Brit’s Midwest Craft Con Experience

Well, my Midwest Craft Con experience was a little different from that of my colleagues because, well, I wasn’t there.

That’s right. After hundreds of hours and boundless energy invested into organizing this kickass conference, I wasn’t there.

a good excuse

Granted, I had the best reason in the world to stay home: the slightly early arrival of a gorgeous, healthy baby boy. But I still felt like I was missing out. Fortunately, my sisters in crime made me feel like I was part of the action as I watched on through the lens of social media between feedings and naps.

MWCC 2016 megan and grace at midwest craft con, columbus ohio craft conference

The fact that Megan and Grace took the time to put my face on a stick to give me a presence at the Con made me feel so special! Before I knew it, I was seeing my face all over social media attached to what is undeniably the best hashtag ever.

Although I wasn’t there to get all the great information or participate in craftivities or join in epic karaoke sessions, I really appreciate the effort that went into making me feel involved and am even more excited for Craft Con 2017! I can’t wait to actually meet all the amazing people who were “feeling the brit” at Midwest Craft Con. ❤

We’ll be announcing dates for Midwest Craft Con 2017 soon! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know about it. 


Sponsor Love: Chris Rutan Photography

Get to know the makers, businesses and faces who are helping us create Midwest Craft Con! Today we are getting to know Chris Rutan of Chris Rutan Photography and Rigmarole.


Brit: How long have you been in the creative scene? How did you get your start?

Chris: I have been a professional photographer for over a decade. I went to the University of Akron’s Myers School of Art and earned a BFA in fine art photography. However, my artistic interests are not limited to photography. I also studied printmaking, sculpture and metalsmithing. I completed a minor in computer imaging. The education I received at the Myers School of Art is really the backbone of everything I do creatively and professionally today. During college I worked at two independent photography studios — honing my photographic chops while learning the ins and outs of the business. Today, I specialize in event and lifestyle photography. In addition to commissioned portraiture, I also work for local businesses and the Akron and Canton Museums of Art, and have had my work featured in various local publications.

Brit: What services do you provide to your community?

Chris: I love being involved in the local art scene. I find it immensely rewarding. We’re so supportive of one another — it’s inspiring! When I’m not working, I can be found in and around Akron, photographing my adventurous girls and sharing their exploits on my blog or Instagram. I’ve also had the pleasure of guest writing for a few of Akron’s local blogs. 😉

Brit: What are you most proud of when it comes to your business?

Chris: As a small business owner, I’m most proud of being a part of my local community. When I’m hired to photograph for the museum or a local theater, I feel that I have the opportunity to capture something great that is happening in my own backyard. I feel the same way about portraiture. I love capturing the moments and personalities of the families, couples and individuals who comprise our community.

In addition to photography, I have a handmade side business named Rigmarole. My products are featured in several shops around the country and are available at local craft shows. I do freelance craft work for Jo-Ann Fabrics. I’ve guest lectured at the University of Akron and I’m teaching my first set of workshops at a local paper boutique this month!

Brit: What is one big mistake you’d suggest others avoid when entering the handmade arena?

Chris: One mistake to avoid when starting your own business is being too afraid to say “yes.” When an opportunity presents itself, it’s easy to overthink it, feel intimidated, and begin to convince yourself that you can’t do it. Just say yes. Growth doesn’t happen in the comfort zone.

Brit: Any big goals for the new year?

Chris: This year, I’ve set a goal to vend at more craft shows. I’ve yet to venture out of the Akron area craft scene. This year I’m going to branch out.

You’ll see Chris taking photos at Midwest Craft Con in Columbus, Feb. 19-21!

City Guides

The Crafty Guide to Akron

It might be smaller than Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, but Akron is teeming with a skilled, do-it-yourself community of artists and crafters. Where else could Mark Mothersbaugh of DEVO and the Black Keys have found their origins but in the Rubber City? Our art is filled with allusions to local eccentricities like blimps, the history of the rubber industry and tire manufacturing, and our love of hard work. This is our crafty city guide to the greater Akron area! — Joanna Wilson, local author and assistant director of Crafty Mart; and Mary Beth Filon, owner of the Portage Trail Barn

S Main cityscape
Cityscape of a row of destinations on S Main St. Photo by Shane Wynn


Everything Akron
209 S. Main St., Akron, OH
This brick-and-morter has been open less than a year, yet it features goods by local artists, designers and crafters in a much-needed downtown space.

