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I almost titled this post, “why I am never ever ever ever doing an outdoor summer market ever ever again, so help me God.”  But maybe I just get cranky in the heat and happen to be scribbling a rough draft of this during downtime at my Snarky Sleeves booth at Pitchfork.  I don’t do a lot of outdoor markets (heat + me = crankypants) and am delivering the below tips based entirely on my experience and that of my neighbor vendors at the Coterie tent at Pitchfork this year.  Quick note: HUGE thumbs up and gold star to the organizers of Coterie for making it a super smoothly running show, keeping the booth fees reasonable, and for alerting us when a big ‘ol thunderstorm was on the way so we could pack our wares and high-tail it out of there before getting drenched.  (My very absorbent felt items are especially grateful for that last one.)

To survive a summer market is to prepare for the heat, big time.  OVERprepare, if you’re like me and the heat turns you into the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld.  And heat stroke is lame, you want to avoid that.  Here are some weapons, ranging from simple hand-to-hand combat up to weapons of mass heat destruction.

1.  SHADE/TENT.  Be under a tent.  Do not be in the sun.  And be wary of the sly movement of the evil, conniving sun.  As it makes its malicious arc across the sky it can sneak between tent flaps and into your booth.  Have weapon #2 ready for that.

2.  UMBRELLA.  During Pitchfork I watched the sun get to a 5pm angle and super-hot rays zap between tents like lasers and scorch Mano y Metal alive.  An umbrella saved her life.  It saved her freaking life, people.

3.  MOVING SLOWLY.  Give yourself extra time to load in and set up so you’re not running all over the place and exerting yourself even a little more than necessary.  Exertion = internal body temperature rises = bad.  I had two amazing booth helpers taking shifts to divide the work with, which gave everyone a lot more sitting around and cooling off time.  I owe them lifedebts.

4.  COOLER FILLED WITH COLD STUFF.  I stocked mine with enough ice to make a small igloo, cool meals and snacks like a pasta salad (beans and pasta with protein and carbs for energy), oranges, sandwich wraps, fruit cups, yadda yadda.  Avoid heavy foods that make you tired and too full to move around in the heat.  I watched some dude sit motionless on a chair for two hours REALLY regretting that second fried chicken sandwich.

5.  COLD DRINKS.  But stay away from iced coffee, iced tea, or other diuretics that make you frequently pee out all your precious body fluids.  (See also a description of the horror of port-a-toilets still to come…)  Drink lots of cold water.  If you’re not drinking enough, set a timer on your phone or watch to go off every 15 to 20 minutes to remind you to drink.  We also experimented with lightly sugared drinks to help heat-induced headaches.  Vitamin Water and Gatoraid are pretty rad inventions.

6.  A THIN HAND TOWEL WITH AN ICE CUBE FOLDED INTO IT.  This was probably our favorite weapon.  Wrap the damp towel with ice in it around your neck loosely, or your wrists, or any other areas that science says will cool you down.  Thin towels seemed to work better than bandanas, which weren’t as absorbent and dripped all over the place.

7.  BATTERY POWERED FAN.  I found one of these awesome inventions at my grocery store for $8.  Some of the best eight bucks I ever spent.  Oh!  And it’s got a squirt-bottle attached to it so you squirt yourself with water then the fan cools you down.  It felt like a tiny air conditioner giving you a tiny hug.

8.  THE TEXAS COOL VEST.  I borrowed this thing from a friend who wears it while gardening during hot flashes.  I call it the Tomato Menopause Vest because it keeps her from smashing her tomatoes in a heat-induced rage.  It’s a lightweight, adjustable cloth vest with large pockets on the front and back, into which you slip the accompanying cold packs.  We found that it worked best if we wore it for an extended amount of time instead of expecting a sudden cool-down immediately after putting it on.  After about 30 minutes of wearing it I felt like the temperature of the entire world dropped by 10 degrees.  And even though it was about 98 degrees outside and I was hot enough to melt ice cream with my eyes, I had stopped sweating.  My booth mates and I decided that the cold packs that come with it are magical.  After the ice inside them started to melt and soften, we put them in the cooler for a little while and they managed to re-freeze themselves.  (The Freeze Pops we brought with us did not fare as well.)  Word on the street is that it’s used by soldiers in Iraqi deserts to keep their cores cool under all their military gear.  That might also explain why it looks a bit like it was designed by bullet-proof vest manufacturers.  Frankly, I would have worn a giant piece of salami with a cheese hat if it cooled me down that well.  Now, if you’ve clicked on the link to the Texas Cool Vest, you have probably noticed its $150-$275 price tag.  And if you’re the DIY readers I know you are, you’ve probably already sketched out plans to make your own.  I haven’t attempted to make my own yet, but if I did, I think getting a thrift store vest of some kind and sewing  in some large pockets would do the trick- sized to match some store-bought freezable cold packs.  Rar Rar Press, Wonder Wheel, and Steff Bomb each took turns with it and the consensus was that the Texas Cool Vest worked darn well.

