FARGO — What goes around comes around — and as the organizer of the Unglued: Craft Fest, Ashley Morken has seen what’s been around for nearly a decade.
From jewelry made of moss and concrete to handcrafted pens and fishskin wallets, she’s seen it all.
The giant makers market returns to the Plains Art Museum in downtown Fargo Friday night, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, with 70 vendors, food trucks, a craft beer garden and even pinball games.
Still, she's looking to the kiosks to see what will open up even her own experienced eyes. For example, did she ever think she’d need a leather fanny pack?
“That's a hard no. Until I realized they were actually real life when Julie Meyer applied with them and suddenly, yes, I do need one,” she says as she prepares the final touches for the event.
She learned at the Unglued Summer Camp last year just how handy the bum bag can be.
“I feel like it's full circle now that they are at the Fest in a crazy durable and fashionable form and I can more fully vouch for a real-life need," she says.
Unglued: Craft Fest is curated, so the 70 vendors selected must show that their items aren’t only interesting to look at, but serve a purpose as well. Some are well-constructed bits of decoration, like See Lang Design's quilled art, paper rolled and fixed together, sometimes in the shape of North Dakota or Minnesota.
“She has been in the Drekker Craft Markets recently with us and people are just totally drawn to her work — it's incredibly eye-catching and the detail is insane… so it's a really unique take on what I think of as a rare traditional craft,” Morken says.
Then there are really different items, like Ben Brick’s refurbished and redecorated axes.
Brick, a Bismarck-based designer who will also be showing his North Dakota posters and postcards, says axes today aren’t as good as the ones you could buy 40 years ago, so he gets the rust off, sharpens them and paints the handles.
“With paint, these are basically decorations because of the painted handle, but they would work great if you don’t care about the paint job,” he says in his promo material.
“It's something so different than what we've seen previously done by a maker, but is utilizing a vintage or found item and turns it into something artistic, but still also usable if duty calls,” Morken says. “It's also a really interesting way (he’s) using his design skills on a super tangible object, too.”
Among makers, there is a continuing trend toward creative sustainability, Morken says. She’s excited to see AENDEE (Fargo artist Ashley Carlson) return with not only ties upcycled from old shirts and jackets, but also baby accessories made the same way. Similarly, Shelby T Artistry uses vintage fabric to make dolls and pillows. Aerow uses recycled copper to make jewelry, and Wayfaring Goods makes cast iron handle covers from recycled leather hides.
Hand-lettered items continue to be popular, and kids’ clothing and pet items remain hot.
While it’s still winter outside, some artists are feeling spring. Ceramicist Catie Miller and painter Mandel are working with florals, Twigs will have hand-painted wildflower products and Isms uses real butterfly products made through and supporting conservation efforts.
While there are the same amount of vendors this year and the quality is as good as ever, Morken knows people may be more selective in their purchases.
“Thanks to Marie Kondo, we are at the beginning of seeing people be more intentional with the products and gifts they are buying to have more meaning and bring them more joy, which fits quite fantastically with the purpose of this Craft Fest,” Morken says. “So I'll go ahead and say this Fest would be 100 percent Marie Kondo-approved for those hard-earned bucks and brimming with things to create a more joyful home and life and gifting.”
And what sparks joy for Morken?
“Besides coffee, it’s the moments during events we put on and seeing people's sheer joy and glee that comes from connecting with a product and its maker or that comes from getting their hands dirty in craft during a free workshop they never thought they could do,” she says. “It's pretty crazy how creatively done products around my home by makers we've met spark more joy that I ever could have imagined and Marie Kondo pretty much solidified that I'm not crazy for wanting our community to keep having more of it.
If you go
What: 9th Annual Unglued: Craft Fest
When: 5-9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23
Where: Plains Art Museum, 704 First Ave. N., Fargo
Info: Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door for Friday night’s preview party and free all day Saturday; http://www.ungluedmarket.com/fest/