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Do-it-yourself with a punk twist

BY REBECCA KOONS | DECEMBER 10, 2009 7:30 AM

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At the “What a Load of Craft!” fair, one can knit and headbang at the same time, all while sporting a gem sweater.

The fair’s organizers, Susan Junis and Grace Locke Ward, have moved the festival to a new, bigger venue — Building C at the Johnson County Fairgrounds. This year’s fair, to be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, features more than 40 vendors displaying their craft and artwork, and visitors may purchase their wares. The craft fair has become known as Iowa City’s “premier punk-craft fair” because of its nontraditional, do-it-yourself spirit.

In addition to the large number of vendors, music will be provided by bands and musicians such as Olivia Rose Muzzy, Pete Balestrieri, Kate and Amanda, Lipstick Homicide, and Skye Carrasco.

Participants were selected for the fair using an online application that was posted in September.

Afterwards, a panel of local crafters reviews applications and makes the final call on who will earn a spot at the festival.

“We wanted to create a space where the nontraditional would be celebrated and embraced,” Locke Ward wrote in an e-mail to the DI.

“What a Load of Craft” has grown too big for its former venues, the Hall Mall and the Picador.

Employing the fairgrounds as the fair’s new location, the women behind the event are able to better accommodate vendors and musicians with nearly three times more space than before.

“It’s interesting, because at the first [fair], we were constantly trying to spread the word,” Junis wrote in an e-mail. “Now, the [event] is to the point where people who don’t know we organize it are telling us about the craft fair, which is a really great feeling that it’s so recognizable to so many people.”

The punk approach to the craft fair is quite possibly best illustrated by its “Craft Death Match.” The competition involves a number of crafters battling for creative supremacy by means of various judged activities.

This year’s contest will have competitors facing off in gingerbread-house construction, speed knitting, human gift wrapping, a Play-Doh holiday meal challenge, and gem-sweater creation. This intense match of skill and ingenuity will be given an added edge — the competition will be held to the sounds of metal DJs Killed by Death.

With “What a Load of Craft,” Locke Ward and Junis hope to bring more attention to the idea of an indie-craft show. Both have lived in Iowa City for more than 15 years, and they hope the fair can put the town “on the indie-craft map,” as Junis wrote.

“You can’t find a craft fair like this in Iowa,” she wrote.

By combining art, music, and craftsmanship in one event, the opportunity exists for artists in various fields to collaborate in the future.

“I feel there are a lot of similarities between trying to be successful as a musician and as an artist/crafter,” Locke Ward wrote. “And many local bands collaborate with local artists/crafters for fliers and album art. The two communities are intertwined, and it is an effortless relationship.”


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