Sunday, June 17, 2007

Renegade Craft Fair

Reading The Onion while waiting for our Brooklyn Brewery tour, I saw this ad:

I knew we'd be heading out to Greenpoint, Brooklyn for the second time in just over a week.

(Coincidentally one of the Top Chef contestants owns a restaurant in Greenpoint, it's called Paloma and she is know for her special infused vodka. We might be back in Greenpoint sooner than Michael thinks!)

The craft fair was interesting, as much for the crafts as for the people watching. But more on that later - first the venue.

As the ad states, the fair was held at the McCarren Park Pool. The ad is very literal as the booths were set up inside an old community swimming pool.

In the photo below, the right side shows the back pool wall. The dark circles were the lights and the booths are sitting on the bottom of the pool. In some areas you can see the blue pool paint chipping away.

On the right side of the photo below people are sitting on the steps in to the pool. Again you can see the blue pool paint on the ground.

I found this pretty interesting, so I did a little web research.

"The pool was opened in 1936 during a monumental summer of public projects in New York. It was the middle of The Great Depression, and the Works Progress Administration opened a series of ten pools throughout the city. They were designed to provide recreation, generate employment, and get people's minds off the economy.
The brainchild of Robert Moses, who was responsible one way or another for nearly all of the city's open spaces, the network of pools would supplement the one existing public pool in the city and become an example of civic generosity.
Moses and Mayor LaGuardia opened one pool every week that summer. McCarren Park Pool, at a cost of $1 million, boasted a capacity of 6800 simultaneous swimmers and was the size of three Olympic pools combined. It was one of the largest public pools in the world. It, like its 9 counterparts, was an immediate success with the residents."

Here is a photo of the pool exterior opening day:

The entry way to the pool boasted an arch over 38 feet high. Below is a photo of the pool in use.

On the left side of the photo people are entering the pool on the same steps as in the photo from the craft fair above. And it is pretty hard to see, but in the back right side of the photo you can see a round object. This is a stone bench seat, there were two that are still part of the pool structure today. When I was walking by I couldn't really figure out what they were (I was thinking maybe a fountain element), but now I can see it really was just a seat.

In the mid-80's the pool was closed for renovation. "Some residents, claiming it had become a magnet for raucous kids and illegal activities, opposed reopening it." The pool deteriorated rapidly.

Below is an exterior shot from early 2000, the grand arch entryway is in a pretty sad state.

And an interior photo, you can see the stone bench structure on the right hand side:

Well after much debate in the community (and it seems to be on-going) the site was renovated and re-opened in 2006 not as a pool but as a community event space. The main use of the space is as a concert venue. The summer concert schedule is an eclectic mix of performers and from what I can tell some concerts are free.

In the picture below you can see the bottom of the grand entrance, it has been cleaned of graffiti and once again majestically welcomes people to the pool.

Below are a few more pictures of the interior of the pool on the day of the craft fair. In this photo you can see the backside of the arch and the pool wall on the left side of the picture.

In the photo below you can see the craft fair tents, the chipping blue pool paint on the bottom of the pool and the steps on the left side.

To the south of the main pool there was a separate pool for diving. The pool has been filled it and now the diving board platform just sits there looking out of place.

Finally - the crafts. This was a hipster craft fair, most of the items for sale had a bit of snark to them. Crafts with an edge - definitely no lace in sight. As with most craft fairs 80% of the items were the same thing over and over: pieced together fabric bags, tons of jewelry, buttons and pocket mirrors with snarky sayings, and t-shirts.

(Aside: Michael and I have been discussing when cynicism turned in to snark and became hip, something to think about....)

Combing through the 200+ vendors I did see some really interesting ideas and managed to find a few things I couldn't live without.

I scanned the event map so you could get a feel for the layout - the black dots are the two cement benches I keep pointing out in the photos. (Not that anyone cares, but it took me a while to figure it out, so I insist on sharing.)

There was an entire booth dedicated to the premise of mustache envy. I bought this kit and plan on sharing with the kids - we'll pretend we're Big Daddy O and put on some glasses with our 'staches.

Sesame Letterpress had a great assortment of cards and coasters. I bought a mystery grab bag and ended up with some gift tags, note cards, and four of these coasters. Love them! I was looking at their website and they used custom letterpress coasters as wedding favors, what a fabulous idea. They sell product to Kate's Paperie and Anthropologie and make custom invitation and coasters. Go to for more information.

I loved the handmade hats, but they were over my budget. Apparently you can make an appointment and have a hat custom made for your head - here is her card in case you are interested:

And I loved this guinea pig print - luckily for me the vendor was using the back of this card as her business card. I was able to get the picture I wanted for free. If you would like to see more from this vendor the website is

Thanks for making it all the way through the blog-a-ganza. The craft fair was really fun and the venue was interesting, I just had so much to share!

Almost forgot, McCarren pool research and historical photos courtesy of the following websites: