation?
O'Fallon, IL, a suburb (and I mean a totally typical suburb) of St. Louis, MO. Rather than moving to the more culture friendly urban environment, I am staying put and annoying the heck out of Wal-Mart by throwing a massive indie craft show(Strange Folk) in their backyard. I have a husband, Doug, and two sons: a 7 year old mad scientist named Jack, and 6 year old Max, who we think is an aspiring tattoo artist since he's so fond of drawing all over himself with markers. To pay the bills, I do freelance writing, mural painting, and website design, sell my handmade crafts, teach art classes for kids, and work part -time at a local coffee shop.

6. What new idea (in or outside of your field) has excited you most recently?
The concept known as "Cradle-to-Cradle" is a blueprint for sustainability that states everything we manufacture should be either biodegrable, infinitely recyclable, or intended to be upcycled. This is the basis for many of my ideas of how the crafting community can be more widely involved in solving the environmental crisis.

7. What is your favorite food/color/tool?
granola/green/sewing machine!


Leave a Reply
  1. Hello,
    I’m in Alton and didn’t hear of your craft fair last October. Will you be doing it again? Please e-mail me information on participating as an artist and dates for the show. I know several artists in Alton, Edwardsville and Collinsville who would be very supportive of a “green” show.



Comments (Keep It Civil...)

The Sixth Carnival of Green Crafts Is Up at Smidge!

EcoGlue Review