SALT LAKE CITY — DeAnna Von Halle took a macrame class on her honeymoon in Mexico, but she never thought she’d do anything with it.
“In January 2018, I fell skiing and I tore my ACL and messed up my knee really bad,” Von Halle told the Deseret News in a recent interview. “I had a lot of indoor time to do more crafty stuff, and I started making a lot.”
Von Halle, who works as a children's librarian by day, started teaching her friends macrame. “I realized the knots were things that I had learned when I was a kid making friendship bracelets, so they were all really familiar to me,” Von Halle said.
Von Halle opened an Etsy shop called Calico Canoe and started selling her products at local markets. This summer, she’s participating in the 11th annual Craft Lake City DIY Festival for the first time. Craft Lake City is a craft festival, but it’s much more than a market. Founded in 2009, Craft Lake City began as a SLUG Magazine event to provide a place for the local arts community to flourish.
Indeed, Craft Lake City was an integral part of Von Halle’s start in the crafting world. Without the central community at Craft Lake City, Von Halle might not have decided to start selling her goods at all.
Von Halle had recently moved to Salt Lake, and heard about the festival from a friend who was volunteering. “The second year, I went and took one of the classes to make a little concrete air plant holder, and I walked around and saw the artists,” she said.
Von Halle talked to other venders that weekend, wondering if she could sell her work at the festival next year.
“I was kind of intimidated by art festivals, but Craft Lake City has a different, more welcoming vibe,” Von Halle said. “There are a lot of people who aren’t afraid to make mistakes and don’t take themselves too seriously, so it’s a nice, encouraging environment for creativity.”
The open, inclusive feel at Craft Lake City is made possible by the participants, but also by the activities at the festival. Craft Lake City focuses on the local, so the festival includes live music by local bands, food from local restaurants and, of course, lots of local artists and volunteers.
Von Halle, as a relative newcomer to the craft festival scene in Salt Lake, has found the most value in the community that surrounds Craft Lake City and other local craft markets.
“When I’m anticipating working a market, I’m very focused on my merchandise,” Von Halle said. “But once I get there, it’s all about meeting the people that are in the booth next to me, chatting with them, hearing their stories. It’s so fun to ask other artists how they tackle these different things that I struggle with.”
Craft Lake City is expanding its community to include young, budding artists as well. Launched in 2017, the area is called Kid Row and features more than 20 makers ages 14 and under. The young artisans’ businesses range from paintings and sculpture to skin care products and home decor.
Part of Craft Lake City’s mission is to bring the opportunity for art and small business to people who otherwise would not be able to start up a crafting side gig. The Artisan Scholarship and Mentor Program gives five first-time festival contributors business training, waived fees and a one-on-one mentor relationship with a seasoned artist as well as networking opportunities with other local artists before and during the event. These events help the local artists at Craft Lake City get to know each other well and facilitates further connection during the festival.
“At these events, usually we all follow each other (on social media). We all give each other, like, a little promo on our own social media, and then we keep in touch that way,” Von Halle said.
If Von Halle's experience makes crafting and getting involved in the creative process sound doable, she's glad to hear it. After all, a community of support always makes new ventures easier. Von Halle encourages aspiring artists to reach out to people they admire with questions and not to worry too much about comparing themselves to other people's work.
“Especially with social media, you can follow a lot of great shops and then feel like you have to get on board and create what everybody else is creating,” she said. “But if you find something that you really love doing, and you don’t mind doing over and over again, just go with that. Listen to that part of you and (go) for it.”