Smile Politely

Catching up with the Made Fest

If you didn’t swing by The Highdive to check out The Made Fest this past Saturday, here’s what you missed.

As someone who’s been in Champaign for a while, I was excited to hear about the new Made Fest, and I went down to the Highdive this past Saturday to check out what it had to offer. The project came about as a collaboration between Justine Bursoni, cofounder (and wife of Pygmalion founder Seth Fein*), and long time friend Alexia Brown. Made Fest brought in over 20 different vendors from across the country. “We wanted to bring something to Champaign like the crafts fairs we’ve seen at Pitchfork and other shows,” said Bursoni, who used her production skills to organize the fair. As an artist, Brown was able to make the festival welcoming for the artists. Made Fest featured artists and vendors from Connecticut, Iowa, Wisconsin, and other states from across the country, in forms like letter print, jewelry, accessories, wallets, plants, vintage and more.

And nothing says vintage quite like a 1970’s Serro Scotty camper, decked out with from clothes and jewelry to chairs and antique curiosities. After meeting in college 10 years ago, Coast to Coast Mobile Vintage owner Jaimee Dorner and her boyfriend Adam Lodynsky have been touring the country since the business started in April. They sell and buy different pieces along the way.

For Dorner, the camper is part of the shopping experience. “I’ve got a background in visual merchandising, and Adam’s is in hospitality, so this is a nice merger of the two. I love going thrifting, and I’ve always known I wanted to own a thrift store. The camper is meant to be a whole experience – not just a store that you come in and out of. I learned how to curate things, not just like schlepping things together.”

The Made Fest was the perfect atmosophere for Coast to Coast. “What’s been great about Made is that it’s a curated market in a college town where people can come and see all these handmade goods and vintage pieces as well as some great music.”

Another vintage vender and sponsor of the Made Fest, Dear Home Vintage, had a unique spin to their display. A suitcase filled with silk scarves sat next to a small children’s desk, complete with antique books and pencils.

Owner and curator Christina Wondra walked me through some of what she had displayed. “Some of this stuff is just so one of a kind—I mean, when are you ever going to come across something like this?” she asked, handing me a triangular studded black purse.

“I started collecting these vintage and antique things a long time ago, but I eventually realized that I can’t keep all of it,” Wondra laughed. “That’s how I started Dear Home Vintage.” She continued:

What I’ve really liked about Made is just seeing and meeting the customers. There’s just something really great about interacting with the people that buy these pieces, it’s something you don’t get online. We’ve had great weather and good music all day, so it’s been a lot of fun.

Chicago native Collin Ostergaard was also enjoying the great weather with his dog. The owner of East Farm Co. came to Made Fest to display his collection of woodwork and sheet music art.

“I grew up around woodworking my whole life, and what started out as a hobby and a gift idea turn into East Farm,” said Ostergaard, who translated his last name into English to create his brand name. Ostergaard said:

This is the very first show I’ve been to, and it’s definitely been a good experience. It was just used to making one piece for someone and then selling it or giving it to them, so this show up has been different. Really good, just different for me.

Lowell Miller, a local woodworking artist and owner of Miller Woodworks, was selling his handmade wooden speakers, designed for iPads, iPhones, and iPods. Miller said:

I got the idea for wooden speakers from sites I saw like Koostik. I didn’t have the tools to make it quite like that, and I also wanted to give my family and friends Christmas gifts that weren’t store bought.

Based on the slim pickings that Miller had left, I guessed there were plenty of Made Festers who felt the same way.

“I want to start looking into Android market next,” said Miller, whose speakers have been featured in The New York Times, The Today Show, and Lifehacker.

Laurie Martin, a local artist with Texas roots, brought her Horny Girl Collection to Made Fest. After studying art at the Art Institute of Chicago, Martin developed the Horny Girl brand as a way to not only get in touch with her Southern heritage, but also as a way to challenge society’s expectations about femininity and beauty .

