As you may have heard here, the Bazaar Bizarre winter fair isn't happening this year. After fairs every year for twelve years, this is a big deal, and has some special significance to me.
It's not exaggerating to say that my involvement with Bazaar Bizarre was a major defining factor in my post-college life, that ended up shaping my existence as an adult, an artist, and a a human being in a very dramatic way. I was involved in some capacity every year except for one, the year in which I had an equally-important event on the same day that couldn't be rescheduled (more about that later). But let me tell you a little bit about how my work with BBB came to be.
Right after I graduated from college in 2001, I was living in a shared apartment in Somerville, working full-time at my first office job, and trying to make sense of the world-- I was trying to figure out how to be an adult, how to stay awake past 8pm after working a full day, and figure out what I was supposed to do in the absence of homework. I had spent several years prior working on zines and other projects, and I had recently been given the gift of a sewing machine for graduation, so I figured that I could sew, or something? I also watched a lot of reality tv.
Sometime in the fall, a guy named Jef who I had traded zines with years before emailed me. He said that he and some of his friends in Somerville were making a craft fair down at the Dilboy VFW in December, and since he knew I made stuff, did I want to make some stuff to sell? In that I had nothing going on except watching The Osbournes after work, I agreed, and got to work making a small group of sock monkeys dressed in clothes: the sailors, the pirates, the mohawked punks (which my roommate Gregg suggested have a Black Flag tattoo--great idea, thanks, dude!) and the porn star. I think I also made a bazillion marble magnets, as one did in that time. And that was that, I was a part of the very first Bazaar Bizarre!
I would go on to be a vendor at the fair year after year, getting to know artists and crafters from Boston and beyond. Having made a pretty popular zine in high school and college, I was used to getting attention and feedback for that particular project, but knowing that I could apply my design and sewing skills and make things that were interesting and sought after by people I didn't even know, year after year, was really awesome. I hadn't ever been to school for art, but the design work I did for my crafts made me rethink that, and I shot photos of my Bazaar Bizarre product line for my application to MassArt's Graphic Design Certificate Program. I ended up being a vendor for ten years, minus one-- in December 2006, my final review for school was scheduled for the same day as BBB. What a bummer! I wasn't able to sell, but promised myself that I'd attend after I'd aced my review, as a celebration and a treat. And it happened! I gave my presentation, passed with flying colors, and headed to the Cyclorama, where I told all the vendors that I'd just graduated from my program at MassArt that very day, and everyone was very cool about it.
In 2008 I was approached by organizers of the Bazaar Bizarre and was asked if I'd be interested in helping out and drawing the art for the fair. Would I? Oh man, of course I would. This led to some very awesome things: feeling even more of a sense of involvement with an event that had been so important to me for years, having my art reach the eyes of the entire city/region/craft-loving internet, and getting to work with a group of talented, brilliant ladies who I am delighted to call one of the best groups of friends anyone could have. We have all worked together for a few years now on this project that has grown and grown. Our ranks have expanded to include a few more friends and partners-of-friends, who never seem to mind us taking over someone's house clunking out vendor buttons or keeping everyone out late working on some really really awesome-but-not-required project that just HAS to be done in time for the fair because it's awesome, you'll see.
I'd be remiss in not mentioning the other people who have figured so prominently in my experience with BBB-- vendors, volunteers, shops and other members of the craft community, people who have become much more than familiar faces after all these years. Meeting so many talented, driven people over the years has been a dream! I grew up working on art projects alone in my bedroom, and I never would have thought that such a community was possible, especially in a big city, but there it was. I had some great table-neighbors over the years, and even when I stepped out from behind the vending table to focus on organizing the fair and my own fine art practice, the number of fantastic conversations with great people with great ideas grew and grew. I don't think we'll run out of things to talk about anytime soon.
So what does the future hold? We organizers all still love working together and we still love making awesome things happen, so I think it's safe to say that there is much more fun and excellence on the horizon. In the meantime, join me in reading some sweet retrospectives on the event by my fellow organizers here and here.
See you soon & stay crafty!