Craft-A-Way Camp 2014: Return to the Dream


It’s a return to the idyllic summers of the past. To the days when we could give our full attention to crafts and friends. But truth be told, we were a little nervous about returning to Craft-A-Way Camp for a second year. The first year had been so beautiful and dreamlike, it seemed too much to hope that the second could match it. As a wonderful group gathered, however, and began to share crafts and laughter, it immediately became clear that we had nothing to worry about. Craft-A-Way Camp is not just a lovely memory, but a tradition we can return to every summer.


Like the woods of Waterloo Recreation Area, Craft-A-Way Camp is always changing, yet always reassuringly familiar.

We introduced some new innovations this year. More time was spent getting to know each other, before we plunged into the whirl of crafting. Amanda Schott led us in a hilarious series of camp chants. A second bunkhouse was added, so we’d have room to sleep more comfortably.

But we also brought back many of our favorite customs from last year. Every free moment was filled by painting and wrapping sticks. One cabin wall was shadowed by a massive wall of coolers. The campfire was a place for roasting vegan marshmallows, and singing ’90s R&B hits.


There was a great moment in our dreamcatcher workshop, when we all realized together that there was no reason to hurry or watch the clock. Crafts were the closest thing we had to a responsibility, so we were free to settle into our work, and forget about the time. Fortunately, our instructors brought a great selection of projects for us to explore.

Andy Sell led us on his annual nature walk, once again dazzling us with his knowledge of Michigan’s plant life and terrain. He then taught us to make lovely prints by hammering the pigment from flowers into sheets of watercolor paper. (Passing horsemen later inquired about the din of hammers echoing through the woods.)

Val Willer introduced us to another craft addiction: tearing and weaving old t-shirts into new jewelry and accessories. Like last year’s wrapped and painted sticks, it’s clear that this will be an ongoing project at future Craft-A-Way Camps.

Special thanks are due to Karen LePage. When instructor Marcy Davy was called away by a family emergency, Karen stepped in and taught her screen printing class. Our beautifully printed Craft-A-Way tote bags are a testimony to her skills as both a crafter and a teacher. And as if that weren’t enough, Karen also taught her own class, sharing two exciting image transfer techniques!


The woods and the crafts are always amazing, but Craft-A-Way Camp is even more about the friends that gather, and the bonds that form between them. This year, we welcomed back some old friends, and we got to meet some new ones. Campers arrived not only from Michigan, but from Chicago, and six Ohio cities. One couple even travelled all the way from Reno, Nevada! Away from the cares of home, and united by our love of craft, we soon formed a close little community. That shouldn’t be such a rare experience, but in today’s world, it really is. So we’re grateful every time we get to be a part of it.


We miss the bright stars and the fresh breeze. We miss the hours of uninterrupted crafting. Most of all, we miss our friends! So we’re already making plans for next year’s Craft-A-Way Camp. And for a Winter Lodge where we can be reunited even sooner! Whether it’s your new adventure, or your familiar custom, we hope you’ll join us the next time we get together to craft.


Please go to our Flickr page to see all the great photos from the weekend!

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Small Craft Garden Party: Rope Bracelet Class with Music by Cat Midway


Last year’s Garden Party was like a miniature vacation: a brief and refreshing visit to a slow-paced and sun-dappled land. So on Saturday, July 12, we’ll return to the leafy green Trumbullplex gardens, for another short escape. This time around, we’ll make knotted rope bracelets, with instruction from Small Craft’s own Amy Cronkite. We’ll enjoy mellow folk tunes by one-woman band Cat Midway. And we’ll drink cold lemonade from a kids’ stand. By the time you emerge from this idyllic afternoon, you may be surprised to find the workaday world so nearby.


Knotted rope bracelets are beloved by both sailors at sea and children at camp. They’re easy to make: a fun project to share with friends on a carefree afternoon. And they’re easy to wear: sturdy enough to be part of your wildest summer adventures. Amy Cronkite of Small Craft and Handmade Detroit will provide you with all the instructions, tools, and materials you need to make a rope bracelet of your own.

