When I stayed at El Cosmico in Marfa last September, I became aware of an outfit called Bunkhouse. They own the El Cosmico and a bunch of other hotels. Plus, they run the Renegade Craft Fair. I’m on their email list so I get the latest information about their events. And that is how I learned about the Renegade Craft Fair in Austin.
Hmm…I’m thinking this is a hip crowd, I love a road trip, and it sounds like the kind of event where I can sell some ArtCar shirts. They have these events twice a year in New York, London, Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin, Chicago, Portland, Miami, Boston, Detroit, Denver and San Francisco.
Well, I had already missed the closest one in Austin, but I have friends in Oregon where I could stay free so I shot them a warning email and started looking into it. Between the airfare, the shipping of inventory, the rental car, food and the rent on my booth at the fair, this would be economically unfeasible. I would have to sell my entire inventory just to break even.
Heading to the Renegade Craft Fair in Austin and a Bucketlist Motel Stay
Even a trip to Oregon wasn’t worth that. But I was still intrigued by the Renegade Craft Fair. In large part because it’s a production of the Bunkhouse Group. Anybody who can put you up in a vintage trailer in Marfa and turn a run-down motel into something as uber hip and attractive as the San Jose in Austin is worth note in my book. So I decided to visit the next Renegade Craft Fair in Austin.
Plus, it would give my girlfriend and I a good excuse to hang out on South Congress Street for the best drinking, eating, eclectic shopping and people-watching in this part of the world. Little did we know we were in for a bonus.
Looking online for lodging as close to South Congress as possible, I selected something that said B&B. It turned out to be the Austin Motel, which has been on our bucket list for years but never consummated because of their two-night minimum. I put in my dates and there was no notice of the two-night minimum. It just asked for more info.
It wasn’t cheap so I called my girlfriend for approval, got it and booked it. Later I found out that the motel was now a Bunkhouse property and I got 15% off for being on their mailing list. Double bonus!
We got to the Fair about 2 in the afternoon and it was crowded. Vendors and shoppers were happily crammed together in the open-air building with giant fans, which meant we had to move slowly and got a good look at everything. Almost everything looked really good.
Meeting New Friends and Beautiful Craftspeople at the Renegade Craft Fair
I’m a big fan of leather craft and, man, I wanted it all. I got into an interesting conversation with a couple from the Netherlands selling shoe kits for making your own. And another couple selling leather crafts made in Haiti, with proceeds going straight back to the craftspeople themselves.
It turned out they partner with an outfit that my girlfriend puts on handmade jewelry shows for in her home. In fact, she’s doing one this week. That same couple will be in Houston next Saturday for another market that I’d never heard of, but I’m going. Overall it was like a flashback to the sixties.
It seemed the only difference between the people, the leatherwork, the macramé, the candles, the woodwork and all was that now all the vendors have good logos. Very well designed on cards with their websites and sometimes even proudly stamped into their products. The market is not a place for my shirts, though. As many compliments as I got on the one I was wearing, the shirts are not handmade by me. They’re not craft. They don’t belong here and neither do I as a vendor.
First, I do not like confinement in small spaces like a booth. Second, I’m an introvert. It would be hard to reach out to strangers all day. So while I love the event, it just does not justify the expense of participating. It is about as far from my personality as saying something nice about the current resident of the Whitehouse. There are not enough opioids on the planet.