I love a good craft fair. I started going to UniqueLA a few years ago. Perhaps the best time was when KC Cooper Sears of Academy of Handmade Artists and Supporters was there doing crafts and there was just alot of cool stuff. Now Unique LA is not very unique. I was asked by someone to describe it. I have one word: disposable.
That's not to say there weren't cool things there. We did still manage to drop $100 in booths because honestly, I like to support handmade. I'm not a $100 a pop person so spending this much is remarkable for me. The things I bought were mostly food items, like some apricot mustard and kimchi pickles. There were a few stand outs but there was alot of these things:
Low skill and letterpress paper products.
Most of the cards we saw all looked similar- letterpress on white cardstock. Printed illustrations or graphics on cards were the other types of cards we saw alot of. It was disappointing – almost like they didn't really try to hard to do something other than what has been trending in the last 5 years.
They all looked the same to me except the fun illustrated cards at Bee is For Bear – I bought this card, which was affordable and cute.
The other standout booth was Jonathan Ventura of Anon_y_mouse at Arts District Printing Co with his DTLA photographs printed on handmade papers. The anti-thesis to that booth was a booth selling images printed (with a computer printer) on book pages. Really? His selling point was the book pages were 100 years old. Anyone can run paper through their printer and print off copyright images from the internet… disappointing.
Lots of thin gold jewelry.
Thin gold-colored or real gold chains with pendants. For $38 and up. First of all, any one with a pair of pliers and $10 can make a grip of these after stopping by Michael's. Second, they.all.looked.the.same and there was nothing unique. It made me really think of Amarilo – like everyone was trying to emulate what Anarilo has done, even copying the shapes, working all in gold.
I did like Bashful Owl's booth and her fauxz druzy jewelry. It was the the only druzy-like jewelry I saw and she made it with shavings from minerals and rocks.
Everybody has a 3D Printer.
Because the jewelry in thin gold was not enough, some of the booths offered the same thing, 3D printed. The prices started at about $36 for a ring and well, that is silly to pay for plastic.
Food booths stole the show
Food booths were the standout for us at this show. From the amazing huge variety of flavored salts at Hepp's Salt Barrel to the ymmu s'mores kits and s'mores made to order at mallow Mallow, there were lots of food items to take home.
We got the sriracha salt at Hepp's and tried a s'mores at Mallow Mallow.
Maya Brigadeiro had yummy brazilian treats – we got a box of 6 after taste-testing them.
We bought this apricot mustard from M. Greenwood Jams that I can't wait to try on a pork roast!
Airplants, Succulents, and Concrete.
We found a great deal on little concrete planters for $3 at KLAI. This was one of several vendors selling things made from concrete and things that work with succulents or airplants. I think this trend is here to stay.
Clothing, textiles, and woven things.
Hugh Simms was a standout menswear shop with great ties. There were also several booths with bowties. But mostly there were cheap looking tank tops with screenprinting for way too much money. And I am lumping in all the textile art here too. Weavings and giant tassels and other thing made of yarn things… I am sadly not impressed by much of it because well, it's just too darn easy to make.
Other Unique Things
There was a giant coloring book booth. I also loved the candles in recycled bottles – that part wasn't “new” but the scents they had were great. Xaver wanted to get a candle called “Old Money”.
So many of the items at Unique LA were easy to make. Their ideal customer is someone with no creativity whatsoever. And, well, that's not me.
There were some cool things at the show and I loved the charity aspect. There was an entire row of booths that were all charities which was a nice thing to see. But as far as trend-setting, I felt it was behind the trends and just kind of sad really. I want to see amazing things, be inspired, and feel like I want to buy all the things! And I just didn't get that this time around. The interactive things they had around were all kind of sad feeling too. No one was feeling it.
Why do I think most of what's at UniqueLA is “disposable”?
Alot of the items were easy to make or they did not take a huge amount of skill to make. Screen-printing shirts, printed cards, or printed images on book pages…. it was all too easy. For vendors to afford shows with fees like UniqueLA, they need a big profit margin. If you can't save on the cost of supplies, then you can save time by making things that are quick and easy to make. It was disappointing to see “handmade” going this way. I didn't feel that way about all of the booths but I feel that way about a majority of them. It's amazing the change compared to the booths I saw there two years ago, at the same show.
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