“Your intellect is beautiful, your body is beautiful, just the way it is! Your sense of humor is beautiful. That’s what my art—this jewelry—that’s what my goal is,” said Martin, whose “horny” art involves deer antlers as bracelets, necklaces, rings, and other accessories.

Metalsmith Sarah Holden was also a vendor at the festival this year, showing her work from her business, HM Co. Holden’s work with jewelry challenges the traditional perception of steel as strong buy working it into delicate, fragile patterns.

“It’s been really nice to come out—we’ve had great weather and it’s great to be around like minded people,” said Holden, who lives and teaches in Chicago.

Hunter Gatherer Jewelry owner Laura Prieto-Velasco took some extra time to explain the ideas behind her work—as well as give a sneak peak to Made Festers about what the fall season will bring.

“The name is basically about finding and appropriating symbols and icons in our popular culture that are meaningful to us now, and that reflect a shared anthropological existence, in a way. It’s about hunting and gathering things from contemporary and ancient cultures,” said Priesto-Velasco. The fall collection will include leather and bondage inspired pieces. “It’s very much about urban warfare.”

“Made Fest has been such a friendly and supportive environment. My collaborator and I have worked with music artists in the past, so we were really excited to come. The energy of the festival is awesome—we’d definitely do it again.”

One thing that I had definitely not expected to find at the Made Fest was cat photo art. Boy—was I wrong. Enter Kate Funk, a self-described full time cat photographer based in Milwaukee. iPhone covers, calendars, and greeting cards in her display all featured a grumpy cat in various costumes. Her art turned into a business after making a birthday card for her friend.

“She hates AC [the cat]—she thinks he’s just so crabby, but he just looks that way. So I made her this card,” said Funk, pointing out a birthday card with a sullen AC in a birthday hat next to a cake. “I work at a paper store, and when they saw it, they asked me to make more—and it took off! Now it’s my job.”

Funk shared her booth with fellow Wisconsonian Danni Trester, owner of Innad. The two will be collaborating in the future on some textile/cushion projects for Funk, but at Made Fest, Trester was showing off her own wares.

Trester, who from the Madison area, makes wallets and accessories using fabric and vinyl. “It all started when I made a wallet, then my friend saw it and wanted one, and then more people wanted them—so then I just thought, hey, I could sell these!”

Trester said she was clued in to the first Made Fest from a Facebook page called Hip Hip Handmade. “One of the things I love about crafting is all the travel. I heard about Made and saw that it was kind of close enough, so I wanted to try it.”

Artists involved with letterpress and screen printing also attended Made Fest.  John Bonadies and Molly Poganski from the Living Letter Press were selling their posters and art. The business itself was funded by its connection with the LetterMPress Kickstarter project. The aim of the project was to develop an iPad app that let users design and print their own letterpress. The locally run studio now offers workshops, events, and materials to rent to designers that want to include letterpress into their work.

Kim Ransdell from the Collective Press was enjoying the atmosphere of the festival while she told me more about letterpress.

Ransdell said:

Letterpress is a 15th century printing technique that uses movable type. I learned it while I was studying graphic design. It took me about ten years to start acquiring equipment. It’s really heavy, so you have to be in some sort of permanent situation—and my studio is a great place for that.

Ransdell is based on Bloomington, Indiana, and was thrilled to be a part of Made Fest. “It’s really awesome. I like how there’s not too many here, and all of them are all handmade, do it yourself type stuff—nothing made and then modified. It’s a really nice crowd and the music’s great too.”

For Bursoni, organizing the event and watching it all come together was one of the best parts. “Made Fest was our way of adding some depth to the whole Pygmalion Festival experience. It lets people ingest art and culture on a whole other level. Alexia and I were already talking on Sunday morning about next year. It was a huge success.”

*Full Disclosure: Founder of Pygmalion, Seth Fein, is also the Publisher of Smile Politely.

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