Chicago's Renegade Craft Fair throws a party that invites you to shop for Christmas gifts with soul.
Renegade Craft Fair
Renegade Craft Fair

If you like your holiday DIY fair with a side of spontaneous street dancing, check out the Renegade Craft Fair. The name hints at what you'll find-a funky fusion of art festival, block party and summer-camp-crafting session.

Creator and director Susie Daly assembled her first Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood in 2003 with 75 independent makers. Now the series bills itself as the world's largest curated showcase of independent crafts and design, drawing more than 300,000 shoppers every year to around 25 events.

One of several Renegade events in the Chicago area, the RCF Holiday Fair (December 7–8, 2019) will feature dozens of makers at Bridgeport Art Center in the McKinley Park neighborhood. Expect on-trend jewelry, home decor, art, paper goods and apparel, all crafted with modern design, inventive twists and the occasional cheeky wink.

Bridgeport Art Center
Bridgeport Art Center's exposed brick walls and soaring ceilings inspire, just like the goods found inside- including ceramics and hand-knitted accessories. 

Renegade's philosophy speaks to the shop-small trend, in which buyers expect to know who's making what they're using and how they made it. An emphasis on innovation keeps wares fresh. "Each fair is juried separately and has its own unique pool of applicants, so no two fairs will ever be exactly alike," Susie says.

In addition to connecting customers with artists, Renegade events unite shoppers with one another at communal tables and dances where live DJs select the tunes. "We don't want you to just come and look around and buy some things and then leave," says Lauren Nelson, the fair's operations director. "It's about, ‘Hey, spend your day here. Talk with people. Interact.'"

Workshops stir the creative mix. A maker herself, Lauren loves watching participants head off carrying art they've made themselves as well as pieces they've purchased, each with a story of its own. "People are so inspired," she says. "It's impossible not to be."

Free ride Parking nearby can be tough, so the fair offers a trolley with pickups from the CTA Orange Line Ashland station.

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