If you're in the market for a hand-crafted candle, garment, lunchbox, or doll, but would prefer if it were emblazoned with a White Walker or a Pokémon, good news: A new craft fair is bringing such specialties, curated by geek connoisseurs and made by local artisans, to the Durham Armory this Sunday.
GeekCraft Expo is planned to take place in sixteen cities across the U.S. and Canada in 2016 and 2017; the first one was in March in Madison, Wisconsin. Like a certain section of Etsy come to life, the expo pays crafty tribute to shows like Game of Thrones and Doctor Who, and to countless comic books and movies.
GeekCraft was cofounded by Morrisville's Daniel Way, known for writing many comics featuring the Marvel Comics character Deadpool; Kim Matsuzaki, formerly of Cary video game company Red Storm; Jenny Valle of the Triangle's Ultimate Comics; Aaron Haaland, owner of a Florida comic shop and a geek-themed bar; and Amber Frazier-Finkelstein, owner of Morrisville marketing company Retro M.
Frazier-Finkelstein says the expo's purpose is to give crafters who specialize in "geeky, nerdy things like sci-fi, steampunk, comic books, and fantasy" a dedicated space to connect with their niche of the fandom audience.
"Years ago, when geek wasn't necessarily mainstream—where not everyone was going to see the Deadpool movie—people had to make these things themselves," Matsuzaki adds. "Now they have a chance to share them with other people."
The sample wares on the website range from "Harry Potter Pants" made of newspapers shown in the film series to crocheted dolls of macabre characters billed as "Macabrochet."
"You can pretty much apply your love of geek to everything," Matsuzaki says. "At a normal craft fair you can see someone making candles, but we had someone in Madison who made a candle in a Hunger Games style. You can not only enjoy that, but show it to another fan, and they go, 'Wow, I had no idea you could do a Hunger Games candle.'"
Melissa Browning, who owns the Little Shop of Horror boutique in Durham, plans to attend GeekCraft to sell things like "prayer candles—the kind that usually have Jesus on them, but mine will have Pinhead."
Browning, who sells her wares at conventions around the Triangle, says GeekCraft is a great opportunity to see what local artisans are creating—and to scout out things to sell in her shop—in an environment focused on "handcrafted items versus stuff you can just buy on Amazon."
GeekCraft takes submissions from vendors, but it's not a free-for-all. The exhibitors are curated with an eye toward specificity, where mass-market characters are translated into hand-crafted objects. Matsuzaki says exhibitors are chosen based on the quality of their work and how they add to the overall variety, ensuring that the show isn't just islands of T-shirt tables. Instead of rooting through boxes at crowded flea markets and comics conventions, fans can more easily find the shoes, shirts, jewelry, and tchotchkes that match their obsessions.
Matsuzaki maintains that, while the characters featured on many of the expo's items are not licensed from the companies that own them, these makers are providing a distinct, noncompetitive service.
"The big companies, if someone wants something that's handmade, it would be really expensive and not as readily available as their mass-produced items," she says. "The people on places like Etsy aren't taking away business from the people who own the licenses."
Though the founders of GeekCraft are seeing how the first round of shows plays out before planning for the future, they have a wish list of items they hope might show up one day.
"I'd love a map of Sunnydale from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The ones online have so few details and are barely poster-quality," Frazier-Finkelstein says. "So if I could find one that could be mounted, it'd be great."
Admission to GeekCraft is free, in order to attract casual shoppers as well as collectors, creating a space where you can encounter the person who made the one-of-a-kind thing that made you squeal, instead of an online shopping cart.
"I don't think it'll ever get into something like a huge convention," Frazier-Finkelstein says. "That's not the culture we want to build. We want people to support other geeky people. The fact that these items are not mass-produced by some company speaks volumes. It's not like you can just go into a Target and say, 'I want a super-awesome Doctor Who crocheted doll.'"
This article appeared in print with the headline "Prepare to Meet Your Maker"