Editor’s note: Erica David is a West Oak Lane resident who has been exploring the mom and pop shops of Northwest Philly for her new blog Mom&Popaholic, which will start on NewsWorks in July. Below, is a taste of Erica’s work as she muses over her recent visit to the Manayunk Arts Festival.
I always pictured myself as more of a Craft Crusader than a Caped Crusader—hot glue gun holstered at my hip and a quiver of pipe cleaners at my back. But then there was that tragic Popsicle stick log cabin incident in the fourth grade and ever since then I’ve shied away from both Art and Craft leaving that kind of thing to professionals.
The nice thing about the Manayunk Arts Festival is that it’s a great way to revive your inner Craft Crusader through the inspiration and ingenuity of the artists’ work on display. Strolling down Main Street along the rows of white tents is kind of like the end of Peter Pan when, to save Tinkerbell, we all need to clap if we believe in fairies. If you believe in art and its ability to transport and transform, stop at a booth, talk to an artist, make a purchase if you can, and see if you don’t revive your inner Craft Crusader.
Below are three artists who helped me believe:
Geraldo De-Souza, Everyday Bowties
Former architect and charismatic bowtie designer De-Souza has a firm, down-to-earth understanding of his craft. “No one’s going to starve if they can’t tie a bowtie,” he explains, but that doesn’t stop him from giving an impromptu class to a few rapt spectators causing a minor bottleneck in the flow of traffic past his tent. De-Souza places the bowtie on his thigh and works the fabric through a few simple folds which he likens to teaching children how to tie their shoelaces. In a few short steps he completes the bow at the end of a loop that can be slipped on over the head and tightened around the neck—easier perhaps than trying to negotiate the whole tying business under your own chin. Not necessarily the kind of art you’ll see in a museum, but art nonetheless. Call it a lesson in the lost art of bow tying, which De-Souza hopes to restore.
Brian Marshall, Adopt-a-Bot Robot Orphanage
I always like to get in good with robots in preparation for the day when they will become self-aware. I want them to remember that I was on their side from the beginning. Apparently Brian Marshall, artist and founder of Adopt-a-Bot, was thinking something similar. When the Terminator style Judgment Day arrives, he totally wants to be able to say “I ran a home for you rust-buckets, remember? Please don’t assimilate me.”
Marshall runs an orphanage in the way that Xavier Roberts ran an orphanage for Cabbage Patch Kids, which is to say really not at all. But he does make robot sculptures out of radios, coffee pots, meters, gauges and more, and he’ll let you adopt one for a price. Each bot comes with a certificate of adoption which you may want to keep as proof of your kindness to robotkind just in case your little bucket-of-bolts ever wakes up sentient.
Marsha Drummond aka Mona the Mad Hatter (and assorted milliners)
“Did you go to the royal wedding?” seems to be the question on everyone’s lips when they walk into Drummond’s tent. The skilled milliner makes all kinds of hats and fascinators—those incredible whirly-gig gewgaws perched on the heads of many a guest at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Drummond’s hats make you feel all fancy like that, and it wasn’t just Drummond that drew a crowd but really all of the hat vendors that I passed had a constant swarm of people inside their tents.
Richard’s Crushable Hats is a prime example. There were people lined up to try on these malleable straw hats which were a far cry from the sheer fanciness of Mona’s wares. Richard’s promised hats that were good for gardening or the beach, hats with more of a workhorse sensibility. The popularity of hats in general could have been due to the fact that after an hour or so in the noonday sun people were eager to protect their heads from the bright, hot heat. But I like to think that the deal with the hat vendors is that they were the perfect example of participatory art. You have to try hats on. You have to engage. A hat’s just a hat without a wearer. It’s you, fair citizen, who completes the picture.