Meet And Greet The Coolest Makers Coming To American Craft Council This August

Meet And Greet The Coolest Makers Coming To American Craft Council This August

The year of craft is coming to a head with American Craft Council's 2018 fair adorning Fort Mason this August.

Some of the coolest Bay Area makers have come to play with items and goodies ranging from jewelry to art, clothing, and so much more. We caught up with the designers before the big weekend to ask them what makes them feel powerful, successful, and why they chose to be apart of American Craft Council 2018 San Francisco.

 Photography by Devon Lach

Photography by Devon Lach

Jennie Lennick, jennylemons.com

So tell us, what do you do? Who are you? And why are you showing at American Craft Council in San Francisco?

Hey! I’m Jennie Lennick and I am a textile designer, artist, and art educator. I own and operate Jenny Lemons, a retail store, and studio in San Francisco’s Mission District. In my shop, my assistants and I create my hand-printed clothing line, sell the work of other Bay Area Artists, and offer DIY craft workshops. I am super excited to show my handmade clothing at ACC this summer because I really appreciate how supportive the council has been towards its artists throughout its 75-year history.

Who, what, or how did you get into your passion? Was it something out of necessity or something you wanted to give to the world?

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been obsessed with making things. I learned how to sew my own clothing at 6 years old and never really stopped. When it was time to go to college, I decided to pursue fine art- I ended up getting my BFA in Studio Art from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and relocated to San Francisco to get my MFA in painting from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2010. After grad school, I showed my work a lot in galleries all around the Bay Area but rarely sold anything. In 2014, I had an art show in which I made a few shirts from fabric printed with my drawings that I hung on the wall like paintings. That show sold out! 

I started making hand printed and painted tops and marketed them as “wearable paintings.” The following summer, I participated in Renegade Craft Fair for the first time and my line began to take off. Jenny Lemons began out of necessity- I needed to make my work and I needed to be able to feed myself. Figuring out what people actually wanted to buy has been half the fun. 

If you can remember your first time making money from your art, what did it feel like? Describe the feeling to us.

I started my first handmade craft business when I was a teenager in Minneapolis. I made stuffed animals and sold them in a couple boutiques around town. I remember feeling totally empowered when people actually wanted to pay money for my work. It felt like my interests and talents had actual value. I didn't make a ton of money, but that experience was encouraging enough that I decided to pursue art as a career.

When do you feel the most powerful? When you finish a piece? When you jump-start a new project? What does that look like for you?

I feel most powerful when I see my finished work out in the world. Sometimes when I’m walking around in San Francisco, I’ll see a woman wearing a Jenny Lemons top, and I quietly cheer myself on. I think “I made that!” It's one thing to sell my work and another thing altogether to secretly witness someone using something I created. 

If you could learn a new skill, craft, trade INSTANTLY, what would it be and why?

Jewelry. Hands down. I’d specifically love to master metalworking. I sell a lot of jewelry in my shop and it would be so fun to create pieces that compliment my garments. I also just really love wearing jewelry (who doesn’t!)

What's one powerful learning experience you can share from your history in your craft?

Don’t be afraid to adjust the way you make your craft! About a year ago, my hand went numb from repetitive stress. At that time, I was cutting, printing, and sewing all my garments by myself. If I wanted my business to continue, I had to do something different. I decided to hire a small local factory to help me sew my products and work with assistants to help me print. Even though it is much more expensive to hire help, I was able to grow exponentially. In the last year, I went from selling my work in a couple shops to over 30 boutiques across the US. I now have my own shop! It was so important for me to let go of making everything by myself to let my business flourish.

 Photo courtesy of American Craft Council

Photo courtesy of American Craft Council

Lindsey Snell, lindseysnell.net

So tell us, what do you do? Who are you? And why are you showing at American Craft Council in San Francisco?

I’m a contemporary jeweler, writer, teacher, and aspiring gearhead currently calling  Portland, OR my home base. I can plaster plenty of titles before my name, but at the end of the day, it’s always better to talk about that big “who are you?” question. That’s precisely why I’m back for my second year of ACC San Francisco. Nothing can beat getting to chat with all the visitors and artists and have the opportunity to share my work and get everyone’s perspective in a face-to-face conversation.

Who, what, or how did you get into your passion? Was it something out of necessity or something you wanted to give to the world?

Jewelry and metalsmithing is the other language I use to tell my story, ask questions, and discover things about the world. I spent most of my childhood hanging out in the garage with my dad watching him fix up old Chevys and browsing through my grandmother’s dresser filled with the costume jewelry she collected as the buyer for the jewelry counter at our family-owned pharmacy. These two seemingly unrelated parts of my history came together when I took my first metalsmithing class when I was 14.