If you’re not in the mood to make a rope bracelet, please feel free to bring another project! Enjoy the good company and pleasant atmosphere of the Garden Party, while making progress on your favorite craft.


With hands strumming a guitar, and feet drumming out a rhythm, Lansing’s Cat Midway is a one-woman band. She performs one of Woody Guthrie’s great sleight of hand tricks: concealing  gnomic wisdom in offhand anecdotes. And she does it with the cool reserve of a Midwestern Nico. The combined effect is like leafing through faded photos of roustabouts at rest. Her songs seem distant and elusive, but that makes them all the more fascinating.

When she’s not performing as Cat Midway, Berry Noxon is the seamstress behind Berry Unconventional, a line of reconstructed vintage clothing. So she’ll bring an authentically crafty perspective to our Garden Party soundtrack.


If summer has a taste, it’s lemonade from a kids’ stand. And every summer, our kids bring their lemonade stand to the Trumbullplex! At 8 and 5, Ramona and Henry are entering their third year as DIY entrepreneurs. They’ve served lemonade to visitors from France and Germany, and built a dedicated local clientele. So support early business education. Enjoy some charming salesmanship. And sip lemonade that’s cold, sweet, and made from scratch.

Garden Bunting

Our Garden Party is a drop-off point for the Detroit Fatshion Exchange, a plus size clothing swap taking place Saturday, July 19 at the Trumbullplex. Fatshion Exchange organizers will be at our Garden Party, ready to accept and approve contributions of clean and gently worn clothing in larger sizes. For each item of clothing approved, you’ll be able to take home a new-to-you item on the 19th! And all the clothes remaining at the end of the swap will be donated to Purple Heart.


If you’re not ready to go home after our Garden Party, we encourage you to linger at the Trumbullplex for an evening of live music. Hear Chicago’s Swimsuit Addition, local favorites My Pal Val, and more. See what the Trumbullplex is like when the summer sun goes down. From crafty parties, to clothing swaps, to punk shows, this historic theater’s summer calendar is filled with fun events, and they’re all a few steps removed from what you’ll find elsewhere. So if you want to escape the mundane for more than just an afternoon, you know a great place to get started.

Small Craft Garden Party
Saturday, July 12
2:00 – 6:00 pm
Trumbullplex Gardens
4210 Trumbull

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Craft-A-Way Camp: Applications Are Now Online


Summer will soon return, and with it comes Craft-A-Way Camp, our rustic retreat for crafty adults. Our second annual Camp will take place June 28 – 29, and will feature all the craft workshops, nature walks, campfire sing-alongs, and yes, painted sticks that we’ve all been dreaming of since last year. Today, we are excited to make applications available! In order to welcome more campers, we’ve reserved an additional bunkhouse at our wooded site in Waterloo Recreation Area. But those bunks will fill up quickly, so be sure and apply right away!


Craft-A-Way Camp is about the joy of making things by hand. And it’s about spending time in the beautiful Michigan outdoors. But most of all, it’s about connecting with friends.

“Camps are all different,” writes Craft-A-Way instructor Marcy Davy, “but I think one thing remains the same– community, relationships, customs and culture form almost immediately and often last a lifetime.”

We’re looking forward to catching up with our old friends at camp, but we’re also excited to make some new ones. If you would enjoy a weekend of crafting and laughing in the open air, and you’re up for roughing it at a rustic site, then Craft-A-Way Camp is for you. We hope you will apply!

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Small Craft Big Screen: Sign Painters


In Detroit, as elsewhere, unique and wonderful hand painted signs are slowly fading from the landscape, replaced by the bland efficiency of die-cut vinyl lettering. In the 2013 documentary film Sign Painters, we meet the brave and stubborn artists who are fighting that trend. If  you know Small Craft, you know that’s our kind of story. So we’ve selected Sign Painters as the next entry in our Big Screen film series. On Saturday, June 14, we’ll gather in the Trumbullplex Theater to view this celebration of traditional craftsmanship and individual expression.