Hazel Tree Interiors
143 W. Market St., Akron, OH
The framing shop also carries artsy domestic furnishings and wall decor. They’re well-known for their iconic wall mural, visible from downtown.

Rust and Found
616 S. Main St., North Canton, OH
Repurposed furniture and handmade home goods including candles, jewelry and more. You can even sign up for workshops to learn a thing or two!


Synhak, The Akron Maker Space
48 S. Summit St., Akron, OH
Equipment and classes are available with a focus on technology, science, and art.

Rubber City Prints
First Floor, Summit Artspace, 140 E. Market St. Akron, OH
This is a shared space for artists to make, collaborate, and display printwork.


smARTStudio Akron
678 Paine Ave., Akron, OH
Classes and studio space for artists (both adults and children) to express themselves creatively in a variety of mediums.

OSC Tech Lab
12 E. Exchange St., Akron, OH
A hip downtown coworking space that also serves as a networking group for startups and creatives. Free coworking on Thursdays!


Crafty Mart’s monthly pop-up market at Summit Artspace. Photo by Nat Hansumrittisak

Crafty Mart
various locations
Now a nonprofit organization, Crafty Mart (run by Midwest Craft Con co-organizer Brit Charek!) is in its eighth year and continues to expand, hosting monthly mini-pop-up markets with the downtown Artwalk, the Mom & Pop Shoppe spring show, the annual holiday show, and more. Each year, the holiday show bursts at the seams with handmade goodness, stretching more than 80 vendors across three venues, all within walking distance in downtown Akron on Small Business Saturday just after Thanksgiving.

various locations
Hold on to your hat, Batman! Northeast Ohio’s own Emporium of the Weird celebrates everything unusual, geeky and odd, and showcases artists and crafters.

Portage Trail Barn
151 Portage Trail Ext. W, Cuyahoga Falls, OH
A rustic barn that opens its doors three or four times a year for seasonal events featuring local artists and crafters with an emphasis on repurposed and upcycled items for the family and home.


Givits Thrift and Recycling
5153 Darrow Road, Hudson, OH
A beautiful combination of thrift store, garage sale, and antique shop, Givits has a pickers barn that is perfect for repurposers, treasure hunters and artists.

FullSizeRender (4)

The Bomb Shelter
923 Bank St., Akron, OH
A warehouse of only the best vintage items including midcentury furniture, retro signage, and pop culture items to bring back your favorite memories.

Land of Plenty
339 W. Market St., Akron, OH
An eclectic collection of vintage and antique furniture and decor, arts & crafts, houseplants, succulents, and terrariums, with a new age/metaphysical vibe.

Stagecoach Antiques
449 W. Market St., Akron, OH
Staff that really know their stuff and rooms upon rooms to explore. Dishes, postcards, books, did I say dishes?


Urban Eats
51 E. Market St., Akron, OH
Yummy cafe of creative, seasonal and local foods.  I think it’s safe to say most, if not all, crafty ideas have been hatched sitting right there eating an amazing pizza or panini.

Nighlight bar
Ticket counter and bar at Nightlight Cinema. Photo by Shane Wynn

The Nightlight
30 N. High St., Akron, OH
Around the corner from Urban Eats is Akron’s own independent film theater. Come for an artsy movie or enjoy a craft beer, a cocktail and stimulating conversation in the lobby.

Mustard Seed Café
867 W. Market St., Akron, OH
Above the market, the second floor’s healthy food café and patio is a brand-new eatery in the Highland Square neighborhood — even LeBron James has been there! Grab a meal and a smoothie, then head across the street to shop for new and used LPs at Square Records, and then to Angel Falls Coffee Company to sit in the comfy overstuffed chairs and people-watch.

Angel falls mural
Street art mural on the outside wall of Angel Falls Coffee Company. Photo by Shane Wynn

Thirsty Dog Brewing Company
529 Grant St., Akron, OH
The award-winning brewery features a tasting room with their delicious beers, or come on a Saturday and take a tour of the brewing complex.

Are you coming to Midwest Craft Con in February? Get your tickets now and join creative business people from all across the Midwest!