If you can remember your first time making money from your art, what did it feel like? Describe the feeling to us.

I have a vivid memory of first making money at my department’s annual jewelry sale in college. I remember how the amount didn’t matter much at all and I was most excited by this idea that the jewelry I poured my sweat and tears into making and I thought was cool was no longer living on an island of one. There were people out in the world who thought it was cool and wanted to spend money on it, too! Honestly, I was a bit shocked!

When do you feel the most powerful? When you finish a piece? When you jump-start a new project? What does that look like for you?

There is this undercurrent of power while everything is in process for me. I get into the groove of soldering, forming, and finishing and all of a sudden I realize 4 hours have passed without me realizing it! There is power in that natural fluidity. This is something that has taken years to develop and is continually growing. I reach that powerful state of bliss when I don’t need to slow down, look up how to do something, or even consider answering my phone.

If you could learn a new skill, craft, trade INSTANTLY, what would it be and why?

I’ve been dreaming of developing a workwear clothing line! I have a good handle on using a sewing machine and handling fabric, but to be able to take a garment from original design to final production is a real dream.

What's one powerful learning experience you can share from your history in your craft?

My life and my craft changed drastically after I was involved in a bike accident in the middle of graduate school. After taking time off I wasn’t able to work as precisely or patiently as before and I was riddled with self-doubt my abilities. But, I decided to just hone in an devote myself to relearning basics and have faith in the process of it all. Giving myself that space and time to focus on the foundations of making was exactly what I needed and often the thing we forget to do in our busy lives. Sometimes you just need to give yourself a break, refocus your energy, and remember why you began in the first place.  

 Photo via Little By Little Things

Photo via Little By Little Things

Sarah Franco Alves, littlebylittlethings.com

So tell us, what do you do? Who are you? And why are you showing at American Craft Council in San Francisco? 

I’m Sarah the designer and maker behind Little by Little - a homeware brand based in San Francisco. I design, print and sew every single piece myself with much love and care. My aim is to make pieces that are not only beautiful but practical and reliable. I’m showing at the ACC show this August for the very first time and it came highly recommended by my fellow designers and makers here in the Bay Area.

Who, what, or how did you get into your passion? Was it something out of necessity or something you wanted to give to the world?

Being creative is the only thing I ever known for sure and as far as I can tell, I’ve always been that way. My career has meandered through circus, animation, model making, visual effects, graphic design, illustration and now textiles but to me it’s all related. I feel very privileged to be able to do the things I do and to share it with like minded people.

If you can remember your first time making money from your art, what did it feel like? Describe the feeling to us.

It felt wonderful and I immediately invested it in tools that would make my making process easier and better.

When do you feel the most powerful? When you finish a piece? When you jump start a new project? What does that look like for you?

When I take a leap into the unknown, in particular when I take on private commissions. Having someone pick you to make a piece for them is wonderful, empowering and scary - I like that!

If you could learn a new skill, craft, trade INSTANTLY, what would it be and why?

It would probably be wood working. At the moment I work primarily on fabric and paper which are soft and delicate materials. I would love to work with a harder medium that would create contrast to my current work.

What's one powerful learning experience you can share from your history in your craft? 

Don’t take yourself too seriously, work hard and have fun.

 Photo via Melanie Abrantes

Photo via Melanie Abrantes

Melanie Abrantes, melanieabrantes.com

So tell us, what do you do? Who are you? And why are you showing at American Craft Council in San Francisco?

My name is Melanie Abrantes and I am a designer and maker in Oakland, CA. I make heirloom objects for the home out of cork and wood. I also teach carving classes in my studio in Oakland.  I was a huge admirer of the American Craft Council and wanted to become a part of their vast community of designers and crafters. 

Who, what, or how did you get into your passion? Was it something out of necessity or something you wanted to give to the world?

I attended Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles for my undergraduate. I studied product design which is where I was taught how to work in the woodshop. That is when i fell in love with woodworking and making products by hand. I was able to see my designs come to life with my own hands and for me that was so fulfilling. Being able to create and sell my pieces to the public is one of the biggest honors. I am truly grateful I am able to do what i love to do to make a living. 

If you can remember your first time making money from your art, what did it feel like? Describe the feeling to us.

I was so excited! I couldn't believe that someone would want to buy something I designed. I remember thanking them and asking them to send me pictures of where they would put their piece in their home. I wanted to see my designs living in a space in real life. 

