Guest blogger Lydia Regalado is an arts educator, crafter and blogger who writes about people who gather to make things. She recently moved to Brussels and sends this report from across the Atlantic.
Last week, I hopped on a train and traveled west to Bruges, a perfectly preserved Medieval town in West Flanders for Marché Bricolé, an urban craft fair in Belgium. This was a real treat, as I would be able to meet Belgian artists and designers and experience my first craft market overseas. The wares of the market were exceptional, yet familiar at the same time. The market showcased ceramics, jewelry, clothing, knitwear and paper arts, but also some crafts that I haven’t seen much of, including lace and woolens made of colorful handmade felt.
There was even a Café Bricolé, where marketgoers could sit and sew. I sat amongst generations who did not speak my language, but we all worked together creating stuffed animals. All of the events are organized under the name Quartier Bricolé, an interesting experiment with the city of Bruges and an organization known as Tapis Plein. It is a temporary solution to bring traffic, commerce and art to a city street in Bruges that is becoming abandoned as it is developed. Designers and artists were selected through a juried process to showcase their talents and wares in store fronts (most of them in empty buildings along the street) and sell their work in a co-op boutique for one year. If all goes well, there are plans to open a few more shops on the burgeoning street. Additionally, the selected designers can hold workshops in Quartier Bricolé, which is totally supported by the city and run by the artists until December 2010. I think it’s a great example of commerce and craft coming together.
This weekend a similar happening will take place in Oak Cliff. Make Urban Bazaar will host its ninth event in the Bishop Arts District. Make is a shop founded by Julie McCullough Kim that showcases local designers and artists, just like Quartier Bricolé, in addition to an operating studio space where classes and workshops are offered on a variety of topics such as sewing, screen printing and even a how to start a craft business. This year, Make Urban Bazaar will include 90 vendors, which is almost double the usual participation. Of these, 70 percent are first time participants. Make Urban Bazaar is a two day event that also coincides with the 2009 Old Oak Cliff Fall Home Tour, combining city and craft together Texas style. Saturday will also be the first “Oak Cliff Ride the Tour,” an organized ride that will begin at the Kessler Theater at noon. Participants will receive 10 percent off their tour ticket price. What a great (and healthy) way to take in the sights! If you have not been to Bishop Arts recently, this weekend is a great opportunity to explore this revitalized art scene, where the spirit of entrepreneurship and community is alive and well. North Texas might not be steeped in centuries of craft and tradition, but what we do have should be celebrated and supported.