I went to Craftcation 2016! Craftcation is a four-day business + makers conference in Ventura, California. It’s organized by Delilah Snell and Nicole Stevenson of Dear Handmade Life, organizers of Patchwork Show. This was the fifth year of Craftcation but the first one I attended. I had a fantastic time. If you follow me on Instagram (@csews), you may have seen some of the photos I posted during the conference (April 7 to 10).
The above photos are (clockwise from top): Welcome sign at Marriott hotel, stuff in conference bag plus a friendship bracelet kit from “Wanderings” event, pompon I made during a happy hour, and Thursday night dinner table decor. (The correct spelling is pompon but it’s been heard as pompom so it’s often spelled that way.) This is Part 1 of a two-part blog post on my Craftcation experience.
I remembered seeing lots of posts about Craftcation last year and I knew my friend Becky had been going to it for a while so in February when I got the email about Craftcation 2016, I asked her if it would be worth paying to attend (more than $400 to register, plus hotel and travel). She suggested that I look into volunteering and she generously offered to let me stay in her place in Oxnard, which is next to Ventura. We have a mutual friend who we both know IRL. Becky and I were Facebook friends who also followed each other on IG.
I got in touch with the conference, asking if they still needed volunteers, mentioning that I was a sewing blogger and organizer for the Bay Area Sewists meetup group. After all, they didn’t know me and I figured if they knew I had a personal interest in the conference, that would help.
I soon heard back and got the details from Delilah. The shift options were as follows: 1.) I could work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and then attend the entire conference for free; 2.) I could work 8 hours on Thursday and 8 hours on Friday and attend Saturday and Sunday; or 3.) I could work all day Saturday and Sunday and attend Thursday and Friday. I knew I couldn’t do the first option because I had to work so to help me decide between the remaining options, I looked at the conference schedule. I decided to volunteer on Thursday and Friday because the Color Theory and Indigo Dyeing workshops were on Saturday. I couldn’t start work until Thursday afternoon, so I was assigned to work meals on Thursday and Friday rather than assist at workshops. The great thing is that I got a link to register as a regular conference attendee and sign up for classes just like all the other conference attendees – except that I knew I could only register for Sat. and Sun. classes. And Sunday was only a half day of classes. Thank you Delilah and Nicole for making Craftcation such a great experience as a volunteer and an attendee!
I flew down on Thursday morning and began my shift around 2 pm. I took the Ventura Airporter Shuttle from LAX, which drops you off at the Holiday Inn. Becky picked me up and then we went over to the Marriott to pick up our name tags and conference bags. At registration I ran into two people from the Bay Area – Jill and Alysia who are members of the Bay Area Sewists! Of course I would run into people from the Bay Area! They’re attended all the Craftcation events.
Becky had to get back to work and I told her I’d get a ride to the fairgrounds, where dinner was taking place. Delilah was running around in a vintage 1960s Volkswagen van picking up volunteers and shuttling them to their various locations, and dealing with a slew of text messages. I helped her answer a few texts as she was driving. I told her I hadn’t had a chance to eat lunch yet so she very kindly drove me to Spencer MacKenzie’s, a fish taco place to pick up a yummy fish and shrimp burrito before my shift began. So nice!
After picking up and dropping off a few more folks, I ended up at the fairgrounds where Linda, another volunteer, and I helped Stephanie, who was the stellar organizer of the food and drink for the entire conference. She ensured that everything was in its proper place and ready to go by the time people arrived. We just did whatever she told us to do before dinner was served (cover the long tables with paper table runners, put some decorations on the craft tables, snap the glow sticks inside the paper lanterns, set out the utensils, etc.). The theme for the dinner was Blue Bayou. Thus the “lily pads” and cardboard boats on the tables. I also wrote on small pieces of paper what was being served for dinner: Cajun chicken, chicken sausage, chicken andouille sausage, sweet potatoes and kale, rice and beans. Luckily for us, so much had already been done earlier in the week so we actually had some down time before people arrived.
