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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

Handcrafted community at the American Craft Fest

The inaugural American Craft Fest hosted by the American Craft Council was a colorful success, bringing people and art closer together.
Image by Sommer Wagen
Katja Johnson and her ceramic bananas, which she demonstrated how to make at the Mudluk Pottery table for the 2024 American Craft Fest in St. Paul.

The American Craft Fest (ACF), held June 8 and 9 at the Union Depot in St. Paul, was bustling with crafters and guests of all ages.

The event was a first for the American Craft Council (ACC) and hosted vendors displaying a wide range of what crafts can be. The crafters included more traditional ceramicists, jewelry makers and textile artists as well as a local kombucha company and an astrologer.

Eric Wilson, director of marketing and communications for the ACC, said creating this broad perspective was intentional.

“Craft is having a moment and we want to support that moment as much as possible,” Wilson said.

One crafter was Katja Johnson, a recent University of Minnesota graduate and assistant manager at Mudluk Pottery in south Minneapolis. Johnson demonstrated how to sculpt bananas in a variety of sizes and ripeness out of clay. I had seen this technique on Instagram, which is what compelled me to visit the Craft Fest on Sunday.

“OK, bananas. Cool, but why?” Johnson said, imitating a theoretical skeptic of their demonstration. “OK, but why not?”

Visitors to the Mudluk Pottery table were hardly skeptical of Johnson’s craft, though. Two children came up to the table, clearly entranced by the miniature bananas out for display.

“You can touch it,” Johnson told them. The child pinched it between their small fingers. “It just needs to be fired, though.”

Another visitor, an older woman, beamed at Johnson. “Those just make me smile,” she laughed.

Johnson described their seemingly random choice to sculpt bananas to demonstrate ceramics as elevating an everyday object to rediscover meaning in the mundane.

“It’s a whimsical take on replication,” Johnson said. “There are so many different emotional attachments to objects which create a million different pathways to memory.”

Johnson said someone had commented on the overripe banana, saying it was time to make banana bread. A random, fun object had become significant through replication, impulse and creativity.

My favorites were the bunch of three small, plump plantains. It brought back a memory of seeing them for the first time at a grocery store and delightfully admiring how cute they were.

Wilson said the ACF was “an opportunity to get up close with craft” and was meant to “(shrink) the distance between maker and attendee.” 

Roxanne Richardson of the Weaver’s Guild of Minnesota explained how to spin yarn on a wheel and demonstrated by having me pull apart a clump of wool from her hand.

She told me to pull just until there was a thin, sinewy connection between the clump in her hand and the one in mine. Then she told me to twist clockwise.

“The wheel does the twisting for you,” Richardson said as she pushed the pedals of the wheel with her feet. The yarn twisted and spun through the larger main wheel before collecting around a smaller wheel on top, which formed the spool of yarn.

Richardson, a knitter by craft and spinner for five years, told me about spinning classes at the Weaver’s Guild where attendees can get wheels to use.

My next stop was the Textile Center’s table where I pounded plant matter into treated cotton with a hammer. The result was a sweet-smelling, splotchy, artful mess.

I tried kombucha samples from Northstar Kombucha, locally made in Northeast Minneapolis. Their grapefruit basil flavor had an explosion of bright herbiness at the end but a fruitiness that was too neutral.

The powerful sweetness of white peach reminded me of my favorite juice as a kid: Ocean Spray white-cranberry strawberry.

I was on my way out before I spotted the sign for astrology readings by Silver Rising Astrology, housed at The Future, a metaphysical store in south Minneapolis.

I told the astrologer, Lacey Prpić Hedtke, I was surprised to see astrology at a craft fest.

“I love the Craft Council,” she said, adding that it was not her first time doing readings at a craft fest.

Prpić Hedtke (who is an Aquarius sun, Aries moon and Taurus rising, for those interested) said she had been interested in astrology since she was 12.

“It helps me understand who I am and how other people are,” she said.

Prpić Hedtke said she turned her interest into a business when she realized she could help others.

“Being an astrologer is a lot like being a therapist, and I love giving people pep talks,” she said. “People can see themselves reflected in a chart and I can help them understand themselves better.”

I agree the categorical nature of astrology is very pleasing, but it is interesting to see how no two people with the same sign or placement are alike.

Prpić Hedtke brought up twins as an example, and I thought of my own twin, whose Leo voice and energy boom over mine but whose heart is just as big as mine and always holds space for me.

Although I did not buy things at the Craft Fest, I left feeling excited and connected, and I intend to return next year.

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