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Liz Wolf, a fine-art student at MSUM, specializes in creating "faces on inanimate objects."

Fargo indie craft fest joins growing national trend

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With a shock of candy-pink hair and twin facial piercings in her dimples, Liz Wolf is not your stereotypical crafter.

Then again, she's part of Unglued, which is not your stereotypical craft fair.

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Fargo's first indie craft fest will unspool its lineup of fun, edgy, handmade goodies next Saturday at the American Legion in downtown Fargo.

It will showcase work like Wolf's hand-knitted cup cozies and striped, elbow-length, fingerless gloves.

"I like to put faces on inanimate objects," says Wolf, a fine-arts student at MSUM who learned to knit by watching online tutorials.

Around 40 crafters will be there to sell "indie crafts," such as screen-printed linens and textiles, recycled vintage jewelry pieces, organic baby clothes and handmade organic beauty products.

"It's a new, fresh way of crafting," says Ashley Morken, an organizer of the event. "It's people like knitters and crocheters, but they'll add a new twist."

Indeed, Wolf infuses the age-old craft of knitting with her own whimsical, playful touch. Wolf says she finds it therapeutic to make her crafts after dealing with the darker themes and heavier emotions in her studio art.

"It's so much more uplifting. I still consider it art because it's tactile, and it takes your hands and skill to know how things have to be pieced together," she says. "But the things I do are like the coffee cup holders. That's something that you add to your everyday life and say, 'That's so happy.' It's a little face that's smiling back at you."

'Punk rock played with needle and thread'

Populated mostly by young, hip, female urbanites, the indie craft movement really took off at the turn of this century.

A crop of young creative types began knitting, sewing and crafting, just as their mothers and grandmothers did before them.

But their work carries its own identity. Indie craft is playful, eco-savvy and anti-establishment, which makes it appealing to the young, trendsetting customer. It uses plenty of retro '50s iconography, but always with a winking sense of irony. One broadcast journalist has described it as "punk rock played with needle and thread."

The movement is somewhat political, emphasizing the importance of thoughtfully constructed, green-friendly, locally made objects over mass-made tchotchkes from a faceless corporate entity.

"I think with technology, it scares people because it's really taking the hand out of things," Wolf says. "We want to see people and not just a machine. It's such a basic human need to need people. So whether it be, like, a purse that's handmade and that someone made for someone else - that's so much more thoughtful than something you could just buy in a store."

Some of its practitioners also see crafting as a feminist statement.

"Whereas the previous generation of feminists often abandoned or at least hid their interest in pursuits labeled as feminine, contemporary feminists ... find empowerment in the act of choosing a lifestyle that feels authentic to them," writes Emily Elisabeth Stimmel in "Crafting a Community," an academic paper on the indie craft movement.

Even as alt-crafters embrace the painstaking, made-by-hand folk arts of yesteryear, they use the high-tech arena of blogs, Facebook and Etsy.com, a massive e-commerce site, to market their wares.

Now, almost every major city in America has an indie craft fair, which gives the players in this largely online world a chance to network with each other and meet one-on-one with their customers.

"I think it gives people an outlet to show what they're being creative with," says Laura Livingood, who will be selling her Mae-brand purses and purse accessories at Unglued. "It allows us to be part of a community because crafting is about community. The indie craft movement is so online."

Trendy yet approachable

Similar to the national scene, Unglued was launched by a bunch of young women who shared a love for all things handmade.

Crafters were recruited by word of mouth, posters or Facebook. They weren't hard to find. Even for the first-time event, 80 crafters applied for 40 spots.

The final lineup of artisans will include a woman who makes huggable "monsters" out of fleece, an architecture student who designs jewelry with concrete objects and found items, and someone who cross-stitches handlebar mustaches.

This may not be your grandmother's craft fair, but Grandma is certainly welcome there.

"It's alternative, but it's not scary-alternative," Morken is quick to point out. "We're hoping no one feels it's unapproachable. It's definitely for everybody."

Even so, the event will have a definite hipster vibe, with musicians like Ian Johnson, Poor Edward, The Valiant Nomads, Haley Rydell and Luke Torgerson from The Season providing acoustic music throughout the day.

Dunn Brothers will supply coffee and pastries, and there will be two free crafting workshops led by Morken's mother-in-law, Carol Morken. A session on how to make vintage silhouette paintings will begin at 11 a.m., and a workshop on making bird's nest brooches from raw wool is set for 2 p.m.

"We want to make a day of it as much as we can," Morken says.

If you go

•What: Unglued, Fargo's first indie craft fest

•When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 5

•Where: American Legion, 505 3rd Ave. N., Fargo

•Info: Free swag bags for the first 100 attendees. Free admission. For more information, call (218) 290-2263 or go to www.ungluedcraftfest.com.

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