Sponsor Love: Frekol


Get to know the makers, businesses and faces who are helping us create Midwest Craft Con! Today we are hearing from Trent Schulz, founder of Frekol (pronounced “freckle”), a Cleveland startup providing a platform for conscious consumers to buy handmade goods locally.

Here’s their story:

Frekol is a startup founded by a couple kids from Cleveland. It’s so simple that it’s unique — we provide a localized online platform that allows you to purchase the incredible things your neighbors make.


As the saying goes, sometimes your best ideas come to you when you least expect it. So begins the Frekol story, at a birthday party for a 4-year-old, and this cake!

kids with cake

We had to know where to get a cake like this. Turns out, the “lady down the street” made it. No, not out of her bakery, out of her home.

We began to wonder, what other incredible things are people in our neighborhood making? We were surprised to discover the most unique, diverse and high-quality handmade and homemade products were exchanged in a market we never knew existed! A market driven by creative, inspired, super-passionate individuals, and so convenient that you pass it by every day. This market is your neighborhood and our community.

You can learn more about Frekol by visiting their website, which is in its beta stage. There you can purchase incredible things made by your neighbors or set up your own shop where your neighbors can find you.

Check out the video below to learn more about just a few of makers that are already on Frekol!

Meet Trent and the Frekol team at our Trade Show at Midwest Craft Con in February! 

City Guides

The Crafty Guide to Cleveland

Cleveland is filled with people who support the home team, if you catch our drift. This rust belt jewel’s makers are particularly great at repurposing, upcycling and bringing back to life all manner of rust belt remnants. Cleveland native Shannon Okey is right in the middle of it as the founder of Cleveland Bazaar (the show formerly known as Bazaar Bizarre Cleveland, now in its 11th year) and of knit publishing house Cooperative Press. These are Shannon’s recommendations of what to do and see in Cleveland!



Salty Not Sweet
2074 W. 25th St., Cleveland, OH 44113
This boutique located across the street from the West Side Market sells handmade goods from small businesses all over the country and the occasional to-die-for vintage find.

In The 216
1854 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
This Coventry Village gift shop sells exclusively Ohio-made products!


R/S Boutique
2078 W. 25th St., Cleveland, OH 44113
Room Service is a lifestyle boutique in Ohio City that offers a variety of carefully selected designs from regional and national makers.


Tech Central Maker Space
325 Superior Ave., Cleveland, OH 44114
The main branch of Cleveland’s library makes a wide range of maker-focused machinery available to anyone with a CPL library card, including laser engraver/cutting, 3D printing and vinyl-cutting machines as well as sound recording equipment and more!


Small Studio
26113 Detroit Road, Westlake, OH 44145
This little gem on the far west side is an excellent resource for book and paper artists that offers both retail and classes.

Stitch Cleveland
18117 Detroit Road, Lakewood, OH 44107
Stitch offers sewing classes for kids and adults, regular maker spaces for textile artists.

Tabletop Board Game Cafe
1810 W. 25th St. Cleveland, OH 44113
This board game cafe offers DIY maker workshops on a monthly basis. Sign up in advance– they tend to sell out.


Cleveland Bazaar
Main holiday show at 78th Street Studios; other events year-round
Cleveland Bazaar is the longest-running indie handmade show in Northeast Ohio, with a broad audience and a number of longtime vendors with significant draws of their own. The main holiday show takes place at 78th Street Studios, itself home to a large number of artists and makers.


The Cleveland Flea
Tyler Village and other venues
This recent addition to the Cleveland show scene features a combination of vintage and handmade vendors. Summer events are outside in the Tyler Village redevelopment district.

Artscape at MOCA
Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland
An upscale event centered at Cleveland’s beautiful new Museum of Contemporary Art building in University Circle.

The Last Minute Market
The Galleria at Erieview
This annual market, which takes place the Saturday before Christmas, is every Clevelander’s last chance to find the perfect gift.


The Cleveland Shop
6511 Detroit Ave., Cleveland OH 44102
Cleveland’s oldest vintage clothing store (and source of all your fearless author’s prom and formal dresses through high school) is also one of its best.

Flower Child
11508 Clifton Blvd., Cleveland, OH 44102
This shop specializes in vintage clothing and housewares. They feature mid-century modern, funk and more!

