A Bounty of Handmade

This post is a little late in coming; I had planned to have this up a week ago, but there are always distractions and obligations (more on that in my next post, hopefully)!

This year, Renegade Craft Fair was a grand success for me. In the past, my visits to Renegade were always tinged by disappointment because I felt as if I hadn’t found what I was looking for. This feeling was partly fueled by a reluctance to invest in more expensive items, since I was so used to shopping in stores that emphasize cheap and ready-to-wear fashion. But, this year, I ticked off all the boxes on my checklist and then some. I think that my explicit commitment to a more conscientious wardrobe has already made me a smarter shopper. The money that I used to spend on “fast fashion” brands like Forever 21 or Zara is now being set aside for me to invest in fewer but higher quality pieces. I also have a better sense of what looks good on me and what I like to wear, so I can be more picky about what I buy.

For example, I used to be a fan of cheap jewelry. If the piece didn’t quite fit the look I was going for that was okay because it was five dollars. This year, I wanted a skull ring. But instead of trawling the aisles of fast fashion retailers for something close enough that probably would have fallen apart after a month, I saved my money and waited until this gathering of independent makers (including many jewelers) rolled around. And Renegade Craft Fair did not disappoint:
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The skull ring is from Tough and Pretty, a husband and wife team located in Chicago. It is actually the second piece I bought from them during Renegade. (Story time!) I had been running errands on Saturday near the craft fair and happened to pass by Tough and Pretty’s booth. Even though I was on a tight schedule, I was so intrigued that I popped in and took a gander. Everything they had on display was beautiful, looked sturdy, and appealed to my sense of style. I wanted to stay, but couldn’t, so I grabbed a business card and ran off with the intention of returning the next day.

Twenty minutes or so later, I was back. I couldn’t stop thinking about the jewelry and I figured I would regret it if I didn’t make a selection that day. As I made my purchase, the man behind the booth (I believe he was Mike, the husband of the team) and I had a brief conversation about check versus card versus cash. I found out that Tough and Pretty’s owners have been making jewelry since the mid- to late-nineties, which was apparently a time when most people paid by check!

I returned to Renegade on Sunday with a group of friends, and had to stop by Tough and Pretty again. I wanted to show my friends the jewelry that had caught my eye. I had already worn my new ring for a whole day and was in love. The only issue was a slight nub in the band that dug into my finger a little. At the booth, Mike remembered me from the day before and asked how I liked my new ring. I mentioned the nub and wondered if there was a way to fix it. Mike explained it was a result of the casting process, then he and Rachelle promptly got to work filing the problem area away. I had my new and improved ring back within a few minutes! I thanked him and my friends and I continued on through the rest of Renegade.

Except I couldn’t leave without stopping there again…After making an entire round of the craft fair, I hadn’t seen any jewelry that captured my attention as much as Tough and Pretty’s. Even the name exemplifies everything I want in my wardrobe. So I had to pop by the booth a fourth time to add another piece to my collection. Which is when I got the single skull ring!

Look at how intricate the casting is!
Look at how intricate the casting is!

I’m still enamored with both of my new pieces. (I’d put up a photo of my other ring but the lighting in my room isn’t great right now.) They won’t fall apart on me, like the cheap jewelry of my fashion youth, and the detail on them is impeccable. The customer service couldn’t be beat either. Part of me didn’t want to mention Tough and Pretty in my blog so I could keep them as my jewelry secret…but I’m not quite that selfish. I only hope I can splurge on one of their more elaborate pieces one day!

I also stopped by the booth of one of my favorite Chicago artists / printmakers, Laura Berger. Her artwork has this beautiful, secular spirituality about it. In her pieces, I see a whimsical celebration of the body, community, and love. There isn’t a denial of the darkness in life, only a reminder that there is light too (a reminder that I occasionally need). She had these “warrior” pins at her booth, and I promptly bought one for myself:

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I like how confident and tough she looks, holding fast onto her arrow and staring straight at the onlooker, unashamed of wearing only the skin she was born in. I’ve taken to wearing the pin with a plain black or white t-shirt. It’s my little reminder of my own strength as a woman and of the strength of all women.

To end this post, here are a couple of shots of my Renegade Craft Fair outfit. My t-shirt is from Pact, a clothing company that emphasizes the use of organic and fair trade cotton. My necklace and skirt were made by me.
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I was excited about this outfit because I thought I was wearing a variety of environmentally-friendly pieces, but some research into the brand of shoes I am wearing in these photos suggests I have succumbed to the “greenwashing” that is rampant in marketing nowadays. I plan to have another post on this phenomenon. Until then, a brief definition of greenwashing would be a means by which a brand packages or markets a product such that a consumer is led to believe the product is environmentally-friendly or all-natural when in reality it may not be (for example, the use of green coloring and the words “natural ingredients” in the packaging).

While I am a little sad about my shoes, I am still happy about the fact that I supported some local independent business owners during Renegade, that most of my outfit was still environmentally and ethically conscientious, and that I have some wonderful handmade jewelry in my collection. I hope this post inspires you to check out your local independent makers or to start making pieces of your own!

‘Til next time,
— S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way to post about the businesses I have mentioned. This post expresses my honest opinions. 

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