Artists create Backyard Art Fair at homes to reach customers

By: Andy Kozlowski, Mike Koury | C&G Newspapers | Published September 22, 2020

 The Backyard Art Fair Sept. 26 will feature 13 artists from Ferndale, Hazel Park, Oak Park and Pleasant Ridge selling their products from their homes and studios. This includes Cris Borowski, of Hypknotica, who uses string to create wearable jewelry.

The Backyard Art Fair Sept. 26 will feature 13 artists from Ferndale, Hazel Park, Oak Park and Pleasant Ridge selling their products from their homes and studios. This includes Cris Borowski, of Hypknotica, who uses string to create wearable jewelry.

Photo provided by Kelly Kaatz

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OAKLAND COUNTY — Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the local large-scale craft and art fairs around Ferndale, Berkley and other neighboring cities were canceled this year.

However, as the summer season wraps up and fall begins, a group of local artists have decided to organize a small art fair in four Oakland County cities.

The Backyard Art Fair will take place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, at various locations throughout Ferndale, Hazel Park, Oak Park and Pleasant Ridge. The fair will feature 13 artists, all from the four participating cities.

Kelly Kaatz, one of the fair’s co-producers, said that after the DIY Street Fair was canceled earlier this year, she and Carey Gustavson decided to get some of their fellow artists together to participate in their own show.

The only difference is that instead of all the artists being located in one space, everyone is hosting their own art fair at their studios or homes. The shows will be outdoors so that people can follow social distancing guidelines, and Kaatz is asking any attendees to wear a mask and to not continuously touch products.

“We’re all gonna be very careful about how that goes,” she said. “I’ve been talking to other people who have kind of done little shows here and there to see how it went, and everybody kind of has a positive reaction, saying that people were really careful, they never had any problems. So we’re just gonna keep an eye on that and hopefully everything falls into place.”

The Backyard Art Fair hopes to help artists who have been without the usual craft shows like DIY and Funky Ferndale Art Fair to sell their products.

Cris Borowski, a Ferndale artist who runs the online shop Hypknotica, uses string to create wearable jewelry and art for her customers. Producing her wares is her full-time job, and though she’s been able to sell her products online, Borowski has been without a huge part of her income with COVID-19 shutting down every large event this year.

“It’s been difficult,” she said. “I’m not gonna lie; that is my income right there. Just with every single profession on the planet right now, we’ve had to step back and reanalyze and get creative. The internet has been a friend for sure, and my fanbase is kind and strong and there’s been a solidarity through that. That’s been wonderful, but it’s definitely not the same as going to a (big art fair).”

Kaatz, herself an artist out of Ferndale who makes functional ceramics such as serving ware and vases, has been able to collect unemployment through her day job, but she said that selling her work depends on these shows and personal contact. Without them, she hasn’t made many sales this summer.

Kaatz said this has led to artists having to reinvent how they can reach their audience. This, in part, led to the Backyard Art Fair.

“It’s kind of a big experiment,” she said. “We just want to see what will happen and kind of go from there.”

Jennifer Xerri, the artist behind Hazel Park-based Starlily Creations, will bring her crochet accessories and other wearable art pieces to the event.

“I’m a freestyle crochet designer and very expressive with color work techniques. I know that really puts people in a happy place when they shop my booth,” Xerri said. “I think that’s especially needed right now during these difficult times. My work is versatile and fun to wear, and very giftable too. With fall approaching, I have a variety of women’s cozy accessories and apparel, all handmade with love.”

“I’m really excited to be participating in this event with other amazing local artist friends,” she added. “I think it’s a great and safe way to support local artisans, and shop small.”

Alyssa Klash is another artist participating, also based out of Hazel Park.

“This is an exciting time to be participating in a show,” Klash said. “I previously owned a business with my ex-partner, known as Artsy Fart, and this will be my first show selling artwork under my own moniker, Alyssa Klash. 

“The artwork I create is inspired by archetypal figures from folklore and mythology that carry a dark and beautiful essence. I am very excited to be revealing more artwork from my Tarot deck series that I have been working on for the past several years.”

Artwork from the deck will be available as 11-by-17-inch prints, as well as pins, stickers and more. Her website is www.alyssaklash.com. 

Borowski said it will be exciting to actually be face to face with people and potential customers.

“A lot of us have just been in a deep, deep quarantine and very, very little interaction with our customers or with friends even,” she stated. “It’s been challenging to get face to face with them, so this is definitely exciting. I feel a little bit out of practice, honestly, but it’s like jumping back in the saddle.”

For more information on the event, it can be found on Facebook under a search for “Backyard Art Fair.

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