17140 Madison Ave., Lakewood, OH 44107
You want plus size vintage? How about a pair of brand new Teggings, a tights/leggings combo that are indestructible and never run? Head over to Re/Dress and owner Rachel Kacenjar will hook you up! Though located in Cleveland, they have a national presence due to their specialized market.

Sweet Lorain
1705 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, OH 44113
This vintage department store boasts 8,000 square feet of vintage housewares, clothes, collectibles and more.


Multiple locations
You like grilled cheese, right? Ok, you need to go. (Don’t miss the buffalo chicken chowder).


Luxe Kitchen and Lounge
6605 Detroit Ave., Cleveland OH 44102
In the middle of the Gordon Square Arts District is Luxe, whose happy hour is legendary and fries are 100% steal-worthy. Open for dinner, with a great Sunday brunch, too.

Platform Brewing Co.
4125 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, OH 44113
Located in the unofficial brewery district which houses both Cleveland’s oldest brewpub as well as its newest beer-related businesses (a malt house and a brewing supply company among them). Platform is quickly gaining regional and national attention for its Speed IPA. They have an incubator program for microbrewery businesses, too!

Velvet Tango Room
2095 Columbus Road, Cleveland, OH 44113
Feel like you’re in a fancy speakeasy with retro cocktails, fine art from local artists and often live music.

Shannon Okey is a craft show manager, publisher, author and designer who lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband and four cats (who are probably plotting to kill them both for their thumbs). You can find her on most social media as @knitgrrl.

Are you coming to Midwest Craft Con in Columbus? Get your tickets now and join creative business people from all across the Midwest!


Meet the Organizer: Brit Charek

The organizers of Midwest Craft Con have been involved in the indie craft scene for years, and chances are you’ve seen them around Ohio! Last week we met Megan Green, and this week we meet organizer Brit Charek.

So who are you? 

I’m a person who wears many hats. I’m the Executive Director of Crafty Mart and I also serve as the Board President (#startuplife). I also teach High School English full time, and am mommy to a first grader. Before settling down, I checked a lot off my bucket list: I’ve lived on the West Coast and the Gold Coast, piloted single engine aircrafts, been that girl at every single punk rock show, traveled to Europe and South America, and had just about any job you can think of– from serving beers at 7am at a Chicago pub during the World Cup to teaching the deaf how to ride a snowboard.

How’d you get involved in the craft world?

Like Megan, I’m a mompreneur. I opened my Etsy shop in 2009, not too long after the birth of my son. I started out by selling vintage, which eventually led to craftier endeavors. I took over Crafty Mart, an Akron, Ohio bi-annual handmade market, in 2012, which makes me the newbie in the CraftCon organizer posse, but I’m always encouraged by the positive response I get from my partners as well as from veterans in the field when I reach out for advice.
FullSizeRender(My 6yo with his favorite Crafty Mart find from The Nerd Stitch Shop)

What’s the first crafty thing you ever remember selling?

I totally made hemp necklaces to trade and sell in junior high. Haha!

Who in the craft business world would you love to get a drink with? 

I’d love to kick it with those sisters from A Beautiful Mess. My punk rock teenage self would be disappointed that I’m a fan of something so cutesy, but what can I say? I adore them.

What book(s) would you recommend most to creative businesspeople?

For those in the business of writing and content creation, I’d highly recommend Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott. It made me laugh out loud meanwhile teaching me everything I didn’t know that I needed to know about the writing process.
I just started Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch. If the rest of the book is as realistic about the needs and limitations of small businesses as the first chapter is, it’s a must-read for all creative entrepreneurs.
When I think about books that actually inspired me to be creative, the first thing that comes to mind is Kim Cooper’s recounting of the creation of Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea for the 33 1/3 series originally published by Continuum and now by Blumsbury. The takeaway: all you really need to make great art is to make time to be with other creatives. If you’re at all a music nerd, I highly recommend browsing through this series of books inspired by some of the most influential albums of all time.

What are you looking forward to most about Midwest Craft Con?

I have a lot of crafty friends in other cities that I might have met once or twice when I was in town for a show, and now I feel pretty close to them from following them on social media. I’m looking forward to real life conversations with all of them!

