The whole kitsch and caboodle

BY MAUREEN SULLIVAN
Daily Arts Writer
Published August 5, 2007

In our mall culture, it's easy to forget that fashion beyond couture can be art. This weekend's Detroit Urban Craft Fair hosted by Handmade Detroit reminded visitors that fashion is an accessible expression of flair and individuality. The crafters reuse, reconstruct and twerk various materials into craft: notebooks made from authentic record art, custom made underwear from vintage T-shirts, stained glass David Bowie night lights, loud antique fashionable rings made from vintage buttons, lingerie inspired designs painted on simple shirts and tanks.

Not your mom's craft fair. These crafts are fashionable, kitschy, nostalgic and above all original. Over 60 crafters came together to exhibit and sell such works at the funky and eclectic restaurant and concert venue The Majestic on Saturday to celebrate original artistry and craftsmanship while combating mass production.

The Detroit Urban Craft Fair represents an underground movement of hip young indie crafters uprising and joining together as a community through internet marketplaces like etsy.com, where crafters can sell their products, as well as social networking websites like MySpace.com, where crafters can advertise their products and vision as events are promoted and interests are discussed.

The fair had a small, intimate feel, and the crafters were friendly and accessible. Patrons could easily make thier way through all of the booths, peruse the various items and chat with the crafters themselves. It was incredibly inspiring to see clothing and jewelry that simply cannot be reproduced.

Two artists that stuck out as particularly eye-catching and energetic were Kristen Billings, founder of Buzz Jewelry and 20-year-old suburban Detroit native Nicole Lindner, who just started her own line of clothing and accessories.

Billings scours estate sales collecting detailed costume jewelry, then shegoes back to her studio and reworks them creating whimsical, yet thoroughly modern earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Every piece of jewelry has been individually named with phrases like "Dancing Queen," "Space Cadet" and "Seductive Spring." Such attention to detail and individual piece is evidence that Billings crafts each piece as a work of art that could be fitting for anyone from a glamorous Hollywood starlet to a hipster club kid and every fashionable person in between.

Lindner's designs are a young, fun and wearable approach to DIY fashion. Her signature product is the innovative signature design "detachable halter hoodie," which is essentially a tube top with a hood attached by ribbons that is surprisingly wearable and charming. Lindner herself is a fan of the hoodie, but she wanted to do something new with the concept. Her designs combine vintage fabrics and unique construction and shape to produce clothing that is punky, girly and preppy at the same time.

When you can buy a faux vintage T-shirt at Urban Outfitters that half of the people you know will have by month's end, it's refreshing to find an amazing top constructed from 3 separate vintage shirts and fabrics that can never be reproduced in the same way. More than products, DIY crafts are a statement and a lifestyle.

If you missed the fair, there's no need to wait until next year to catch on to the DIY movement. Handmade Detroit hosts mini DIYcraft fairs the first Sunday of every month in Ferndale. The series is entitled Sunday Crafternoons and more information can be found at MySpace.com/sundaycrafternoon.