Renegade Craft Fair was founded in 2003 in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. Over the course of the past ten years, this marketplace coined the term "indie craft" and then helped it grow from a budding movement of creative individuals using their hands to make their businesses to cement it as an economic force found across the country and beyond. Not only has RCF inspired makers from around the globe, it encouraged people to make their own pop-up marketplaces and has created an environment that has brought independent handmade businesses to the forefront.
Tonight, Maker Sessions welcomes Madelon Juliano from Renegade Craft Fair. Madelon is a five year Renegade veteran and took the time to answer a few questions about her personal path and what she will be speaking about tonight.
Maker Market- Where do you currently live and where did you grow up?
Madelon Juliano- I lived in Chicago for ten years where I began working for Renegade, but I just (three weeks ago!) moved back to Salt Lake City, Utah where I'm from. I missed the mountains.
MM-Where and what did you study after High School?
MJ-I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I mainly focused on Fiber and Material Studies. I did a lot of painting and wood burning too.
MM-How and when did you become a part of Renegade and what kind of Curatorial Endeavors are you involved in?
MJ-I started working for RCF as an info booth volunteer in 2009. It was a great experience and it kind of took off from there! I managed and helped buy for the little store we had called Renegade Handmade and worked for the fair on a smaller capacity. But soon I was helping jury the fairs and traveling to our remote events. When we closed the shop I started working for the fair full time.
As far as curatorial endeavors go, my role at Renegade is largely creative. I help jury the fairs, design and make decorations, and “curate” the booth placement of the artists. I also work with the Director and Marketing Manager with art direction for our ads, flyers and maps. I had the opportunity to use some of my illustrations for those materials last year and it was really fun!
MM-Outside of organizing a hugely successful event, do you have time for your own creative life? Are you currently working on any new projects?
MJ- I’ve been making jewelry lately, which has been really fun. I was gifted a Dremel from a friend and have been using it to carve little scraps of leather. I’ve also been incorporating the leather pieces into my paintings.
MM-Renegade has been an amazing opportunity for small business to grow. Do you have some success stories that you are especially proud of?
MJ-Witnessing the success of so many small businesses is a huge part of why I'm still excited to go to work every day. From seeing a website while jurying, to seeing the work in front of me at the events, to seeing their products in stores all over the country (and world!) I just can’t get over it. Artists are also opening up their own brick and mortars on what seems like a daily basis. It’s so inspiring!
I guess one of my favorite and most recent stories would have to be while I was in England for the 2014 London Winter Market. I was walking around Liberty of London (one of my all time favorite places) and I spotted some work by Beetle and Flor (based in New York), at first I thought it was a copycat but I was pleasantly surprised to find it was the real deal. Maybe the buyer for Liberty didn’t find the artist at Renegade per se, but I like to think that we were and are part of her getting into a larger market. She’s been doing the fairs as long as I’ve been working at RCF.
MM-It’s no card table anymore! Do you have a good example of ingenuity with a booth set up?
MJ-I’m always amazed by the booths I’m Gorgeous Inside (her Etsy does not do her justice) puts together. She’s such a genius, and the type of artist I really admire, always making new things. Looking at her booth is like looking into her head, collections of lace and denim. Driftwood and macrame assemblages. In San Francisco she had a five-foot tall stuffed linen cactus. And these porcelain sailboats with starched linen sails and little twig masts. She always has lights hanging, rugs on the floor. She makes it feel like a little secret boutique. She’s also a really nice person and her energy is felt in the booth. A positive attitude can go a long way!
MM-Throughout your time at Renegade how have makers used their small booth to tell their story? Or enhance their aesthetic?
MJ-Any successful artist uses their booth to do those things. It’s important to tell a story, create an appropriate environment for your work. If you come to RCF and plop your work on a black tablecloth, having a great show is unlikely.
MM-How important do you see booth set up to be in terms of foot traffic and revenue for the seller?
MJ-So so important! You are one beautiful business in a sea of beautiful businesses. If you make something there's a lot of, like jewelry for example, how do you make your work stand out? If you’re sharing a booth, how do you orient your table? Where’s the foot traffic coming from? If you’re in a spot that you don’t like how can you make the best of the situation? I can tell you from experience, people who have a bad show typically have a bad attitude from the start.
So always ask yourself, was I on my phone? Was I sitting down? Did I say hello to and interact with customers? The customer is just as nervous as you are, and they definitely will bend to the pressure if you engage them. Whether it ends up being a sale, them signing up for your mailing list, or taking a business card. It’s worth it!
MM-Renegade has been around for over 10 years! How have you seen it develop? And what do you hope to see in the future?
MJ-Yeah! It’s been a wild ride. I’ve seen the staff grow, from four of us to nine of us. And the fair grow from five fairs annually, to fourteen fairs in 2014, to even more events in 2015.
In my time with RCF we’ve really developed the “look” of the fairs. We feel that the venue and vibe of the fair should match the beauty and energy of the artists, we can’t plop the makers onto the proverbial black table cloth over a card table! We like to create an environment where it’s easy for them to shine.
In the future the RCF team is excited to create more ease between the artist and the buyer by offering more and more wholesale markets. It’s difficult for buyers to truly connect to artists when the crowds are so big. Stay tuned!
MM-What is currently inspiring you? Artists? Musicians? Blogs? Instagram Feeds?
MJ-I’m bad at keeping up with blogs and contemporary music. But…I’m really in love with the ceramic work of Ben Medansky, the music of Kurt Vile, and always and forever in love with Henri Matisse. If you're in New York go see his exhibition for me. I’ve also developed a weird crush on the singer of Wall of Voodoo especially in this video. My co-worker Rachal doesn’t agree with me. Someone out there has to? Right?
I've managed to surround myself with a lot of creative folks, so my favorite Instagrams are my pal's Instagram accounts. And @renegadecraft of course!