By Brian Kindle
Ask a hipster to describe their perfect day, and you’d probably end up with something a lot like the upcoming 3rd Annual Pabst Blue Ribbon Crafting Challenge. A seven-hour craft-off and celebration taking place on Saturday March 5th, the Challenge contains all things beloved by those mustachioed, fixed-gear-riding types: local art, handmade clothing, jewelry, and crafts items, and live music provided by an excellent line-up of Philly bands. Oh, and PBR, of course. Lots and lots (and lots) of those red, white and blue ribbon-bedecked cans.
Thing is, for all the mockery heaped on them, hipsters tend to like pretty awesome things, and the PBR Crafting Challenge is no exception. Held this year in the cavernous events space at 2424 Studios in Fishtown (2424 East York Street), the Challenge is a hybrid crafts competition, concert and Pabst-themed party. More than 20 artists and crafty types (professional, amateur and somewhere in between) hawk wares or display pieces influenced by PBR, the vast majority of which are created exclusively for this event. The public ogles, admires and (hopefully) buys, while “a secret panel of judges” covertly appraises each vendor’s table to determine the finest entries and award first, second and third-place prizes. The event runs from 3 PM-10 PM, and a mere $8 suggested donation gets you in the door and all the beer, or rather, “PBR-themed refreshments” you can drink.
Soundtracking the merriment is a rock-solid series of local bands, including TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb, An American Chinese, Dangerous Ponies, Levee Drivers and Cheers Elephant. It’s a line-up carefully selected by Crafting Challenge mastermind Julie Raboczi, who sees the inclusion of live acts as a way to elevate the event beyond just a crafts fair and also highlight a music scene she loves. “At every Crafts Market, we’ve had 4-5 bands play per each show,” Raboczi says. “I go to a lot of shows, and I’m a big fan of the Philadelphia music scene in general,” she continues, “and I try really hard to match the event with the music. I’m very particular about it.”
A huge part of the fun of the event, according to Raboczi, is witnessing the sheer variety and creativity of the items on display. “We’ve seen everything from handmade giant PBR quilts to tiny little scenes with PBR logos,” says Raboczi. “There’s tons of jewelry, a lot of silkscreened apparel, notebooks, silkscreened goods in general, a lot of humorous stuff, some hipster-type apparel for sure, a lot of hand-sewn goods, coasters, and lot of housewares in general.”
Images of PBR cans and bottles abound on items for sale, as well as the iconic Blue Ribbon itself. Some entries, however, take the concept in more fanciful, abstract directions. “This year, I believe there’s a guy who’s doing a photo-booth where you can get your picture taken as a can of beer or something like that,” Raboczi says, and that kind of originality can pay off: “[One of the winners] last year had knitted a whole bunch of PBR cans together and she had them in a big bath tub, like a bath tub type of display with fake Pabst suds.”
The Challenge is one of several craft fests organized by the Philadelphia Independent Crafts Market throughout the year. That name is a little misleading- the Market is neither a fixed location or group of people. Instead it’s mainly Raboczi herself, a one-woman show who enlists bands, recruits vendors, secures locations and generally does the hundred small tasks that make a show like this possible.
Raboczi is herself a crafter (mainly working in vintage and reconstructed jewelry) and she started the Crafts Market in 2008 after being frustrated by a lack of outlets for selling her own goods. The Market originally held shows every month, many of which were sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon. With more options these days for small crafters, Raboczi cut back to one-off events instead of a regular schedule.
From the start, however, the PBR event was a keeper, both popular with the public and a nice way for Raboczi to say thanks to her benefactor. “I just thought [I could do it] as a thank you to the company for supporting the Market; they not only support the Crafts Market but they tend to support a lot of little grassroots independent art and music events,” says Raboczi. “And I know there’s a lot of people that are Pabst Blue Ribbon enthusiasts in the Philadelphia community,” she continues. And even if you’re not quite as much of a fan of the stuff right now, Raboczi says that “everyone gets in the mood, because they drink PBR all day.”
In a sense, the Challenge is intended just as much as a service to the audience in attendance as it is an outlet for the vendors and artists, a chance to connect artists and makers to the general public. Hence the abundant PBR, quality bands, and overall effort to make the show fun and accessible, even if the concept of a Pabst-logo tea cozy might not appeal to you on paper.
“It’s important to provide a venue for the community to buy things that are handmade, directly from the artist who made them,” Raboczi says of Crafts Market events. “People go to these events and shows, and once they have that experience of buying something from somebody, buying a handmade thing directly, they see that it’s a much more special experience, they’re connected to that item in a new and different way. And it’s awesome, it’s better quality, and often times less expensive, even though you might not think so.” That’s an experience anyone, hipster or otherwise, should have.
The 3rd Annual PBR Crafting Challenge takes place on Saturday, March 5th, 3 – 10 PM, at the Skybox at 2424 Studios (2424 York St., Philadelphia, PA, 19125). $8 suggested donation at entry. (And on a side note, our Art Director, Sharon Farnell will have a jewelry table set up at the event. Stop by and say hi!)