Stitching it up

By Colin Shively

The Renegade Craft Fair has showcased Do-It-Yourself artists for the past seven years in the Wicker Park neighborhood. Three years ago, the craft fair expanded into a storefront, Renegade Handmade, 1924 W. Division St., which is dedicated to housing and selling self-made art by local, national and international artists.

Renegade Handmade hosted its third Spotlight Series event, “In Stitches Showcase” on Nov. 21, where more than 150 artists displayed and sold their work to the public. The showcase aimed to display the wide range of materials that can be used for embroidery and stitching to the general public.

“‘In Stitches Showcase’” is an opportunity for artists of all DIY styles to come together and showcase their work,” said Danny Orendorff, assistant coordinator for Renegade Handmade. “The community [in Wicker Park] is always excited when we host an event like this. It is a very DIY culture.”

The gallery space used for the showcase is an old storage facility in the back of Renegade Handmade that was barely used. Instead of letting the space go unused, the owners decided to recreate it into a showroom.

“The gallery is different from other traditional galleries,” Orendorff said. “Instead of just showcasing the work, people can come in and purchase the piece and walk out with it. Some of the larger ones can be bought, but might be held for showing a bit longer. We like to use what we have in front of us, that is why we made the back room into our own gallery.”

DIY has been a steadily growing trend throughout the years, said Kate Paris, manager of Renegade Handmade.

The idea of using cheap materials and resources already at one’s disposal caught on because it is easy and accessible. The popularity can easily be seen by the success of The Renegade Craft Fair and Renegade Handmade, Paris said.

Mandy McGee, a local Chicago DIY artist and creator of Moxiedoll, is attending the Spotlight Series in hopes of developing her clientele and to showcase her work.

“I have been in numerous DIY shows and events,” McGee said. “But Renegade Handmade, along with Renegade Craft Fair, is by far the best. The community here loves it and I love showing my work. Chicago has a great DIY culture, and it is going to continue growing with events like these.”

The event got even more exciting with a special appearance by author and DIY artist Jenny Hart who just published her book Embroidered Effects, which gives independent artists a large selection of designs from Sublime Stitching to help inspire others.

While Hart was at the event, she led a short workshop on broidery and then held a book signing after the event.

“Having all these artists come together in one place is just fantastic,” Orendorff said. “It creates a great opportunity for all

these individual artists to meet each other, get inspiration and to see what new DIY techniques can be created.”

Renegade Handmade is constantly showcasing and selling the work of individual artists. As the year progresses, more Spotlight Series events and other events similar to “In Stitches Showcase” will take place to further the DIY movement in Chicago.