I got to listen to the keynote presented by Emily McDowell, an illustrator whose stationery line is now carried by stores all over the country. She gave an inspiring talk about how her business grew from her handling the printing to now turning it over to another company, freeing her time to design. She read the text of one of her unique cards – the awkward dating one, which was really funny.
Then I was serving food at the buffet line – scooping loads of rice and beans and a sweet potato/kale combo on to plates. My right shoulder was so sore by the time my shift was over! I also helped with cleanup – removing the tablecloths from all the tables, tossing away glasses, etc. I was there until about 9 pm.
At the dinner there were craft tables so people could decorate their name tags or grab a glue gun and stick flowers and pompons on a headband. And best of all, for sewists at least, Michael Miller Fabrics was there. You could play Plinko and win a prize – fabric, pencils, etc. from Michael Miller. Luckily I had several moments of down time so whenever I wasn’t needed, I zipped over to crafty side of the room.
I played Plinko, which I had not played before. (Apparently it’s one of the games on the Price Is Right. It’s even got its own wiki page here.) I won the dazzle bundle – fabric printed with metallic inks, see the above photo. Yay! And the Michael Miller lady gave me this swatch book of the company’s Cotton Couture collection – 150 colors! And the fabric is sooo soft and has a lovely hand. I want to make some shirts with this fabric. It’s a lightweight fabric and drapes nicely; it’s not quilt weight. And so many colors! Michael Miller provided fabric for the sewing and quilting workshops. The photo on the bottom right is my first log cabin quilt square I made on Sunday using Michael Miller fabrics. Sorry the lighting wasn’t great when I took that photo. the colors are a little off.
On Friday, I didn’t have to show up until late morning and helped prepare the Tavern, a bar and restaurant, for lunch and then hand out pita bread with tongs. Lunch had a Mediterranean theme (pita bread, humus, baba ganoush, chicken, sweet potatoes and kale, plus a gluten-free dessert tres leches (cake)).
There was also a masseuse giving free massages! So I had her work on my sore shoulder before people began to arrive. They came in waves – a school bus was shuttling people over from the hotel. It got crazy busy then. My knees were starting to ache from standing around. After lunch was over, Linda and I headed over to the fairgrounds to do food prep. I washed pots and pans and sliced a pile of zucchini and red peppers for lunch the following day. And then I was done with the volunteer work by late afternoon and free to attend the conference!
Here’s an explanation of the above photos: I decorated my name tag at the craft table on Thursday night at the dinner. On Friday at happy hour there was a craft table to make pompons. It took me three tries to make one that was full. I tied it to my name tag. After happy hour there was “Wanderings” – visiting the various hotel rooms where people showcased their services and handmade goods, offered crafts for people to make or color or provided libations. People applied in advance of Craftcation to participate. There were ten participants. Becky and I went to the various rooms – on four different floors, showing up with our official Wanderings card and got it stamped by the Wandering participant, proof that we visited their room. Then we had to turn the cards in to be entered into a drawing to win a ticket to next year’s conference – and we also had to vote for our favorite Wanderings participant. The winner of that vote would get a ticket to Craftcation 2017.
Becky and I visited each room, checking out the jewelry, drinks, coloring in a drawing. I bought some beads and a necklace. We samples mini margaritas in the Southern Charm room. That’s Becky toasting with her drink in that photo. I made the flower headband during the Thursday night event – I took that photo when I got home. Everyone was eating while I was quickly glueing the flowers to the headband.;)
And the last photo on the bottom left is me and Becky at the Starry Night dance party on Friday. There was a photo area set up with stars you could hold as props. People were supposed to dress according to the party theme. As you can see Becky came prepared with her silver wig and silver cape. I put picked up some tinsel at a Wanderings room and added that to my vintage beret, which I wore with my Alabama Chanin wrap – embroidered with spirals – made me think of Van Gogh’s Starry Night – sort of.
As you can see, there was plenty to make and do at Craftcation 2016! Was it worth volunteering? Stay tuned for Part 2 … later this week. …