When do you feel the most powerful? When you finish a piece? When you jump start a new project? What does that look like for you?

I love the feeling of designing new products. It is so much fun to scheme and dream of where the pieces are going in someone's home and how they would use it. We do extensive testing and research in our studio on each product we create to make sure that each piece is completely functional. 

If you could learn a new skill, craft, trade INSTANTLY, what would it be and why?

Ceramics! It is so similar to wood turning but I am horrible at it. I want to be able to eventually integrate wood, cork and ceramics together. I think it would be a beautiful combination. 

What's one powerful learning experience you can share from your history in your craft?

Teaching other people how to carve has been such a rewarding process. Being able to teach individuals on how to sit down, relax and use their hands to make a product is so important. We stare at screens all day and have forgotten how to use our hands. I really enjoy meeting everyone and also teaching them too. They always leave the class invigorated and happy, plus they weren't staring at a screen for a full 3 hours! 

 Photo via WovenGrey

Photo via WovenGrey

Kathleen Heafey, wovengrey.com

So tell us, what do you do? Who are you? And why are you showing at American Craft Council in San Francisco?

I’m a textile artist designing baskets from 100% cotton rope. This is my first time participating as a vendor at the American Craft Council show but it has always been a good show with loads of talent.

Who, what, or how did you get into your passion? Was it something out of necessity or something you wanted to give to the world?

It was very purposeful. My youngest son was going off to college so I knew I needed to switch things up. I worked on developing a home goods product line that involved sewing or crocheting for over a year. I landed on something that brought my sewing skills and graphic design sensibility together. It’s a bonus that the materials are so simple, organic and rustic.

If you can remember your first time making money from your art, what did it feel like? Describe the feeling to us.

It’s confirmation that others see the same beauty that you see. So you are not as crazy as you think. 

When do you feel the most powerful? When you finish a piece? When you jump start a new project? What does that look like for you?

I feel the most powerful when I predict the future and it comes true. It means you have done your due diligence and it paid off.

If you could learn a new skill, craft, trade INSTANTLY, what would it be and why?

Playing piano because people who can play well must be really smart.

What's one powerful learning experience you can share from your history in your craft?

Never take yourself too seriously it will all change tomorrow.

 Photography by Emma K. Morris

Photography by Emma K. Morris

Nicole W. Kelly, yolotli.com

So tell us, what do you do? Who are you? And why are you showing at American Craft Council in San Francisco?

My name is Nicole Woerner Kelly. I was born and raised in the Black Forest region in the south-west of Germany and moved to Napa, California about 10 years ago after living, studying and working in Argentina, Guatemala, Mexico and Ireland. I have a degree in international business and went to fashion design and patternmaking school in San Francisco. I design and create clothing, accessories and leather sandals for my label YOLOTLI.  

This American Craft Council Show in August will be my first one in San Francisco. I’ve visited the ACC shows for years and showed at ACC St. Paul as part of the emerging artist program Hip Pop in April for the first time. I appreciate how much effort is put into curating the show as the focus is not just on aesthetics or trends but also on the quality of execution of the craft. Some of the best makers in the country show with ACC and becoming part of it as one of the Hip Pop artists has been an incredible experience. I’m excited to reconnect with the artists that I met in St. Paul and I look forward to showing my new work to my customers, who mainly live in the Bay Area. 

Who, what, or how did you get into your passion? Was it something out of necessity or something you wanted to give to the world?

When I started my own business I wanted to offer a solution and counter the throw-away culture we’re surrounded by, especially when it comes to clothes. I wanted to design and make clothes that fit a sustainable lifestyle; clothes that are designed minimally and timelessly and are constructed and produced well so they can be worn for a long time. I also made a conscious choice of using only natural materials that, at the end of their lifespan, can decompose, and that through their production won’t harm communities and the environment. If I cannot get organic fabrics or yarns I try to source from countries where I know labor laws and environmental protection laws are in place. I love using fabrics from small communities that have been producing raw materials by hand for generations.  

Growing up in Germany made me very sensitive to conserving our resources and to avoiding waste wherever possible by buying fewer higher quality items and repairing rather than replacing things. I come from a very big family where clothes had to be passed down, altered and mended. Over the years of living in the US I’ve started to notice how cheap clothes are made. Consumers are basically forced to throw garments away after a few wears as they literally fall apart or are completely out of shape because they weren’t cut and sewn properly. In the end this comes with a very high price for our environment and for the people involved in the supply chain. I think there is a way to change this and more brands should offer solutions so customers will become aware of the problem that fast fashion is causing. 