In the film, sign painting is described as “an invisible art,” and certainly, few of us have stopped to consider the hands behind the letters. But the people depicted in this movie are of an immediately familiar type. (“Every artist is a character,” is how one sign painter sums it up.) It’s fascinating to visit the world of sign painting, but the themes we find there reverberate far beyond its borders. This film has something to say to anyone who is trying to lead a unique life in an increasingly homogenous culture.

 Photo: Cassie Staub

Photo: Cassie Staub

We discovered  Sign Painters via co-director Faythe Levine, whose previous film, Handmade Nation, was last year’s Big Screen selection. We had seen Handmade Nation a few times before screening it at the Trumbullplex, and the story it told – the rise of the indie craft movement – was one we had lived through ourselves. Yet sitting in that darkened room, with the Small Craft community around us, we were able to see it all with fresh eyes.

Sign Painters becomes available for home viewing today, but it will be more in keeping with the spirit of the film to watch it in the traditional manner. So leave your computer, and join your friends in a historic art space. We’ll have snacks, cartoons, and all the other extras that make a day at the movies special. We’ll use a projection booth that was built by a neighborhood poet, and covered with hand painted murals by a passing traveller. And we’ll share a unique moment that can never be streamed or downloaded.

Small Craft Big Screen
Sign Painters
Saturday, June 14
2:00 pm
$5 suggested donation
Trumbullplex Theater
4210 Trumbull

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Small Craft Returns to the Trumbullplex: Bookbinding Class and Puppet Show


When the sun is bright, the air is warm, and the leaves are on the trees, there’s no better place than the Trumbullplex. So on Saturday, May 10, we’ll return there for an afternoon of crafty fun with our friends. We’ll learn bookbinding skills, as we create recycled journals with Leslie Gauthier of Gingerly Made. We’ll laugh at the antics of some cuddly critters, as Blair Ellis and Momo present a delightful all-ages puppet show. And we’ll share free coffee, tea, and homemade vegan marbled banana bread. The spring has been slow in making its way back to Michigan, and we’ve been a little slow in making our way back to the Trumbullplex. But that will make it all the sweeter when we do return, like the chorus to an old familiar song.

 Leslie Gauthier

Leslie Gauthier

By the cold light of text on a screen, we can more clearly see the book as a strange and lovely object. It’s no surprise, then, that we’ve been getting more and more requests for a bookbinding class. At this event, we’ll practice bookbinding basics, by making journals and sketchbooks from recycled paper. You’ll leave with a great way to carry notes and sketches, plus some new ideas for making strange and lovely objects of your own.

We’ll provide everything you need, free of charge, but for a truly unique book, you can incorporate some of your own materials. The covers will be made from thinner sheets of cardboard (cereal boxes work well), and the pages from recycled paper (this is a great chance to clear out your stash). Tools will include hammers, awls, and embroidery needles, so feel free to bring those along, if you have them.

 Leslie Gauthier

Leslie Gauthier

The scruffy pout of Jon Snow, and the brilliant hues of a sugar skull. The steam from a solitary cup of tea, and the tangled embrace of two cuttlefish. Crafter and illustrator Leslie Gauthier explores a variety of subjects, but her work is always instantly recognizable for its sharp wit and confident line. She’s fluent in many media, from painted canvas to embroidered felt, giant murals to little zines, and her Gingerly Made table is a hit at craft shows and comic conventions alike. We’ve enjoyed Leslie’s company at past Small Craft get-togethers, and we’re glad to have her teaching this month’s bookbinding class.

 Blair Ellis and Momo

Blair Ellis and Momo

Blair Ellis and Momo rescue discarded plush animals from thrift store dumpsters, and transform them into adorable hand puppets and marionettes. The city where their puppet show takes place is made of cardboard, and inhabited entirely by rabbits, but in most other ways, it seems strangely familiar. Like all the best family entertainment, this works on a couple of different levels. Kids will enjoy interacting with the cute and sassy bunnies. Adults will pick up on the thought-provoking social critique. So while you’re welcome to bring children to the puppet show, you can also have a good time watching on your own.

