Not your Grandma’s craft show

December 17, 2008

Damned Dollies

Saturday, December 6, 2008 – Jack Purcell Community Centre

Saturday mornings on Elgin Street are typically filled with post-Friday night brunchers. This Saturday, though, there was an unusual amount of people streaming towards the Jack Purcell Community Centre at Gilmour Street. The reason? LadyFest Ottawa’s annual “This is not your Grandma’s craft show.”

Walking up the stairs, there’s a sense of anticipation – what sort of indie crafty delights will we stumble upon in this adventure? With this event only happening once a year, and happening at a time when gift-buying is at the forefront of one’s mind, the possibilities seem endless.

Walking into the first room after being labelled with a purple “I paid a toonie to get in” heart, the heat is overwhelming – as are the colours and crafty fare. Everywhere we look there are small crowds around colourfully adorned tables, spread with each crafter’s handiwork.

We make our way around the room, trying to get a peek at each station. The coolness factor in the room is high – lots of young hipsters in handmade clothing. We secretly know we bring that factor down, but pretend otherwise.

The items on each table – the art on each table – is proudly displayed. Jewellery – onesies – scarves – stuffed animals – pottery – screen prints – the list goes on. We wander, intrigued, in search of the perfect gift.

I stumble upon Frash Femme, a local Ottawa jeweler. Delicate earrings and necklaces are displayed on a metal palm tree photo stand, with a clever quote embellishing each tag. There’s a pair of earrings that would be ideal for Ali – but they have pink stones, and Ali’s not much of a girly-girl.


”I can do it in a different colour,” says Frash. “Maybe clear? Or brown? Just give me, say, 20 minutes.” I jump at the chance, delighted with the fact that I’ll have custom-made earrings in just a short passing.

Heading back to the side room, we stop at a table with retro-themed clocks and an assortment of what looks like framed National Geographic photos. Talking with Buster Louie, we discover they are pages taken from 1920 editions of Lands and Peoples textbooks. The photos depict peoples of various countries in typical dress, sometimes in action, mostly just looking out seriously.

The captions, though, are the killer. “Irish women are typically found in a variety of unusual occupations” reads one. “The Irish stock have provided an important racial element to the composition of the United States of America. Irish women have been celebrated in much prose and song.”

Each photo has a similar, almost shocking and sometimes borderline offensive caption. “I took out the ones that were particularly racist,” says Buster. “But some of these are outrageously funny.”

We rifle through the photos, chuckling at the various captions. “Danish children are unusually fair and sturdy.” “Learning to master the art of eating is more difficult for this young Chinese boy than his small Western contemporaries.”

“Not a lot of people get it,” Buster admits. “I explain the textbooks to them and people just usually smile weakly and walk away.” We, however, find them to be hilarious – so much so that we pick out a few, shell out the necessary cash, and take our delightful purchases back to Frash Femme.

She’s done the earrings – “She does them super fast,” her partner says proudly and matter-of-factly. “I’m just the eye candy.” Frash Femme just shrugs with a hint of a smile. We thank her profusely for being so accommodating and squeeze our way out of the growing crowd, down the stairs, back into the bright snowy sunlight.

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