9.  A TINY SWIMMING POOL OF ICE WATER FOR YOUR FEET.  Much cheaper than the Texas Cool Vest, we brought with us a small plastic tub from the dollar store to make a little cold water bath for our feet.  Taking our shoes off and letting our feet sit in ice water for short spurts did help cool us down.

10.  ROSEWATER TONER AND PEPPERMINT OIL.  One of my booth helpers, Megg, is a talented make-up artist, and she brought rosewater toner spray for an occasional refreshingly clean mist on our faces, and peppermint oil to dab on temples and wrists, providing a lasting cooling sensation on the skin.  And it can help make a sweaty person smell a little less like a wooly mammoth stuck in a tar pit.  (See also “bonus deodorant” in the next section.)

11.  LOOSE-FITTING CLOTHING.  Wear loose clothing.  Like extremely loose.  If you can rock a mu-mu, do it.  Sneaking a breeze from a battery-powered fan up your skirt or into the legs of your shorts when no one is looking is totally acceptable and encouraged.

Other element-blasting weapons:

1.  EAR PLUGS.  At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeonly old bag at a music festival: that shit is loud, yo.  Being in a market area like Coterie seems far enough away from the stages that it’s not earplug-worthy alone, but 10+ hours of constant noise can begin to feel like a cell at Guantanamo.  Jamming ear plugs in your ears or taking an occasional break to a quieter area does wonders for a person’s sanity.  It’s also good to just know they’re there, in case you end up right next to the DJ booth at a market with slightly poor choices in layout planning.

2.  BUG SPRAY OR SOME OTHER BUG REPELLING DEVICE.  This comes in handy in more rural areas, but even cities with their low mosquito counts can get swarms of gnats, flies, moths, and that unidentifiable bug thing that landed on my knee and made me squeal like a little girl and everyone laughed at me.  Especially after dark with big tent lamps and stadium lights that attract those pesky things.

3.  PAINKILLERS.  If anyone can look me in the eye and honestly tell me that they have never walked away from a full day at a handmade market without at least a slight headache, I will buy that person a Pepsi.

4.  HAND WIPES AND HAND SANITIZER.  I should honestly just post a picture of the inside of a port-a-toilet here to make my point, but I won’t.  Let’s just say that those things can get pretty grody on a hot day after a few thousand people have been in them.  Okay, that’s sugar-coating it.  By 8pm I’m pretty sure one of port-a-toilets at Pitchfork turned into the 10th level of hell.  I may or may not have seen security guards escorting exorcism priests to the area.

5.  TOILET PAPER.  You can find little travel rolls at most drug stores, and it’s worth the $1.25 investment.  Most port-a-toilets run out of paper toward the end of the day and you’ll feel like an absolute genius ninja for having this.  Guard it with your life.  Others will want to steal it.

6.  SUNSCREEN.  Duh.

7.  BONUS DEODORANT.  After several hours of constant and even intermittent sweating, even the best quality deodorant will fail and a little mid-day bonus swipe of the underarms is a good thing.  Even if you’re a delicate flower of a person, you can still smell like the inside of Patrick Kane’s cup after the Stanley Cup play-offs.  Okay, that was gross.  I apologize.

8.  ALLERGY MEDS/INHALER.  For those of you with asthma or allergies, there is a lot of dust and pollen out there.  Be prepared.

9.  RAIN GEAR.  It may rain.  A giant “oh crap” tarp to throw over everything on your table isn’t a bad idea.

Even though I’m still tempted to title this post “why I am never ever ever ever doing an outdoor summer market ever ever again, so help me God” (insert photo of the inside of a port-a-toilet here), the experience of an outdoor festival is definitely survivable, and even a little enjoyable, with the right preparations.

Are you a summer fest veteran?  Share some of the weapons in your arsenal in the comments section below!

Oh… and Nerfect… you lied to me.  There were no super-secret clean port-a-toilets behind the food tents.  That hall pass you sold me didn’t work.  We’re in a fight.

