This is a public service announcement: If you did not have a chance to head to the Renegade Art Fair this past weekend in Chicago, no worries, I took the liberty to stop at almost every single booth and hunt down the best of the fest. As I’ve proclaimed in the past, this is one of my favorite street fests of the year. There is nothing like browsing handmade art that is not only one of a kind but also so much of it is functional. After having the opportunity to speak to some of the artists, I learned about many of their stories which made me love their craft even more. Although all the stories differed in many capacities, there was one major common denominator and that is their passion. These creative folks are obsessed with what they create. They love talking about what they make, how it’s made, and why and how they came about making it. And that’s the thing about Renegade, it’s not just a street full of people selling a bunch of shit. They are selling their passion. And most of their passions are freaking bad ass! I know going into Renegade that I’m going to spend some of my hard-earned cash, but I’m totally okay with that because I typically get some gifts I need annnnnd… I get myself a special something or two, as well. I must say, this year was one of the best of the four years that I have been to the fest. There were a ton of new vendors giving me plenty to admire and want. Without further ado, here is my best of the fest: (Prepare to want to shop…)
Amy Zwikel Macrame: Lately, I am obsessed with macrame. And, this chick knows what is going on. Whether you’re looking for a piece of macrame wall art, a plant holder or a dream catcher, her creations are some of the best I’ve seen yet.
Waam Industries: Oh, how I am obsessed with these. I’m a little salty that I didn’t pick one up when I had the chance, so I may need to sort that out. These are reusable cotton, waxed canvas lunch totes. I mean, how freaking cute are these? You know you want one. Plus, you’ll be doing good for the earth. A+ human.
Penny Knot: I fell in love with these knitted little teethers. Two of these made it home with me and will be given to two new babies that just made their debut. They are the perfect gift to welcome some adorable new humans into the world. Her stuffed animals are also the cutest things I ever did see.
Punchy Magnolia: These pom pom hats are some of the most beautifully crafted hats I have ever seen or felt. They are created from retired, worn cashmere sweaters and topped with beautiful fur balls. I was happy to discover that all fur comes from fur trading businesses that follow very strict and ethical practices in obtaining fur. I felt and saw these in person and, trust me, they are just as gorgeous as they appear here.
Stonedware Company: “Holy shit!” That’s actually exactly what I said when I happened upon this stand. These are, hands-down, the coolest bowls I have ever seen in my entire life. Cannibis art. That’s what this is. These smoking devices are created to fit in your hand perfectly to make smoking a bit more comfortable and having you look classy as fuck while you get your high on. Oh, you don’t smoke pot? That’s cool too. Because this is basically bad-ass art with which you can grace your coffee table. OBSESSED.
The Striped Petal: I am a huge fan of flowers. Our mom was a very talented florist for many years so I have a little love affair with beautiful arrangements because they make me think of her. These beautifully crafted paper flowers look as gorgeous as the real deal. Except, they don’t pass away. They can literally last forever. What a wonderful idea for a wedding or even seasonal creations for the home. I have to get me one of these for the fall/Halloween season ahead.
Driftless Magazine: Driftless Mag is the prettiest GD magazine I have ever seen. Their mission is to celebrate all things Midwest, so that makes me love it even more. I had the opportunity to peruse a few issues and I was blown away by the beauty of the photos and the aesthetics of the magazine itself. It’s one of those publications that you collect and rotate throughout the year on your coffee table for guests to look at. If you are a lover of the Midwest, you’ll be a lover of Driftless.
akr Design Studio: My friends and I spent a ton of time in this artist’s booth. I’m sure you can see why. It’s girly and cool as f*ck. Her drawings are so delicately feminine, you literally want to collect all of her cards and notepads and then hang a bunch of her work in your bathroom. It’s sexy too. If you need a planner or cards, this is something you will want to look into further. Tons of cool options!
Strongwater Bitters: Every year I attend, I try to find Anthony something super unique for a little surprise gift. Strongwater bitters made that priority quite simple, indeed. These guys and gals are out of Colorado and created a very cool batch of bitters for those who like making cocktails at home. They’re created to taste divine, but also have medicinal purposes to them. So, say you don’t feel up for a drink, but are looking to get your health on…okay. Put a few drops of the bitters of your choice in sparkling water and chill. You guys, even Rick Bayless is onto these guys. This is the perfect gift for a dude or dudette that loves their at-home bar.
