Too many times I’ve wander around craft fairs trying to look at tables from a safe distance; one at which I won’t have to engage with their vendors. As soon as I make eye contact with one I feel guilty and a bit anxious. I want them to feel loved and supported and so I find myself saying things like “Oh I love these feather earrings, but I didn’t bring any cash!” or “I’m going to loop around, and then I think I’ll be back.” Even when I don’t love their product. I just can’t handle the pressure of their expectant faces looking up at me. I want to tell them: “Good job! Everybody loves you!” The facelessness of mass production makes it safe to discriminate against products in most shopping situations. There isn’t really anyone to personally offend in a mall. Sales associates don’t really care if I don’t like their store’s new spring line. (Well, most don’t.) But at craft fairs I want to tell everyone that they are special and unique and important and I want to buy everything (except keyboard key based jewelry, natch) but can’t so I just avoid looking for too long and try not to talk to anyone.
In reality of course, vendors are totally cool with me browsing and walking away sans-their-wares. Their faces aren’t expectant, they’re welcoming. I may not love their product, but someone else will. They don’t need me to give them confidence. If they’re making and selling their own products, they’ve got it already. I’ve just gotta chill out and get some confidence of my own.
ENTER: The annual Come as You Are’s Erotic Arts and Crafts Fair where I felt NONE of this pressure and ALL of the confidence.* I arrived late in the day, at the same time as photographer Corbin Smith from the Torontoist, and was glad to witness an intimate gathering of people dispersed between tables in the Gladstone. “Where my bros at?” Corbin asked after scoping out the crowd. The assemblage was mostly made of up of women, some with a few men in tow, others with friends and lovers, and at least one with her mother (cool mom alert!). People were talking, not just amongst themselves in hushed “Should I buy that??” whispers, but to the vendors. People had questions to ask, compliments to give, and vulva cupcakes to buy.
The reason for their conversations could have been the theme: it’s hard not to ask questions when you’re faced with a classic shopping dilemma like silicone fist vs. ceramic dildo. (It’s hard not to ask questions when faced with a latex fist or ceramic dildo, period). Everyone just wanted to get up close and personal with the merchandise (I was personally very interested in the crocheted nipple pasties and Yigi Chang’s cum rags). I was so curious to touch or taste so many items that I broke my safe distance rule at every table. I had lots of informative chats with vendors and overheard a few great conversations as I walked around (“None of these cock rings will fit me!”(!!!…???)).
At Come As You Are’s craft fair I felt no guilt after walking away without purchasing something from each table. From the way the crowd was laughing and lingering at booths I think they had a stress free time as well. I think Come as You Are‘s mandate to “contribute co-operatively” really showed in the interactions with their vendors and the attendees. But from the number of people looking at the dildos and vibrators for sale it was pretty clear that people were supportive of DIY in more ways than one (open mouth wink).
Rating: 5/5 Apologies about that DIY pun.
*Promise I’m done with the “ALL of the ____” speak now, guys. It’s time.**
**’Guys’ on the other hand, now that’s not going anywhere.