If the North Park Craft Mafia were a real crime organization, founders Svea Komori-Ang, Penni Hawkins and Teresa Salazar would be the Godfathers. Fortunately, Komori-Ang and her fellow artists are using their crafty ways to do good, not evil.
Komori-Ang, an artistically inclined animal lover and fabric collector, has dark hair streaked with a purple that perfectly matches her rhinestone-studded eyeglasses. A tiny Chihuahua named Bambi rests happily in her arms, modeling Komori-Ang's latest design—a hand-stitched, camouflage collar covered in spikes.
Komori-Ang started her canine-accessories business, Belle Pepper Couture (www.bellepeppercouture.com), because, first off, she wanted her dog to look good.
“Jewelry that will fit on dogs is hard to find,” she says.
Second, she wanted to create a business with distinctive products that she made with her own hands.
This do-it-yourself attitude is what Komori-Ang had in mind when she helped found the North Park Craft Mafia last summer. She got her inspiration from the original Craft Mafia, founded by nine women in Austin, Texas, in 2003.
Now, almost 40 Craft Mafias like the North Park offshoot have popped up around the globe.
Last week, Komori-Ang and Bambi were stationed outside Filter Coffee House in North Park, where the Mafia hosts its monthly craft show, “Sunday, Crafty Sunday.” Inside, 12 crafters displayed their wares in a makeshift marketplace.
“Our group is about networking, developing our businesses and supporting other San Diego businesses,” Komori-Ang says. “Our big thing is that we're trying to avoid the big mass-produced market that you find everywhere.”
The only rule for the indie-minded affair, she explained, is that everything Mafia vendors sell must be handmade. And though the group must approve everyone's work, anyone with handmade products can apply to sell at Mafia shows. The North Park Craft Mafia's “Spring Line Up” event in March featured more than 60 vendors from in and around San Diego. Most were one-time sellers, since the process to become a full-fledged Mafia member is quite selective.
Currently, just 10 crafters have made the official cut.
Not that the Mafia will ask you to off Uncle Tito or anything, but getting into the group does require a certain level of commitment. But once you're in, you're in, and the group offers the sort of support that most creative folks crave. “When you're involved in this kind of group,” Komori-Ang says, “it allows people to network, build their business skills—we help each other out.” “Sunday, Crafty Sunday” takes place at Filter Coffee House, 4096 30th St. in North Park, from noon to 5 p.m. every first Sunday of the month. The next show is July 6.
The usual suspectsA quick rundown of Mafia regulars The perp: Penni Hawkins The weapon: Sewing machine The business: P-Starr Products (www.p-starr.com) Hawkins is a guitar enthusiast who thought it would be fun to combine her musical side with her crafty tendencies. What resulted was P-Starr, Hawkins' line of patterned vinyl guitar straps, sparkly coin purses and knitwear.“I taught myself how to sew,” she says, “and I just wanted to experiment with the different materials.” In addition to vinyl, Hawkins uses vegan “leather” for the end tabs of her guitar straps so customers can make music in cruelty-free comfort.The perp: Sarah SweeneyThe weapon: Pliers The business: PYP Designs (www.pypdesigns.com)Sweeney says her venture into jewelry making emerged out of necessity. When she began graduate school for international relations, she realized she couldn't afford many of the “pretties” she used to buy and so she started making her own. When strangers began offering to buy the jewelry off her neck, Sweeney knew she had a hit. “There are tons of reasons to appreciate the handcrafted,” she says. “Those who feel passionately for the environment can appreciate the re-purposing of many products and the fashionistas out there can rest assured that when they buy DIY products, there will be nothing else like it.”The perp: Stefanie HistedThe weapon: Sewing machineThe business: Made With Luv (www.madewithluv.com)Homemade and cruelty-free, Made With Luv products—like pillows, photo albums and aprons—are composed of bright retro and vintage-inspired fabrics. Histed, a communications major, admits that she started crafting so she'd have something to do while watching TV. Now, she runs her own blog and website and, one day, the lotería-loving designer hopes to run a website selling other artists' creations alongside her own. The perp: Margaret McLeanThe weapon: Sewing machine The business: The Wee Set (www.theweeset.com)McLean is a modern mama who loves kids, but hates traditional baby prints. The Wee Set offers products for hip babies and parents. McLean initially shunned the ugly burp cloths she received as shower gifts—until they became the most-used items in the house. She started making her own burp cloths that were more her style and they were an instant hit. Besides, McLean asks, “who can resist seeing a little dude/dudette spitting up on flame fabric?”The perp: Teresa Salazar The weapon: SqueegeeThe business: Velvet Klaw (www.velvetklaw.com)With a degree in fine arts, a teaching credential and paralegal training, Salazar brings a wealth of knowledge to her clothing/handbag/jewelry enterprise. In addition to screen printing her own products, Salazar prints North Park Craft Mafia's fliers and all of the group's logo T-shirts. The graphic designer by day also created the Mafia website. Salazar says her involvement in the group “comes from a love of crafting and wanting to do something to promote indie craft businesses.” The Perp: Lisa YednorowiczThe weapon: PaintbrushThe Business: Old Cake Paintings (www.myspace.com/oldcake)Inspired by what she calls “classical retro storybook kind of stuff,” Yednorowicz's paintings are full of color and whimsy. The artist most recently displayed her “funky lady paintings” at North Park's Mimi & Red Boutique in April. At 23, Yednorowicz is the Mafia's youngest member.