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Offbeat craft show@Starland
Brendan Townend, Heather Babb and Meghan Shannon

Crafts bizarre

Day-of-the-dead skeleton rag dolls. Hand stenciled Pee Wee Herman t-shirts. Fuchsia and orange fuzzy felted owls. Wooden coasters decorated with tattoo art.

If this sounds like the start of your Christmas shopping list, skip the mall this weekend and head for the Starland parking lot off Whitaker Street. For the sixth time in three years, indie crafts makers are descending on Savannah for Mutation: The Venue for Misfit Crafts, a street fair of offbeat, sometimes edgy, handmade wares.

Thirty vendors from Savannah, Beaufort, Jacksonville and Atlanta will set up under a giant party tent on Saturday and Sunday—the same days that Christmas Made in the South will be invading the Trade Center.

Mutation organizers see no conflict with the two craft fairs happening on the same days.

“What they do is more traditional crafts. They are artisans, that’s their life’s work. At Mutation, we’re more extra-curricular,” says Meghan Shannon, a Mutation co-founder who’s organized all six of the fairs.

This year Shannon’s neighbor Heather Babb and Shannon’s boyfriend Brendan Townend are part of the planning team. Babb was a vendor last year (felted cupcakes and handmade cupcake greeting cards) and Townend has been involved since the first Mutation as a set-up volunteer and gopher. He’s also the maker of the Pee Wee T-shirt. Shannon specializes in felted animals.

“There is a crafting movement going on,” says Townend. “I don’t exactly know why. It used to be kind of nerdy or weird.”

“Now it’s targeted to a younger crowd,” says Babb.

“We do more second hand, more recycled stuff,” says Shannon. ”There’s a lot of knitting and crocheting, but they’re a little off.”

“There’s no regular pattern,” says Townend.

A fixation with glue guns is one trait that the Mutation team shares with their more traditional colleagues at the Trade Center event. “I don’t use it much but if I didn’t have one I think I would die,” says Shannon. “I have random glue sticks all over the house,” says Babb.

Mutation’s festival tent will share the Starland lot with the Starland Farmers’ Market this weekend, with the space donated by property owners John Deadrick and Greg Jacobs. As in past fairs, Back in the Day Bakery is providing treats and coffee, and BUST magazine is another repeat sponsor.

Shannon and fellow crafter Amy Nieto threw together the first Mutation fair in spring 2005 after meeting through a Savannah thread on, which caters to independent crafters. Held at the now-defunct StarCCA space on Bull Street, Shannon and Nieto deemed their first fair a success after two months of planning, recruiting fifteen vendors and “200 to 300 attendees. Especially since we had no idea what we were doing.”

Shannon and Nieto (who now lives in Las Vegas) were looking for a way to sell their crafts that offered low overhead, and catered to vendors who wanted to keep their prices affordable for the buyers most likely to be interested in indie crafts. That first show, the vendors were mostly SCAD students, plus a couple of “older vendors” selling more traditionally styled crafts.

Now that the show’s reputation is established, most traditional vendors “don’t apply because they know they’re not going to do well,” says Shannon.

Last fall, the fifth Mutation moved to downtown Savannah. Sales were slower than at previous fairs, and the planning team realized their followers are more midtown oriented. “I’m glad we did it. It was a learning experience,” says Shannon.

Now the show is back in Starland, and they’ve added a Friday night party and art show for vendors and whoever else wants to come for a “meet and greet with cheap wine and cheap beer—nothing fancy,” says Townend.

“We’re not really fancy people,” says Babb.

“It was a big thing to go back to Starland this year,” she says. “This is where we live.”

Mutation: The Venue for Misfit Crafts

Starland Arts District parking lot, 41st Street and Whitaker Street

Saturday Nov. 17 11a.m. – 5p.m., Sunday Nov. 18, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Mutation Vendors Art Show

The Bamboo Garden in Starland Lofts, enter via Bull Street or DeSoto Avenue.

Friday Nov. 16, 6 – 10 p.m.

All events FREE admission.

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