I started Strange Folk Festival over a decade ago as a venue for my friends and I to sell modern handmade goods we were making. We experimented as “micro-enterprises,” branding and producing items with consistency, while utilizing the internet to sell them. Not just through online stores, but by promoting unique events we call “indie craft shows,” where we banded together in rebellion against corporate retail. You can shop at Strange Folk and shows like it for much better merchandise than malls and big box stores, and it’s actually affordable.
I personally branded several lines of goods over the years, helped grow a community committed to the DIY ethos, and even opened my own craft supply store for awhile. I dabble in projects like many artists, but Strange Folk has been the most rewarding, and arguably the most important. I daydream about the next one within a week of it ending every year.
This cyclical process resulted in annual themes that I would illustrate or creatively direct as a narrative running through the event, while simultaneously managing participants and logistics. Every year there has been adjacent productions to vendors and bands…fashion shows, 5Ks, bespoke playgrounds, hands-on activities, scavenger hunts, and art installations, to name a few.
For all of those years, I wasn’t able to put a year-round effort into Strange Folk. The festival may have lived up to lofty expectations, but some of my best ideas and collaborative opportunities were rushed or squandered.
After a stressful departure from O’Fallon Community Park, Strange Folk moved to Union Station Mall, then the streets of Lafayette Square. In 2017, it’s back where I think it most belongs, in a nature setting, at Lafayette Park.
For the first time, I’m attempting to work on Strange Folk the entire year without the distraction of other projects or jobs. Early phases are down to a science that I can manage online.
So naturally, I sold nearly everything I owned, hopped on a $99 flight to Iceland last November, then mainland Europe from there, and am currently working from Morocco. I’ve enjoyed sharing my travels with so many friends and strangers who cheer on my “location independence.” Grateful for my assistant, Andrea of Zenbot Design, and the ability to stay connected to everyone back home! This trip is inspiring many aspects of the festival this year.
I’m currently smitten with drawing on my iPad, and after shredding a couple styluses in a remote mountain town, a fair amount of the 2017 illustration was finger-painted! I look forward to firing up our giant laser cutter housed at Citizen Carpentry in St. Louis for installation designs I’ve been sketching too.
If you do nothing more than mark your calendar, attend Strange Folk Festival, support our vendors, and have a great time … that’s all that really matters. There’s a folktale you can follow behind the scenes, and I just happen to be the protagonist. Storytelling is a better use of social media than constantly imploring you to do or buy something, for both of us, absolutely. You’ll see the same authenticity behind the work of many of our vendors on their social brand profiles.
I think Strange Folk is so popular because it’s a multi-faceted outlet of self-expression packaged within self-expression, and I don’t let anything compromise the integrity of that.
I’m a festival and a person. I’m a fiesta.
<3, Autumn Wiggins