The oddball at OddMall -- when a craft fair is like middle school

Claudia in middle schoolRemember being back in middle school, and all you wanted was to fit in, get lost in the crowd -- not be picked last for dodgeball or sit alone at lunch?

That's how I felt this weekend at Oddmall, Seattle's first craft festival for unusual artists. There I was, in my colorful little booth (once again co-manned by Mr. Upcycler), all smiles and upbeat attitude. No dragons or Dr. Who or skulls here. And I stuck out like a sore thumb. No, even a sore thumb would've fit in better.

Early Sunday morning, we drove, bleary-eyed, to the convention center in Lynnwood, a very suburby-suburb north of Seattle. It's the last place you'd expect to see a body piercings and ceramic bongs.
Special effects makeup at OddMall
Getting up early really takes its toll.
As we set up the booth, I checked out the other vendors. The couple on our left was low-key, their small table covered in an autumnal cloth and leafy garland. It was their very first fair. They gave off that first-day-of-school excited-scared vibe. She made soap and he sculpted motorcycles out of spoons. Teaspoons. Ok, that's a bit unusual but totally cool.
Sculpture by Everlasting Spoonfuls at Oddmall
A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down...the road.
The folks on our left were more experienced. They were the upperclassmen of the fair. We watched as their booth slowly took shape, box by distressed box. Out came glass bowls and jars. Up went the tall bamboo curtain. What could they be selling? Finally, the guy -- dressed in late 19th century garb -- unfurled a professionally produced banner. Carnivorous plants! Looking hungry and ready to sell in a booth styled like a Victorian arboretum. 
Old drawing of carnivorous plant
His credit card was rejected. 
The fair wasn't even open yet and already I felt like we'd be sitting alone at lunch.

Because our booth was pretty simple (and we'd practiced setting it up), I had time to tour the large venue and check out all the other vendors before the show opened. I admit it, I was looking for someone -- anyone -- as ordinary as I was.
Our booth at OddMall
I thought my shirt was pretty out-there and mod.
I saw piles of skulls. Sculpted skulls, screen-printed skulls, embossed-on-leather skulls, real skulls (I think). And lots of leather. Leather corsets, leather gloves, leather waist bags, leather vests. And everyone else had gotten the memo I'd missed. About black. Black cloaks and black boots and black lipstick and black ear gauges.
Skulls at Oddmall
The extra "p" and "e" in the shop name makes everything ok.
Skulls at Oddmall
It's bad when the alien is the most normal guy in the crowd.
I have to admit, I felt pretty cool just being part of such a hip crowd. Hip and young. Maybe I could finally get that tattoo! That's what I thought -- until the doors opened and the customers streamed in.

Hardy Boys Kindle case
Was the Hardy Boys' Junk part
of your childhood?
My booth attracted the non-black-wearing folks. They'd stop and smile at one of my old book-turned-tablet-cases. "Hey, I read that!" Or "My parents got me that whole set of encyclopedias!" Often, they'd turn to their bored 10-year-old and say, "See, this is what I did when I was your age -- not spend hours staring at a screen playing video games." (No, you spent hours staring at a screen watching the Brady Bunch.)

Suddenly, I realized that my nostalgia-packed booth was the Lawrence Welk of OddMall. (That old-timey reference just proves my point.) Comforting and safe and asexual. OMG. I'm not even one of the students at middle school! I'm one of the lunch ladies!
Cafeteria ladies in 1960s
Actually, both my grandmothers were lunch ladies -- and amazing chefs -- so I have no problem being one too. That's my tough, smart maternal grandmother on the far left. She lived to be 100!



  1. Parts were fun, for sure. Other parts were a little tiring, but that's true for all fairs.

  2. Haha!!! I LOVE your take on the whole experience! I was the "soap lady" to your left, married to the "spoon motorcycle guy". I think you described our look perfectly. It didn't get much better as the day went on, we really didn't know what to expect. I think our whole little row (your booth, ours, and the one on the other side of us) felt out of place. "Steampunk" seemed to rule the day. But, I LOVE your upcycled books! And I didn't think of you as the lunch lady. You were fellow "normals" in a sea of corsets, skulls, and piercings. When we saw the majority of vendors flocking in with their costumes, we were worried we'd be the odd ones out. I was thankful to have you next to us. I only hope neither of you suffered concussions from the falling display behind you! LOL!!!!

    1. Hey, Jeny, so glad you found my post! Also glad that you shared some of my experience. No concussions, but I do have 2 bumps on the top of my head. War wounds, I guess. Think you'll go to the next one?

  3. We are thinking about it. There are some things we would "tweak" before we go. Plus, Jimmy will have to get a few more bikes done. This one snuck up on us, and we had quite a few real life issues hit us, which put us far behind on what we would have liked to have had done to go. I think the second go-round we'd have to go with the expectations of having fun, instead of actually selling anything. The items that got us noticed, and invited, didn't do well. But, my afterthought of bringing the soaps at least paid for the gas to get up there LOL. I really did enjoy watching people's reactions to Jim's bike though. And I feel like it was worth the booth fee for him to hear strangers talk about his work. Until then, he'd only gotten feedback from family and friends. And, they can be a bit bias, and unwilling to be truthful at the expense of "hurt feelings". That being said, I'm not sure about the booth fee x2, for a day of compliments, no sales, falling displays, and that "mysterious God-Awful smell" we experienced all day. It's something we're really going to have to discuss and weigh out.
    What about you guys? Going to do it again?

    1. We're not sure either -- twice as much of everything might be TOO much. I hope we see you both again, though, at another venue!

  4. I'm so glad I found this post-I'm attending Oddmall this year and have no idea what I'm getting into! I'm definitely not an alternative type, and my stuff is more delicate and girly than anything I'm expecting to be there. I hope to see normies there so I don't feel the odd one out! I don't think I even own anything leather...

    1. I love that term -- "normies " -- and I bet you'll be in good company. I'll come look for your booth. Normies unite!


Post a Comment