Learning to Say Yes: Our Experience at an Unconference

When Grace, Megan and I started the discussion of picking up the reins of the Midwest Craft Caucus this spring, I had been connected to them digitally for years but had never actually met either of them in real life. Aside from the three of us being spread across Ohio, Grace was living in Germany for the summer, so we knew we’d be doing the majority of our event organizing remotely. We started with emails, then Google Hangout sessions. We really are lucky to be living in the digital age: The possibilities for collaboration are pretty much endless.

But we figured out a way to meet in person after all. Grace had attended a creative unconference in Palm Springs called Yes and Yes Yes (YxYY for short) last year and had such a great time that she was flying in from Dusseldorf to attend again. It would be the only time she’d be in the US until the end of summer, and I was actually going to be in LA for my best friends’ wedding the weekend prior. So I made arrangements to stay in Southern California, and we convinced Megan to fly out from Columbus to join us for a long weekend.

Photo by John Biehler

Let me just reiterate that I had never actually met Grace or Megan in real life before. For some reason they trusted me to navigate LAX in a tiny rental car to pick them up and safely escort them through Los Angeles traffic to our desert destination. There were a few stressful moments, but luckily Grace turned out to be an expert navigator and radio station whisperer, and Megan kept me entertained with her sarcastic comebacks from the backseat. Crafty friends FTW!

Palm Springs is an old resort town in the middle of the desert surrounded by mountains — somewhere you’d imagine the Rat Pack would hang out. YxYY essentially takes over the entire Ace Hotel, which might be the most hipster place on the planet. (Portlandia did a skit about the Ace in Portland, inconspicuously calling it the Deuce Hotel.)

YxYY is not your typical conference: It’s an “unscheduled” event, meaning that there are no pre-published schedules at all. When you purchase a ticket, you are given access to a wiki and a secret Facebook group where you can start to plan collaborations and share ideas. Then when you get to the conference, you use the YxYY app, where you can see what events you’d like to attend and add events of your own to the schedule. You can participate as much or as little as you want. Want to attend every single session you can? Go for it! Want to spend the entire time in the pool? No problem. You’ll meet cool people either way!

As a Midwesterner, I wasn’t sure this was going to work for me. I mean, I’m paying to be here. Shouldn’t there be some sort of agenda?

But before I knew it, I was in the middle of some of the most engaging conversations I’ve had in years. I talked about everything from the future of e-commerce to how to best manage all the hats you wear in your life via a silly hat party in the pool. I met engaging, creative people from all over the world.

There was an awesome maker space with craft supplies and several 3D printers thanks to YxYY’s amazing network of sponsors and volunteers. Megan took advantage of the technology, while I really just used the space to swipe supplies for my prom dress.

Yes, there was a prom, Roaring 2020s-themed, and it was so much fun! People went all out with their costumes; we got crafty with supplies we found at a Daiso Market in Los Angeles (think adorable Japanese dollar store). Every night an RV in the main parking lot turned into a karaoke bar. (I will admit to stomping my feet and singing my heart out.) Grace worked with the Palm Springs Animal Shelter to arrange a pop-up kitten cafe, which is exactly what you think it is. (Megan and I are both allergic, so we enjoyed the abundant cuteness from afar.)

IMG_4993And so we had our first official in-person Midwest Craft Con meeting at YxYY. I had picked up a waterproof memo pad, which seemed like the perfect excuse to have our meeting in the pool. We found a raft with cupholders for our boozy slushies and got to work! The environment was inspiring: We realized, we can make Midwest Craft Con whatever we want, and the most important thing is to facilitate conversations and relationships among our attendees.

YxYY bought out the whole entire Ace Hotel for us “yaysayers,” which was nice because you knew everyone was interesting and at most two or three degrees of separation from you. Between that and the conference’s code of conduct and stance on inclusion and collaboration, I really felt that I was in a safe place to share ideas.

We’re really excited to bring some “yes” back to the Midwest with us. Our Midwest Craft Con in 2016 will have more structure to it, with keynotes, panels and scheduled speakers, but we are building some social, collaborative, choose-your-own-adventure kinds of activities into the schedule. (Early bird tickets are on sale now!)

What would your ideal conference include? Post a comment or add something to our suggestion box!