If you can remember your first time making money from your art, what did it feel like? Describe the feeling to us.

It has always been easy for me to make things for myself, for friends or family members but putting it out there and for people to see value in what you are doing is really powerful. I can’t recall the very first time I sold one of my own pieces but I know that the feeling has not changed. It is incredibly gratifying when I see people feeling comfortable and beautiful in my designs and it gives me the motivation to keep going. 

When do you feel the most powerful? When you finish a piece? When you jump start a new project? What does that look like for you?

All stages of the process have something really powerful. Starting a new project often feels like a cleansing. Shedding off the old and diving into something new that I’ve been contemplating for a while. It is exciting and challenging at the same time as it is an endless learning process and sometimes it takes weeks to finalize a piece. When it is finally done and perfect it is the most gratifying feeling. However, waiting for the completed sample to go through the entire patternmaking, grading and sewing process is nerve wracking and I always feel like it takes too long for the garments to finally make it on the hanger. 

If you could learn a new skill, craft, trade INSTANTLY, what would it be and why?

Learning a new skill… I would try to find someone in the indigenous communities in Oaxaca or Chiapas and learn how to weave with a back strap loom. Weaving is such an old craft and it would bring everything I do full circle. I read this poem by an indigenous woman from San Juan Chamula in Chiapas, Mexico, in which she was describing how the moon in the tree had taught her ancestors how to spin the wool and weave the cloth and that this tradition had been passed on from generation to generation and now she was tending the sheep, spinning the wool and weaving in the very same way and that she would pass it on to future generations. I can relate to that sentiment and the feeling of connecting with my ancestors while creating my own work. It would be interesting to learn from that lineage of weavers.  

What's one powerful learning experience you can share from your history in your craft?

The most powerful experience in the history of my craft was my two residencies with the fashion designer Carla Fernandez and her incredible team in Mexico City. For five months I worked closely with Carla and the Head of Design Erin Lewis to set up their first museum exhibition in Mexico City, traveled to rural communities in the state of Puebla to collaborate with indigenous artisans on new collections, worked in the sample and in-house production and helped with whatever needed to be done. During that time I worked on a few of my own designs which later became part of my collection. 

 Photo courtesy of American Craft Council

Photo courtesy of American Craft Council

Olivia Shih, oliviashih.com

So tell us, what do you do? Who are you? And why are you showing at American Craft
Council in San Francisco?


Born in the US and raised on the subtropical island of Taiwan, I’m a human with a feminist streak. My artwork explores the imprint of sexism, and my jewelry injects a bold presence into everyday life. I’m also a freelance writer at Art Jewelry Forum. Not only does the American Craft Council cultivate a culture of making, they are also committed to inclusion and equity. Who can say no to craft and equality?

Who, what, or how did you get into your passion? Was it something out of necessity or
something you wanted to give to the world?

I’m inspired by women who move through modern society with unrivaled cool. These
clear-minded women consciously define who they are through their words, actions, and
appearances, instead of allowing society to define them. In a world where conforming is the
norm, I want to create jewelry that encourages people to think bold and stay inquisitive.

If you can remember your first time making money from your art, what did it feel like? Describe the feeling to us.

Thrilling! It always feels good to meet another human who has a discerning eye, appreciates good craft, and is willing to invest their hard earned money in a well-crafted object.

When do you feel the most powerful? When you finish a piece? When you jump start a
new project? What does that look like for you?

Power isn’t something people think of in relation to craft, which is why I love this question. The most powerful aspect of craft for me is the stage of ideation, which involves a lot of paper model making, paper cuts, cat naps, and failed attempts in copper.

If you could learn a new skill, craft, trade INSTANTLY, what would it be and why?

Making neon lights. One of my lifelong goals is to fill a wall to the brim with neon light art.

What's one powerful learning experience you can share from your history in your craft?

Quality over quantity. I grew up in the burgeoning era of fast consumption, so I had to unlearn my bad habit of chasing after instant gratification. Metalsmithing forced me to slow down and to appreciate the thought, time, labor, and materials that go into each physical object. It’s no fun to re-evaluate your purchasing choices and the impact your choices have on other humans and the environment, but I believe it’s worth it.

// Want to catch the fair this year? Get your tickets and registration here; craftcouncil.org/sf. 2 Marina Boulevard, August 3rd, 2018 — August 5th, 2018. Tickets start at $14. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday. Feature photography by Devon Lach.



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