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Why did I apply and become a member of the Chicago Craft Mafia?  I wanted to network with other creative entrepreneurs.  I wanted a forum to ask business questions and get a range of answers.  While there are scores of business groups across the Chicago region, the Chicago Craft Mafia is unique in that we are all involved in the craft industry. Many of us have full-time or part-time jobs on the side, but our craft and our business is our primary focus.

I joined the Chicago Craft Mafia in 2009.  While my intention was to develop my little Etsy shop, I was also developing a growing interest in project designing – designing patterns and products for craft magazines, books, and companies.   Everyone in the Chicago Craft Mafia has been incredibly supportive of this dual path and have offered invaluable advice and connections along the way.

The other week I had the opportunity to submit a project design to a large media organization, but I needed stellar photos.  I’ve been getting along fine with my little digital point-and-shoot, but it had recently died.  I had this fancy DSLR camera, but I didn’t have a clue as how to use it.  I didn’t even have the manual as the camera was used.  So, what to do?  I called upon fellow Chicago Craft Mafia member Michelle Kaffko of Organic Headshots and Snarky Sleeves for a tutorial.  Yep, that’s me in the photo practicing what I had learned (photo by Michelle).

My time commitment to the organization has ebbed and flowed over the years.  We each participate in committees related to our interests and skill sets which in the past included organizing the DIY Trunk Show. I’ve especially enjoyed developing the Craft Rackets which will resume in the fall.  As a trained teacher, it’s a natural fit for me to develop educational programming.  I also like attending the Rackets and meeting other business owners.

Every month the members meet for a few hours to discuss Mafia-related matters, share upcoming show deadlines and discuss what’s new for each of us.  It’s a great way to set personal and professional goals and feel that there is some sort of accountability.  As a full-time professor, artist, project and knitwear designer, as well as mother, I find the balance to be more than a tad challenging.  It’s incredibly easy for me to let things slide and remain static, so these meetings have been an immensely valuable format for me to keep myself moving in a forward direction.

If any of this seems like it would be a good fit for you and your business, then take a moment to fill in the application.  The deadline is June 30th.

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The Chicago Craft Mafia is looking for new members, and you just might have what it takes.

After almost 10 years as a craft-based business collaborative organization, The Chicago Craft Mafia recently handed over the hugely successful DIY Trunk Show to another organization to keep the yearly show going strong.  Now, the Mafia can focus all of its efforts on our founding mission of supporting arts and crafts entrepreneurship in our community.

We’re opening the doors for new members, who will have a significant say in where the group goes in the future and what new programs, opportunities, and successes we’ll have on the horizon.

As a part of the Mafia, you can affect Chicago culture by promoting handcrafted goods, educating communities about the importance of artisan commerce, and helping new crafters take their hobbies and businesses to the next level.

Members benefit from increased media exposure, national networking opportunities, and a support of like-minded individuals.  Mafia members promote and support each other and other growing and emerging businesses, foster entrepreneurial relationships, gain professional development, business info from your peers, new skills, alliances with other arts-based groups, and more.

To be considered for the Chicago Craft Mafia, complete the application here.

Our Mission:

The Chicago Craft Mafia is a collaborative and non-competitive organization of independent crafting business owners.  We work together to both foster our own individual entrepreneurship and support the greater crafting community.  Members of the group pride ourselves on the design, integrity and workmanship of our products and the ethics of our business practices.

Our goal is to increase these businesses’ retail and/or wholesale exposure, by abiding by a Do-It-Yourself code of ethics.

The CCM is a local chapter of the national Craft Mafia.

The revolution will be crafted.

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Lucy ClasenLucy Clasen

What is your mafia nickname?

Hammer

What is your craft?

I use silver smith and lapidary techniques as well as other media to make jewelry.  I also enjoy doing papercraft, fiber art and other crafts.

Why do you do your craft?

Because it is fun to make something beautiful from raw materials suh as a sheet of metal and a rock.

What are your sources of inspiration?

Nature, art, geometrics, birds, butterflies, kitties and anything beautiful

What is your favorite Chicago haunt?

United Center to watch the Blackhawks play

What is your favorite beverage?

Water

Where do you buy your favorite beverage?

The city of Chicago

What is your weapon of choice?

Of all my tools I enjoy using the hammer on metal the most.

What would you be doing otherwise?

I would still be doing a craft and watching sports, especially hockey.

Do you have any advice for other crafters?

Have fun and try different media to expand your creativity

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Ten years ago, over cookies and a pot of tea, Amy Carlton and Cinnamon Cooper hatched a plan to create a different kind of craft show that would promote area artists and crafters to shoppers who wanted to feel a connection to the makers of their purchases instead of just buying corporate mall stuff. They plotted and brainstormed and a few hours later, they’d created the idea that would become the DIY Trunk Show. They found a location, spread the word to shoppers and makers, and began promoting the show. And they were exhausted when the first show happened the Saturday before Thanksgiving in 2003. They’d both half-joked that while they were glad they did it, they just weren’t sure they could do it again.

