After five years of helping to build L.A.'s reputation for elevated handmade style, the Echo Park Craft Fair is going digital.
To coincide with its holiday event this weekend at Mack Sennett Studios, the fair will be launching an e-commerce site to bring artisinal L.A. to the world.
For the Record
Dec. 12, 5:30 p.m.: An earlier version of this post attributed the accompanying photographs to Nancy Neil. The photographer was Lani Trock.
"Our last fair attracted 5,000 visitors," says Echo Park Craft Fair co-founder Beatrice Valenzuela. "We had people coming from Portland and San Francisco. It was a real wake-up. We realized it had become a destination and that it had potential to be so much bigger."
Over the years, the craft fair has featured hundreds of vendors, many of whom have gone on to open their own stores locally, including handbag designer Clare Vivier, quilting studio Hopewell Workshop and jewelry labels Dream Collective and Gabriela Artigas. The event has also helped to shape the made-in-L.A. aesthetic associated with the creative communities of Los Feliz, Echo Park and Silver Lake that has been embraced by the style cognescenti around the world.
When you think craft fair, you might think bad blown glass, wind chimes and pewter jewelry, but the Echo Park Craft Fair offerings are decidedly more sophisticated and upscale, including Heather Taylor's rough-hewn linen table runner with god's eye embroidery ($160), Agnes Baddoo's pleasingly-minimalist cream canvas and chocolate buffalo hide tote ($410) and Jessica Winzelberg's double-drop boulder opal earrings ($615).
"We had a lot of friends making beautiful things," Valenzuela says. "But at that time, we all had real jobs, and were just creating on the side. So many people came, and had a good time. So we kept having the events and bringing in more people. And eventually, it became a real business."
"We were inspiring and pushing each other as a community of artists," she explains. "And now, those artists who started with us, this is what they do---without the real job. They're following their passion."
This weekend's event will be the largest yet, with 75 artists. When it comes to the selection of vendors, it's ultimately up to Valenzuela and Craven. "It's based on our aesthetics," Craven says. "Two artists from different backgrounds who are mothers and want to be involved in how things are made and how they will affect our family."
Online, there will be a smaller sampling of crafts that will rotate, "to keep people involved throughout the year," Craven says. "So many people want to be involved, but we're limited by the space of the market. Online, we can include even more people. And it's an opportunity, because maybe they can't afford the $500 entry fee for the fair, but they can use the website as a platform to start making things."
They are also considering featuring craftspeople from outside L.A. on their website. "Our community now extends to Brooklyn and Minnesota … we're all connected through social media," Craven says.
But even though the fair is expanding online, and is not even held in Echo Park any longer, they have decided to stick with the name. "It's how we started. When we had our first event, I had 12 friends on my block in Echo Park making things," Craven says. "It's who we are."