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An eye on arts, crafts at Cyclops

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Organizers of Cyclops Fest, returning this weekend for its second year, like to compare their handmade fair to a farmers’ market. At both, patrons buy high quality goods that are locally and lovingly hand-produced directly from those who labored to make them — only instead of heirloom tomatoes, Cyclops patrons can purchase jewelry, apparel, handbags, paper goods, bath products and more.

“Cyclops has this organic, grassroots feeling that you get to meet the artist that actually made something,” said festival organizer DJ Galvin of local shop Urban Handmade. The unique opportunity to meet the craftspeople — and in many cases watch them create their wares on-site — is what drew 3,000 to 5,000 people to last year’s inaugural event and what will likely bring the crowds back this weekend, organizers said.

Cyclops Fest returns on Saturday, Sept. 15, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the John Bryan Center, with booths both inside the gymnasium and outside on the lawn. This year’s event features twice as many vendors at more than 80 stalls, a craft beer garden, live music all day, dozens of do-it-yourself demonstrations and workshops, and a talk by representatives of Etsy, the biggest online global marketplace for handmade goods.

A joint production of Galvin, Brian Johnson of Dayton and Paul Baker of local screen printing outfit Basho Apparel, Cyclops is unique in the festival world for its singular focus on handmade: vendors can only sell items that they themselves have created.

Baker said Cyclops is not like many fairs since exhibitors are preselected or “juried.” In addition, he said, Cyclops “is curated, so it will attract people who are making their own stuff — and hopefully it’s higher quality.”

This year’s live demos run the gamut from jewelry making and T-shirt screen printing to button earring making, sand-painting and live graffiti. Free Mohawks will be offered by Derailed Hair Salon in Dayton and kids can create free “flowerbombs” by mixing wildflower seeds and clay with the help of the Grassroots Enrichment Center, also of Dayton. An eclectic mix of bands and DJs will entertain throughout the day, including Dayton DJ Ruckus Roboticus, armed with a turntable and drum machine, Columbus indie rock quartet Tin Armor, Athens hip-hop group Grey Market, Dayton rock favorites The Motel Beds, WYSO “Jazz Forward” host Nicky Illiopolis and more.

Among the vendors are Columbus-based Lady Creepshow Couture, which makes hair flowers, butterfly clips, necklaces, bandanas, zombie-themed T-shirts and mini top hats inspired by movements like retro, vintage, steampunk, rockabilly, goth, and horror punk, and Ceci and Cela with their air plant terrariums. There will also be Ohio-themed T-shirts, handpainted skateboards and numerous vendors selling “upcycled” products made with recycled materials.

In their first visit to Ohio, Etsy representatives will talk at the Handmade Dayton booth at 11:30 a.m. in addition to checking out one of the big up-and-coming festivals featuring handmade. To be recognized by such a major player in the handmade world is humbling, and means that the festival is already making a name for itself, organizers said.
Galvin said the purpose of Cyclops Fest is to strengthen the community of handmade artists in the region and to provide local shoppers with an alternative to the big box store, since the trend is that “it’s now cool to not have to buy your jeans at Abercrombie & Fitch,” she said.

Johnson said it aims to support the small entrepreneurs vital to the local economy.

“The goal is to keep your dollars local, support the people around you instead of faceless corporations that make your dollars disappear, and work with your neighbor who will be better to you after all,” he said.

Yellow Springs continues to be the logical location for such a festival, organizers said, because the local is already beloved in the village, as shown by the town’s numerous eclectic shops, and because the Village and Chamber of Commerce have been so supportive of the event.
“It’s the perfect town for Cyclops because everyone’s forward-thinking,” Galvin said. “The town itself is wonderful to work with because they love to see different and unique events.”


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