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Load of Craft

BY JUSTUS FLAIR | DECEMBER 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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They say opposites attract. So perhaps that was the inspiration behind What a Load of Craft, a fair combining arts and crafts with punk-rock.

The event will take place at the Johnson County Fairgrounds from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

“What a Load of Craft is a craft fair with an edge,” said Susan Junis, one of the its founders. “[Grace Locke Ward, a cofounder] and I had a business called ‘skirt.’ We made crafts that were off the beaten path, for example, pillows with embroidered AK-47s. There weren’t craft fairs in town in which our stuff fit, so we created our own. We select vendors who make crafts that are outside of the traditional church-basement bazaar.”

These vendors are exclusively local artists who are active year-round in the community.

“Buying stuff from your neighbors is the best way to keep a community fresh and vibrant,” said Ramona Musa, an organizer of the fair. “When you spend money on something made by someone who lives where you live, that money stays in your community, and there is a transparency there about who made it and under what conditions.”

Shoppers can be rest assured about where their purchases originated, because every item sold is made by hand.

“Everyone at the craft fair makes their own stuff,” Junis said. “We don’t have vendors who just assemble pieces. The DIY aesthetic is what the fair was founded on, and everyone who participates fits with that lifestyle or mindset.” 

The fair is also a way for both artists and non-artists to appreciate the energy and commitment that is necessary for each piece sold.

“In our culture of ‘gotta have it now, instant gratification capitalism,’ often artists and crafters are pushed aside,” Junis said. “Few people appreciate the time, money, energy, vision, and commitment that it takes to make something by hand. When that item is a little ‘weird’ or nontraditional, there’s even less appreciation. We need weird, offbeat stuff in our lives, so we need to support the people who make that stuff.”

This year, that support is coming from Beadology, a partial sponsor of the fair.

“Making sure that people who do it themselves have an outlet for their items is important and to make sure future generations of crafters have an outlet,” said Beadology co-owner Karen Kubby.
These future generations will likely continue the fair, pushing the boundaries of art and crafts as they have been in recent years.

“I’m so excited about the addition of vendors who push the definition of craft,” Junis said. “We have several vendors this year who make soap, perfume, makeup, and even deodorant. I’m also really pumped for the level of skill that this year’s vendors bring. Every year we get more and more people who apply who are really at the top of their game and selling items of a really high caliber and quality.”

Iowa City, Junis believes, is the perfect place to hold a fair showing appreciation for high quality, unusual art, because the city is well-known for encouraging art and artistic development.

“This town has a really amazing community of DIY artists and crafters, and [the fair] gives us a chance to connect with one another,” Junis said. “The fair is a community builder. If [it] ever became just about selling stuff, I wouldn’t do it anymore.”

With that in mind, the fair is still an opportunity to sell crafts and make purchases, perhaps for the upcoming holiday season.

“We have great gifts for your weird cousin or your straight-as-an-arrow mama,” Musa said.


CRAFT FAIR

What a Load of Craft
When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Johnson County Fairgrounds, 4265 Oak Crest Hill Rd S.E.
Admission: Free


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