Craft Bar, two of my favorite words combined into one awesome event. The Craft Bar is the definitely the most creative-activity-driven party I’ve ever heard of happening at a museum. Hosted regularly at the San Francisico Museum of Craft and Folk Art, the Craft Bar is a way to connect with one of the most inspiring community of crafters in the country. Each event includes a spotlighted artist, a crafty project, and a free-for-all stitch n’ bitch. Oh, and there’s a DJ and drinks- bonus!
I am thrilled that Craft Bar will be returning to the Maker Faire Bay Area with, and in anticipation of that, I caught up over email with Kpoene’ Kofi-Bruce. Kpoene’ is one of the lovely event founders, and we had a great convo about how the Craft Bar goes down. The dynamics she describes are great- beyond having relationships with the hottest crafters and the hottest art scene, they also have a great thing going with virtual participation across the country hosted by Etsy Labs. But I’ll let Kpoene fill you in on the deets.
Brookelynn: How did Craft Bar begin? Was it an Esty idea, or MOFCA idea?
Kpoene’: I met Matt Stitchcomb from Etsy in 2006 at the Craft Congress in Pittsburgh and we reconnected in 2009 at the SF Renegade Craft Fair. Matt and Julie Schnieder approached us about collaborating and we came up with the idea of creating a workshop series based on our successful workshops with the Craft Gym. I approached Trumer Pils about donating beer, we built a bar out of Trumer Pils beer crates, and the Craft Bar concept was born.
B: What is the best part about being at the Museum? I’d imagine the inspirations are endless!
K: (I’m assuming that you mean as a MOCFA employee, not just in relation to Craft Bar, though both are great)
As the Store Manager and Buyer I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of independent artists, nurture them, and introduce them to each other. I also have tremendous freedom to spread my vision of a huge DIY community to a larger audience. I throw a lot of events here – Craft Bar, Craft Gym, we’ve even had parties with Lotta Jansdottir and Kayte Terry!
B: Can you describe the crowd? What is the scene like? Are there really alcoholic bevys?!
K: Since we began Craft Bar in October 2009, we’ve had over 1,000 people attend (I can prove it! I have admissions numbers!).
April 2010’s event was especially inspiring – we had 290 people attend, and literally everyone made something. At one point I could actually feel the crafty energy in the gallery. I was afraid the roof would blow off, there was so much creativity going on.
The crowd for Craft Bar has been predictably young, hip, and ready to make something, darn it. So far, knock on wood, we haven’t had anyone get rowdy. The beer tends to fuel some pretty amazing craft projects – at the April event, which was Katy Kristin’s recycled-sweater bear workshop, an entire group of people went rogue and designed their own plushies – a squid, an aardvark, and an evil peanut!
The scene is just a big, positive party, and it’s a great place to make a new friend and channel some of that creative energy that you’ve had bottled up inside. We offer projects for beginners and experts and it is very welcoming. Craft Bar is definitely not your grandma’s sewing circle (though that would be cool too).
B: How do you determine the content each month? Does the Craft Bar directly relate to the current exhibition?
K: Craft Bar has a fiber theme, which doesn’t necessarily relate to every exhibition. For Open Source Embroidery the concept worked really well. Our current show is about the gorgeous textiles of Mali, but since I can’t have 300 people dyeing indigo in the gallery, we are sticking to hand-sewing, knitting, crochet, and other fun, easy-to-teach fiber projects. The MOCFA Store is blessed with amazing staff and volunteers who are all crafters, and the more successful Craft Bar becomes, the more people want to help. For April’s event I actually had more help than I knew what to do with!
Every month Associate Buyer Amelia Strader and I plan out the events, and we try to have some kind of featured artist. April was Katy Kristin, and in December we had Jackie Huang from Woolbuddy and the gang from A Verb for Keeping Warm. October’s event featured Jackie Ortega from the Craft Gym teaching embroidery. uaWe’ve also begun creating projects for How Tuesday, Etsy’s weekly downloadable project series.
B: I love that you offer a structured craft and also a freestyle stitch and bitch. Does one prove more popular than the other?
K: The structured craft tends to get a lot of attention because it is on Etsy’s blog for a week before Craft Bar, but a lot of people want to pick up or hone a skill like knitting or crocheting. The Bay Area is bursting with people who enjoy knitting and crocheting.
B: How can people use Etsy Virtual Labs to participate in the Craft Bar? I’ve never tried the Labs and am curious about how they work…
K: Amelia teaches the Virtual Labs with Etsy portion of each event – at 1 pm every month she does a live webcam demo of that month’s project on Etsy.com. You log onto Etsy.com, click on Virtual Labs, make sure you’ve got your materials (a materials list and complete pdf of the project are available on the Storque blog a few days before the Virtual Lab) and follow along! While the instructor is teaching you can ask them questions – you type in your question and they respond. It’s all live so it is one big discussion.
B: What are your plans for future events? Can you share what you have in store for the Maker Faire? What is the best way for people to stay in the loop on Craft Bar programming?
K: If you want to stay in the loop about Craft Bar, either sign up for the MOCFA’s mailing list or just check on our website at http://www.mocfa.org. Future events include a partnership with Giant Robot which will probably involve silkscreening, a bookmaking demo with Jen Hewett and Kelly Ball, and an exciting collaboration with Britex Fabrics to make fabric jewelry and crocheted flowers – we’re all about embellishing and piling on the recycled bling. Since my background is in clothing design I am looking forward to teaching that event.
For the Maker Faire we are bringing our crew down to San Mateo to tell people about our programs, exhibitions, and of course our Education Program – The MOCFA Education Program goes into schools and teaches a simple craft while talking about the culture and history of the craft. So for instance if you are learning about weaving, you build a loom, talk about weaving traditions in places like Mexico and Asia, and then make a woven project. We are most likely teaching a hand-sewn plushie project and a strip-weaving project from recycled materials. We are SO excited to be doing the Maker Faire again this year. Last year’s event was a blast and we met so many people.