Not Yo Mama’s Craft Fair Comes Back Bigger and Craftier

This Saturday marks the return of the Not Yo Mama’s Craft Fair, the event dedicated to providing a space for local artisans to show off high quality hand-made goods. After last year’s debut went off swimmingly, the team of young, sassy and excited Jersey City crafters behind the fair — Megan Gülick, Sophie Penkrat and Leah Siegel-Picus — decided they needed to expand this year.

“People were lining up down the block to get in,” Siegel-Picus (pictured at left) says of the inaugural fair, which was held in the cozy confines of LITM. They estimate that they hosted about 400 people throughout the day, with a vendor count of 27.

“It was a trial run for us,” Gülick explains. “The response showed how much people were looking for this.”

With demand must come supply.

This year, 65 vendors and crafters — hailing from as far away as Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania — are expected to attend the fair, which has moved into the expansive 7,500-square foot space at Parlay Studios to better accommodate the day’s expected crowds. The ladies have pulled in a variety of new sponsors this year (including the Independent), and the day promises to offer a wide range of artisans — plus food from Made with Love, live music, light sculptures from Norm Francoeur and more.

As befits a fair dedicated to DIYers and Etsy-holics, this big undertaking is a truly grassroots affair.

“We started out just having craft nights in my apartment,” Penkrat (at right) explains. After some time of getting together to cross-stitch and many clogged tacky-glue bottle tops, the three women saw a local need and decided to make the group a bit more public. They say the initial reaction was spectacular, and it has only grown as they’ve put together this year’s event.

“It’s great to see so many people getting excited,” Penkrat says. “It really gets us very jazzed.”

As the women planned this year’s event, they decided they wanted to partner with a charity for the second go-around. They ended up partnering with Arts to Grow, a Jersey City nonprofit that offers art programs to inner-city children in the metro area that would have little or no access to them otherwise.

As we chat in Gülick’s apartment during one of their regular Sunday morning meetings, the three explain that Arts To Grow matched what they were doing with Not Your Mama’s Craft Fair — artists supporting the arts.

“We sat down, and looked at their mission statement and goals, and felt that [Arts To Grow] was a great fit,” Gülick (at right) says.

“Where would I be without my papier-mâché classes?” Penkrat says with a smile. The Not Yo Mama ladies feel that people need to start doing what they can to keep the arts alive and well, particularly when funding sources are scarce. The more a community can support itself, the better off it will be. “You have to start having a do-it-yourself attitude for the arts,” she adds.

“It’s really good to give back to the community that has given to you,” Gülick says while shuffling through floor plans of Parlay Studios.

Arts To Grow was started in 2005 by Mallory King after she recognized a need for art school preservation in the community.

“We are very, very excited to be involved,” King says. In 2009, the organization served over 300 kids and are projecting to serve over 500 in 2010. Beyond that, there are fifty schools and counting in the five boroughs of New York City, Jersey City, Hoboken and Newark that are on the waiting list, King explains, but not enough funding to go forward at the moment.

Although the Not Your Mama’s Craft Fair has been well-received thus far, the women behind the curtain feel they are still in the fledgling stages.

“We’ve got a wait-and-see kind of attitude,” Gülick says when asked about the future of their initiative. The three are doing business as “Not Your Mama’s Affairs,” leaving them room to later encompass more than just craft events, while keeping with their grassroots interests.

For more information on the fair, including the full band lineup, click here.

The 2nd annual Not Your Mama’s Craft Fair
$5 admission includes a free raffle ticket/children under 10 get in free.
Saturday, April 17, 11 am until 6 pm
at Parlay Studios
161 2nd St.

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the nom de plume of Paul Cox III and Melanie McLean, a dynamic duo who have now been traveling (and working) together for about eight months. They recently landed in Jersey City after an extended South American jaunt.