Art vs. Craft may sound like a battle royale, where highbrow pretension and street smarts meet in a smackdown of aesthetic proportions, but that culture clash couldn’t be further from the truth. Now in its fifth year, Art vs. Craft is a shopping extravaganza that brings together designers, artists, crafters and all sorts of creative types from Milwaukee and beyond. “Art vs. Craft started as a play on the words, because there are artists and crafters,” says Jessica Franzen of Sparrow Collective, one of the event organizers.
There’s a tremendous amount of effort required to pull together a show like this. Sparrow Collective’s Lisa Wierzbinski, whose clothing and accessories are produced under the MoshiMoshi label, finds one of the most taxing aspects to be a matter of time. She says, “The most challenging thing is having enough time to create everything you have in mind for the fair. You want to make sure you have enough of each item and for your booth to look consistent and full the entire time. However, knowing what the customers will buy is very unpredictable and always surprising to see while at a fair.”
There are some interesting trends in the Milwaukee area, and as Jessica Franzen notes, bicycles and mustaches are two popular motifs at the moment. Vintage fabrics also figure strongly in the current lines for a number of designers, including MoshiMoshi and others that will be shown this weekend.
Owl Eyes, the design label of Rachel Muza, will be showing at Art vs. Craft for the first time this year. The label specializes in vintage fabrics, and according to Muza, she is obsessed with vintage lace and doilies. She notes a strong ethnic influence in fashion as well. “I’d say ethnic and floral prints are pretty popular right now. Colors and patterns reminiscent of Native American culture are becoming more and more stylish; lots of moccasins and feathers. I also think vintage and handmade clothing continue to be trendy.”
When asked about a favorite part of being a designer, Muza reveals that creativity and the thrill of the hunt are both part of the fun. “I love the fact that everything I make is different. When I’m done making something, I know that there’s nothing else in the world that’s exactly like it. The constant treasure hunt is fun, too. I love finding old fabric that some 80-year-old woman donated, and then turning it into something a 20-year-old would wear.”
Angela Wierzbinski, whose Miss Miso label focuses on her passion for scarves and accessories, sees similar trends occurring, and also takes inspiration from her globe-trotting adventures. Angela relates, “For a while the ‘keffiyah’ scarf (a Middle Eastern triangle scarf) was extremely popular. I lived in England two years ago and everyone was sporting one, even though there was a lot of controversy in wearing this scarf. It was such an issue that local Urban Outfitters pulled them from the shelves. That is where my triangle scarf inspiration came from. I loved the idea of having long fringe on my scarf, but I still wanted to be culturally sensitive. Now, living in Bay View, I see scarves in all shapes and forms — from wearing them around the head to using a scarf as a belt. People are starting to get really creative!”
Energy continues to brew in the Milwaukee fashion scene among independent designers and boutiques, adding to a sense of collective enthusiasm. Angela Wierzbinski feels this keenly and notes that it has been developing for some time. “My favorite thing about being a designer is not only making something that others truly like, but also being a part of this amazing group of creative and talented people,” she says. “The people in the D.I.Y. circle are the most interesting and inspiring people to me. I am so, so proud of Jessica Franzen and my sister, Lisa Wierzbinski, for making Sparrow Collective thrive. Janelle Gramling paved the road with Fasten, and Faythe Levine paved it with Paper Boat and Art vs. Craft. I don’t know where Milwaukee would be without these innovative women. Mad props to all of them.”
Lisa Wierzbinski adds to this perspective on the local scene, reflecting that it is “very up and coming. A few years ago, it was low on the radar. But with the help of boutiques, Art vs. Craft and people shopping locally, I think the idea of DIY is really spreading and catching everyone’s attention. It’s exciting to see people expressing their creativity.”
Scottish Rite Masonic Center
790 N. Van Buren St.
Saturday, Nov. 28
10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
$3 admission / Kids under 13 free