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It's been several days since I got back from Craft Congress in Pittsburgh, I'm still trying to think of the best way to describe the weekend. I guess I could start with the photos. Those are just mine -- the whole pool is here.

Pittsburgh reminded me so much of Chicago -- urban, rough around the edges, nooks and crannies full of cool old buildings and a thriving arts community and parks and groovy shops -- but with rolling hills and pretty rivers. I bet it's gorgeous in the fall. I can't wait to go back.

Cinnamon, Emily and I stayed downtown and got around by bus for most of the weekend -- in Pittsburgh, you pay when you get off the bus! Crazy! I also took a trolley tour through the cooler parts of town with artist and comedian Mama Spell, a warm and witty tour guide with a sweet Mississippi accent and hair that reached the heavens.

OK, so, the Craft Congress itself involved about a dozen facilitated discussions on the details of organizing shows and the philosophies behind the alternative/indie craft movement: Who are we? What do we mean by "alternative"? How do we get press coverage? Where do we go from here?

When we weren't discussing these things in the sessions, we were discussing them during lunch breaks and over dinner and at the two parties organized by our hosts and into the wee hours. It was craft, craft, craft all weekend! The variety of shows that people organize was a constant source of amazement to me -- we all had the same basic goals and skeletal structures, but all of our shows were so different in size and scope and "extras" like music, workshops, etc.

There were 49 other crafty leaders there besides me and Cinnamon -- from Atlanta and Richmond and Boston and Brooklyn and Toronto and Leeds and everywhere. Some of them were thoughtful and quiet. Some were loud and brightly colored. They were all inspiring, even the handful of people I never got the chance to talk to. Everyone was both passionate about their own work and genuinely curious about others'.

I was dreading the dynamic that often develops when a group of fierce, committed people get together to talk -- the backchat, the hidden agendas, the destructive alliances, the dominant voices -- but we were all, for the most part, really cool to each other. The only problem with the discussions was that they just weren't long enough. We could have gone for another hour on each of the topics and still had more to say.

I guess I'm still processing a lot of it. The discussion board for the Congress has been hopping since everyone got home, but I haven't jumped back in yet. All I know is that when I think about what happened last weekend, I'm overwhelmed. I'm so humbled and inspired by the people I met in Pittsburgh. Every year I say I'm not going to do the DIY Trunk Show again, but this year, I can't wait.

Elsewhere:
An article on the congress for Get Crafty by Christy Petterson of Indie Craft Experience.

The trailer for Handmade Nation (formerly the Indie Craft Documentary), Faythe Levine's in-progress film about DIY culture.

Pittsburgh City Paper article on the Craft Congress.

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