 Photo: Anne Hayman

Photo: Anne Hayman

We often like to remind our friends that the Trumbullplex has been fostering independent creativity in Detroit for more than twenty years. (Decades longer, if you count its previous incarnations hosting a theater company and a sculptor’s studio.) That’s one reason why we keep coming back: to be a part of that long and colorful tradition. Settle into this cozy little hideout, and you’ll feel that history all around you, like a faint current in the air. And when we slide open the big garage door, you’ll also feel the fresh breezes of a new spring.

Small Craft Returns to the Trumbullplex
Saturday, May 10
2:00 – 6:00 pm
Trumbullplex Theater
4210 Trumbull

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Spring Brunch at PJ’s Lager House: Calligraphy Class and The Detroit Card Co.


We’ve missed you! So we hope you’ll meet us at PJ’s Lager House on Saturday, April 12. We’ll take part in a calligraphy class, taught by designer and crafter Genna Cowsert. We’ll enjoy some hilarious greeting cards by The Detroit Card Co. And we’ll savor a hearty brunch, prepared by chef Jessika Rae Warren. After months of hibernation, this will be a great opportunity to get out and rejoin your crafty friends.

 Photo: Anne Hayman

Photo: Anne Hayman

In an age when even the most basic handwriting has become something of a lost art, calligraphy takes on the allure of an ancient magic. We’re excited to explore its mysteries at our first Small Craft event of the season. In this beginner level class, we will learn the basics of Copperplate calligraphy, from holding an oblique calligraphy pen, to practicing the basic shapes, to writing the alphabet. We will start from the very beginning, so no prior experience is necessary.

Because the calligraphy class requires individual instruction and special tools, we must ask for advance registration and a $20 materials fee. Participants will receive one Nikko G nib, one oblique pen holder, one jar of black ink, one pad of layout bond paper and a packet of letter samples.  Best of all, they’ll receive expert instruction from Genna Cowsert. If you’ve met Genna at local craft fairs, past Small Craft events, or last year’s Craft-A-Way Camp, then you know what a kind, engaging, and informed instructor she will be.

 The Detroit Card Co.

The Detroit Card Co.

In crafty circles, Genna is best known as the creator of Chuppy Love, a line of adorable amigurumi characters. But she’s also a talented custom and paper goods designer, with a special interest in stationary, wedding invitations, and greeting cards. Genna’s latest endeavor is The Detroit Card Co., a collaboration with author Cara Trautman. Combining sweet graphics with sour messages, The Detroit Card Co. offers a refreshing alternative to the sentimental greeting card. At our brunch, a selection of these cards will be available for you to browse and purchase.


Everyone’s aware that PJ’s Lager House is an incredible venue for live music. (A visit to the tiny Lager House stage by power pop legends Redd Kross was one of the great musical highlights of 2013.) And lately, more and more people are discovering the food! Our friend Jessika Rae Warren is the chef, and her cuisine has everything we’re looking for: comforting favorites, vegan options, and a bit of a wild streak.

Last time we collaborated with J Rae, she joked that we’d posted her entire “punk résumé,” so we won’t review her history here. Suffice it to say that she’s been a beloved fixture of Detroit’s DIY community for many years. Recent projects include her Heavy Nettles pop-up restaurant at St. CeCe’s Pub, and her series of fire cider skillshares at Brooklyn Street Local. She also holds the distinction of being the only person in memory to actually start a Trumbullplex show at its posted time! If you’ve got a taste for local, independent culture, then J Rae’s brunch is for you.


After two years of monthly Small Craft events, we decided to take a winter hiatus. Almost immediately, we began to miss our little get-togethers. We missed the hustle and bustle of setting up for an event. We missed seeing everyone’s wonderful crafts at the end of the day. And we especially missed spending time with all of our crafty friends! So we look forward to a reunion at the Spring Brunch. (Even if you’re not participating in the calligraphy class, we’d still love to have your company!) And we look forward to crafting with you in the coming months.

Small Craft Spring Brunch
Saturday, April 12
11:00 – 3:00
Calligraphy at noon
PJ’s Lager House
1254 Michigan Ave.

Planning to be part of the calligraphy class? Please sign up in advance. There is a $20 materials fee.

