Handmade Conversations — Host a DIY Fair

Posted by on Mar 05, 2013

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Rather like a show-and-tell for crafters, a DIY fair focuses on sharing ideas and expertise instead of luring customers to buy well-made but pricey products. The result? A crafting community that craves fellowship over competition and perfection.

Imago Dei Community, a Christian church in the heart of Portland, Oregon, hosts a DIY fair every Christmas season with the aim of promoting thoughtful gift giving over frantic, anxious buying that might corrupt the holiday. Even more, the money saved from lavish gifts has gone instead towards several special projects like helping to fund a safehouse for Portland trafficking victims.

Koren Phillips, Imago's worship and arts assistant, planned the church's DIY fair this last December where crafters offered how-tos as simple as paper bunting and more "hands-on" creations like homemade bacon. She offers a few insights into hosting your own DIY fair, perhaps a DIY wedding-themed fair where friends and friends of friends gather their favorite nuptial crafts and demo their creations. Read on for Koren's tips and insights in hosting a DIY fair.

diy fair
How is a DIY fair different from a traditional craft fair?

A DIY fair is different from a traditional craft fair in that those participating offer not only handmade products but also instruction on how to create their particular items. Our particular event is also non-profit in that crafters are only displaying and giving instruction on how to make their item so that attendees can then DIY!

What was the inspiration for this kind of fair?

A few years ago, the Imago Dei Community thought, "Instead of celebrating Christmas exchanging gizmos and gadgets, what if we spent that money helping the poor, the brokenhearted, the enslaved?"

Today, this is how Imago Dei does Christmas — by giving more love and spending less money. The money we've saved so far by doing Christmas differently has funded a safehouse for trafficking victims in Portland, drilled water wells in Africa, and brought medical supplies to those who desperately need them, but there is still so much more good to be done.
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What's the biggest struggle in hosting a DIY craft fair? How do you overcome it?

The most challenging piece of hosting the fair is getting the word out and then rallying crafters. In Portland culture, I found quickly that people don't make plans too far in advance, which means most crafters signed up within two weeks of the event, and we couldn't afford to heavily advertise the event citywide until the week beforehand. Ideally, we would have participants committed a month out and we could advertise at least two weeks out in order to adequately communicate not only the timing of the event but the mission behind it.

How do you ensure that the DIY projects offered are interesting and not flops?

This is tough. We try to anticipate this beforehand, i.e. receive and sift through craft ideas to avoid repeats, labor intensive or too-challenging projects. But, I'd say some of the projects that I was questioning before, the day of the DIY fair ended up getting a lot of traffic. You just never know!

Also, (and this may be more appropriately deemed a struggle above) it can be just as dangerous not to anticipate what may be the more successful projects. I say this only because we ended up running around like crazy during the event to copy/print more instruction handouts for several crafters! Not fun for us event leaders.

When sharing a craft, what do presenters need to bring?

Each crafter was responsible for displaying a finished example, necessary supplies and materials to demonstrate their craft, and step-by-step instructions to hand out to attendees.

Are there types of projects that are more popular than others? Any stand-out favorites?

There were a handful of outstanding projects this year! Here's a list of the most popular creations: Homemade bacon, Infused vodka, screen printing, terrariums, handmade paper pennant banners and flowers, crocheted headbands and repurposed cross-stitch sweaters.

Get the top 10 free how-tos from Imago Dei Community's DIY fair.

Image credits (from top): Flickr/craftivistcollective, Imago Dei and Imago Dei

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