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Crafting Community

California artists get inspired by family weekend retreat at the Ace

by Julie Wolfson in Design on 08 June 2012

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For one weekend every spring, several dozen families gather at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs for a weekend of crafting. This is no ordinary organized school event with well-meaning preschool teachers sharing cute art projects to keep the kids busy while parents lounge by the pool. The brain-child of Karen Kimmel, Crafting Community brings together artists, kids, and creative parents looking for a meaningful weekend sharing their mutual love of hand-crafted arts. This year Undefeated, Splendid, and Kid Concierge joined the artists to develop projects using fabric, wood, leather, rope, paint, shaving cream, plants, and even cookie dough.

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The first crafting community weekend that began in 2008 with a few participants has grown to include more than 70 families. "I have always wanted the event to feel like a party in a friend's backyard," says Kimmel. "The programming came from my fascination with traditional crafts and my desire to collaborate with innovative artists and artisans, but the workshops are almost a means to the end of carving out unstructured, creative time for our busy families. We want our families to set their own pace at the weekend – to really savor the vacation time, be present with their families, and indulge their artistic minds."

The heart and soul of the project can be traced to Kimmel's ability to attract charismatic artists. This year's participants Cathy Callahan, Clare Vivier, Rene Holguin, and Tanya Aguiniga shared their expertise with the families and found inspiration to bring home to their own work in return.

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Cathy Callahan was asked to base her workshops on projects from her book "Vintage Craft Workshop". "The Macrame project just seemed like such a natural fit for Crafting Community," says Callahan. "The parents had fond memories of doing it when they were young and it's a great crafting skill for the kids to learn." She loved finding two dads at her station making macramé plant hangers. Callahan searched down pieces of colorful vintage wallpaper for a mobile making workshop that kept the attention of both kids and parents cutting shapes and laying out the placement for balance.

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Handbag designer Clare Vivier attended her first Crafting Community two years ago with her son Oscar. This year Vivier's focus on recycling and material use led to the creation of a wrapped leather cuff project that captivated the attention of the kids and parents. "I knew I'd do something with my scrap leather," says Vivier. "Bags require too much sewing so I thought this would be a great alternative." Once back in LA, Vivier returned to the work left to ready her first store, opening soon in Silver Lake.

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For RTH's Rene Holguin, this year was his first experience with Crafting Community. Holguin brought his leatherworking skills and piles of leather shapes and tools for a family crest project. "I feel it's so beneficial, for kids and adults, to work with their hands," says Holguin. "I'm a fan of family traditions. I thought, this being a family weekend, it was an opportunity to bond beyond a family's everyday connection. It was great to see the dads with their kid on their lap, talking them through it, and working on their crest." Holguin had such a positive experience at the event that he's currently looking into opportunities to share his workshop with inner-city school kids.

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Back for a second year, Tanya Aguiniga talked about finding time in her busy schedule to spend the weekend in the desert. "I participate because I love the idea of having local artists lead crafting projects with families," she says. "I worked in Art Education years ago and have not had much of an opportunity to work with children until Crafting Community. Each year, as I work on my Crafting Community project ideas, I discover new methods of working more efficiently as I problem solve the steps for my workshop."

For one of her projects Aguiniga ombre-dyed strips of Splendid fabric that hung dramatically from a rack for a necklace-making workshop. She also developed a series of modernist henna tattoos. "I was in India this past summer, and I was trying to get a henna artist in Jaipur to give me a minimalist tattoo. He didn't understand, so I came home, bought some henna and did it myself. I told Karen the idea, she loved it and then I began dreaming up cool designs to tattoo on tiny tots. It was pretty amazing to tattoo babies, pregnant bellies and grandmas."

Aguiniga is busy with June shows at the Architecture & Design Museum LA, the California African American Museum and Freehand Gallery, as well as one in July at Marine Contemporary. She can also be found staging Public Crafting: The Political Act of Weaving throughout LA as part of the KCET Artbound project.

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Kimmel is set to collaborate with the Santa Monica Art Museum and local Southern California schools, and will launch a new Kimmelcolors stencil set this year. Her Crafting Community artists are back at work in their studios inspired to keep teaching and creating.

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