All spots in our calligraphy class have been filled. But you’re still welcome at our Spring Brunch! Bring your own project, or just enjoy the tasty food, crafty conversation, and sassy greeting cards.

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Second Anniversary Party: Crown Larks, Voluptuous Panic, and Characteristics

November 2013

Our second year was a memorable one, and we want to conclude it with an equally memorable party. So on the evening of Saturday, November 9, we’ll gather at the Trumbullplex to celebrate Small Craft’s Second Anniversary. We’ll enjoy great live music by Chicago’s Crown Larks, West Michigan’s Voluptuous Panic, and Detroit’s own Characteristics. We’ll dance to an eclectic selection of records, chosen by DJ Doctor Doom. We’ll craft festive masks, at the Masquerade Make n Take. And we’ll share free coffee, tea, and homemade vegan donuts.

Of course, the best moments of any party are those that can’t be planned or predicted. That’s why we’re so excited to welcome Crown Larks to the Trumbullplex. Whether wandering through the reeds, rushing across the keys, or digging into some heavy guitar riffs, the band is always seeking out those precious instants of risk and surprise. So while we don’t know exactly what will happen at our Anniversary Party, we do know that Crown Larks will be right there in the thick of it, stretching songs and switching instruments in response to their surroundings.

Us? We’d like to see what Crown Larks do with a sweaty dance floor filled with joyful friends in handmade masks. But it’s not entirely up to us, and that is the beauty of it.

In most ways, Voluptuous Panic honor the conventions of the shoegaze genre. The guitar is as melancholy and hypnotic as rain on glass. The vocals as sweet and soothing as a warm mug of chamomile. But while so many shoegazers get lost in the swirling vapor, Voluptuous Panic always find their way to a sturdy song. And while shoegaze often lulls with repetition, Voluptuous Panic surprises with sudden solos: strange flashes brightening a familiar view.

The rhythm is strong, and the drama is vivid. But the guitars sound brittle, and the synthesizers faded. Characteristics play moody dance pop with an artfully damaged surface. It evokes the scrappy glamour of the Postcard discography, and the scuffed luster of a secondhand stereo. The details overheard in a nearby conversation, and the static obscuring a distant transmission. Spotlight to yard sale, innermost feelings to outermost reaches: Characteristics never stop moving. And once you’re tuned in to their elusive wavelength, you won’t stop moving either.

 Photo: Ashleigh Davis

Photo: Ashleigh Davis

When it’s time to dance, the Trumbullplex turns to DJ Doctor Doom. The Doctor has a profound love of music. (We’ve found him contentedly spinning records for an empty room.) He also has an unerring instinct for what others want to hear. (Once Doom’s dance floor is full, he keeps it that way!) You can look forward to hearing some highlights from his collection before, after, and between the bands’ sets.

 Photo: Brian J Bowe

Photo: Brian J. Bowe

There’s something so liberating about wearing a mask. Put on a new face, and you just may find yourself acting like a new person! At our Masquerade Make n Take, we’ll provide all the tools and materials you need to decorate a mask of your own. Wear it throughout the party, and find out whether it has an effect on your behavior.


“I still dream about the vegan donut I ate at the Trumbullplex this fall,” wrote Amber Sarker of Handleber, a good five months after we last served this treat. Of all our homemade vegan baked goods, the donut seems to be the popular favorite, so we’re proud to bring it back for this special event. And of course, it pairs nicely with our endless supply of free coffee and tea!

 Craft-A-Way Camp

Craft-A-Way Camp

Winter Tour and Craft-A-Way CampGarden Party and Dally in the Alley. Small Craft travelled far and wide in its second year, and we’re grateful to all of you who joined us. Once we’ve taken a brief break to restore and ready ourselves, we’ll be back with all sorts of exciting new plans for year three.

One thing the Small Craft community hasn’t shared yet is a late-night party with live music. (Unless you count the notorious Craft-A-Way campfire!) And as we celebrate the past, and anticipate the future, it seems like the perfect moment to gather our friends together and dance.

Small Craft Second Anniversary
Saturday, November 9
Doors at 7:00 pm
Trumbullplex Theater
4210 Trumbull

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