But the show happened. And people hugged them and thanked them for creating a place for buying and selling handmade goods. And people thanked them for not creating a division between art and craft but promoting both equally. Amy and Cinnamon were elated, and their chests swelled with pride, and they giddily decided that the final payoff was worth all the work and stress.

The DIY Trunk Show ran that way for a few years. Amy and Cinnamon wrote a Craftifesto as a sort of mission statement to guide the show and explain the spirit behind it. But Amy was in grad school and working full time and just wasn’t able to devote enough time to the show. Cinnamon wasn’t ready to give it up. By that time, the Chicago Craft Mafia had been going strong for a few years, and she asked the group if they would be willing to help. The Chicago Craft Mafia agreed that the show must go on, and they were the right group to do it.

And that continued for many years. And that tiny punk-rock craft show of 35 vendors in 2003 became a mega-show in 2010 with 175 booths, corporate and boutique sponsors, food vendors, media sponsors, and so much more. The show has grown up and changed and morphed as the culture of makers has expanded exponentially and as the buying public has grown and begun to find more value and more variety in the types of handmade items that can be found locally. The show, for lack of a better word, has become a business. Despite ten years of the organizers making no profit from producing the show, there are tax implications. Insurance is required. Deposits are paid and refunded. Contracts are signed and notarized. The little craft show that could has outgrown its roots.

Which means—and this part is hard to write—the DIY Trunk Show has outgrown its founders and its caretakers. Amy, Cinnamon, and every member of the Chicago Craft Mafia are extensively proud of the show. Proud of what we have accomplished. Proud of the businesses we’ve seen start as nascent ideas and grow into full-fledged companies with employees and brick-and-mortar locations and loyal followers who seek them out. We’re proud of each vendor we’ve ever had. We’re honored to know that we have all worked together to create a community where craft and art are sought out and given as gifts, kept, cherished, bragged about, and honored.

We read the Craftifesto, and we’re happy knowing that those guiding principles still hold true even though the show has grown and changed. But change comes with a price. Running a business is hard, and the time has come for us to admit that for the show to continue to grow—to continue to help build, foster, and develop the community of makers and buyers—it needs new blood. Ten years have burnt us out, even though they haven’t diminished our love for the show.

Which is why we’re delighted and honored to be able to share that Blue Buddha Boutique (BBB), owned by Rebeca Mojica (a long-time Chicago Craft Mafia member and a nine-year vendor at the DIY Trunk Show), has agreed to take over running the show. We don’t relinquish the show lightly. And there have been many talks about concerns and expectations. But because we deeply respect and admire Rebeca and the staff of Blue Buddha Boutique, and because the show has benefitted for years from her ability to organize people and information, keep to a schedule, create action plans that work, and foster strengths while finding cures for weaknesses, she is an obvious balm for our weary souls.

Beginning in 2013, the DIY Trunk Show will be owned, managed, and run by Rebeca and her staff of intelligent and capable employees. Several of her staff members have vended at DIY in previous years and have volunteered to help out with various tasks. We’ve been grateful to them, and we expect this gratitude to continue as they take the show on.

Because several people on BBB staff are familiar with many aspects of the show, handing off the task lists and schedules and contacts is easier than handing it off to another group. Because BBB has a brick-and-mortar store just a few blocks from the Broadway Armory, they’re already members of the Edgewater community that has embraced the show. Alderman Harry Osterman has been very welcoming to our show attendees and has been very beneficial to BBB.

But most of all, we trust Rebeca and Blue Buddha Boutique to do right by the DIY Trunk Show and maintain its spirit.

While we’re sad to be handing over the reins, we are delighted that the show will continue as it has and will likely improve and include many of the things that the all-volunteer staff has been unable to do in between working our day jobs and running our own businesses. We know there will be changes, and we trust that they will make DIY an even better show for everyone involved. We also believe the added benefits that BBB will be able to bring to the event will be positive.

So we give you crafty hugs and kisses as Amy, Cinnamon, and the Chicago Craft Mafia step back and hand BBB the golden scissors to cut the ribbon as they take over ownership of the DIY Trunk Show. The future has a lot of beautiful things in store and we can’t wait to see what happens next.

You can read more about this transition on the DIY Trunk Show blog and on Blue Buddha Boutique’s site.

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