Toronto DIY extravaganza City of Craft is back for a fifth year to celebrate all things handmade.
‘Tis the season for holiday present purchases, and, this time of year, the city offers no shortage of opportunities to buy local handmade goods. Maybe the grandest of these DIY gift bazaars is City of Craft, “Toronto’s celebration of all things handmade,” which will kick off its fifth anniversary this weekend.
City of Craft organizer and co-founder Becky Johnson (official title: “Head Honcho”) explains that it’s the broad range of artistry the event showcases that sets it apart from the myriad other craft shows that pop up during the holiday season. “One of the things that distinguishes City of Craft from other shows is that we have art programming and work with artists to do installations and other interactive stuff, which is a space for us to try new things out every year,” she says. “[Another] one of the things we always wanted was to be able to do a little bit more was outreach to different artists who wouldn’t necessarily fit into a craft fair.”
Along those lines, visitors to this year’s show can expect to see a large installation by textile artist Grant Heaps, an interactive project about clothing and memories run by indie fashion mag Worn Fashion Journal, as well as art vending machines and more.
It’s a tradition of outreach that has been in place since Johnson co-founded City of Craft with friends and fellow crafters Leah Buckareff and Jen Anisef in 2007. But while the event’s objectives have remained consistent over the past five years, a lot has changed in the DIY community since then.
“The indie craft world has different challenges now than it did in 2006, 2007,” Johnson admits. “That was a time when it hit the mainstream. It’s definitely not as easy as it was then.” Johnson notes that, in particular, the recession has not been kind to independent artisans, whose wares are often appropriated for mass-consumption by corporate retailers, then sold at a fraction of the price.
Then again, she notes, “Urban Outfitters isn’t doing blown glass or raku pottery. There are ways in which we are definitely going to get through this. It’s more the stuff that was just attached to trends that’s never going to last. It can’t just be owls on things.”
Besides, Toronto is a city that supports creative enterprise. Says Johnson: “I’ve travelled all over North America—and the world—doing craft stuff. Up until this year, my partner and I were spending four to six months a year on the road, usually all in one stretch. It made me really appreciate what’s going on in Toronto in a big way. Not that other places are bad, but here there’s a massive community. It’s one of the only things that really stresses me out about City of Craft, is that we get 300-plus applications for 50 spots. And they’re good.”
Not only does does Toronto have a healthy crafting community, but it’s also a great place to sell DIY creations, Johnson adds. “What I always liked about Toronto is not only that people are making things here, but that people who aren’t making things—be it performance or craft or art—are interested and prepared to consume it.”