Argaman & Defiance: I found Lydia and her capes at The One of a Kind show last year at the Merchandise Mart. Since then, I have worn my cape, ummm, let me see, about a million times. A cape that can be worn as a scarf or wrap as well. Her work is extraordinary and her wearable art is truly one of a kind. I look forward to doing a post about my favorite piece from her in the near future. Also, it’s the perfect gift for a special lady in your life.
Garner Blue: I am loving these denim-inspired wraps and scarves. They are all handmade/dyed out of West Tennessee by some cool-ass chick that is in love with indigo. There is just something about wearable art that is so freaking cool. I feel like this is the perfect wrap for sitting by a bonfire at a lake house.
Pop of Paper Chicago: People obsessed with their pets, this one is for you. We already have a portrait of Egon in our home, but when it’s time for another, this will be the route we take. The personality of these little creatures leap off the paper on which they are painted. Plus, the simplicity of the black and white painting make it the perfect pop for a barren wall in your home. I love these furry faces so much!
Christi Ahee: Ok, you better believe I brought home one of those white skull necklaces. Duh! I love that there are artists out there that share my obsession for all things skulls. Ok, maybe not all things, but hand crafted skulls with little gold eyes that I can wear around my neck have my name written all over them. And that pot for plants? Come on now, that thing is freaking bad-ass. I love this woman’s work.
Fringe and Fettle: If you’re looking to go off a wedding registry or in search for the perfect house warming gift, these stunning platters and colanders should be strongly considered. They are so unique, yet simple. Detailed, but also perfect for everyday use. If I were getting married and someone showed up to my shower with one of these, I’d freak out.
Hello Klai: Ahhhhh, yes! The “fuck it” cup booth. The moment I saw these, I was sold. I love the off-white color along with the delicate gold writing. Can you guys guess which item I took home with me? If you know me well, you know which one.
Sunhouse Craft: This was such an unexpected, fun find. Freaking handmade brooms! I once read an article about “broom sweeping meditation”. It’s literally what it sounds like, meditation while sweeping. Slowing down and being present during your daily chores and cleaning can help keep you grounded and in the moment. When I decide to get my new broom, I am going to holler at my girl, Cynthia, and have her send one my way. Cynthia, the creator of these beautiful brooms, was the sweetest vendor I met all weekend. She loves her craft and I love her story behind it. I intend to do an entire post just on that, so please stay tuned!
Primecut Bags: How stunning are these pieces?! Made from cowhide and sheepskin, these clutches, pouches and purses were some of the most gorgeous pieces I saw all weekend long. The feel of them was glorious. If you’re in need of a gift for your lady, sister, sister-from-another-mister, best friend, etc., check out Prime Cuts. They have officially been added to my wish list.
Franca: I am loving Franca’s work. Out of Brooklyn, these artists create one-of-a-kind black and white pieces that make me swoon. I am particularly keen on their evil eye ware. One day, I am going to have an entire kitchen set from these peeps. Simple, calming and perfect. That’s how I feel about Franca.
The Local Branch Co.: Attention! Cute family alert! I saw this beautiful couple and their little baby, Hawk, doing their thing at their cool-ass pop up shop at Renegade. Not only is their family-of-three super cool, but so is what they create. Their creations are rustic and earthy. Wearable and functional. I’ve got my eyes on the leather hip bag below. It comes in three colors and can also be worn as a cross-body satchel. Perfect for traveling, running errands, street fest and music festivals. AKA my everyday life.
Wolf River Leather: This was one of our last and favorite stops of the fest. Not only because of what was being sold, but because of the people selling it. These beautiful leather goods are created by a couple from Wisconsin that have a huge amount of passion for their craft and the leather it is made with. Their bags are gorgeous, but what truly caught my attention was their sleigh bells. These things sound like Santa is on his way! If you are as obsessed with Christmas as I am or have little ones you want to get excited for the holidays, here you go. They will freak out!
So, what are you going to get? Do tell.
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Don’t be sad if you missed this cool ass event, because there’s more!