While it was once a gallery-focused event, First Friday has always boasted a solid presence of vendors. But under the festival’s new ownership, that presence has expanded with a broader array of crafty expression, from purses made out of hardcover books (Ammy Miller’s Burses) to handmade plush toys (Sarah Flake’s Flaky Friends).
First Friday curator RC Wonderly attributes the diversity to growing interest in the event Valley-wide—and more applicants hoping to sell wares. “For every unique offering, like cigar-box guitars, we also see more traditional artists and painters participating, as well as people who make jewelry,” Wonderly says.
With 65 artists and artisans, the Sept. 7 event is slated to have the highest number of participants since a group of Zappos associates took over First Friday last year. Meet four of the craftiest creatives.
These days, Marlene Reid operates a venue that pops up at The LOT, 201 E. Charleston Blvd., just east of the Arts Factory. There, 30 or more local artisans and craftspeople, working under the name Handmade in Vegas, hawk wares. For a long time, prior to First Friday’s change in ownership, the group strived to be officially included in the festival, but found themselves excluded by the paint-and-canvas crowd.
“I knew our product was appealing and attractive to the public, but we found it challenging to be a part of the arts community downtown,” Reid says.
After getting licensed and permitted to set up in the asphalt lot next to Artifice bar a year ago this August, Handmade in Vegas has raised its visibility and been welcomed by the new First Friday organizers. Sure, 75 percent of The LOT’s participants are Handmade in Vegas members, but the event continues to accept applications, and vendors are juried so that certain standards are maintained.
Reid herself is a recycle artist who works exclusively with trash—bullet casings, unplayable vinyl records, cigar boxes, old casino games pieces and whatever else people discard—which she transforms into wearable and functional art pieces. Her specialties include scrabble tile bracelets, found objects and aluminum-can jewelry. She’s also opening a shop next month in new Art Square (1017 S. First St., Suite 185) adjacent to Artifice Bar called Vexed by Design. The shop will offer items created and designed by Southern Nevada artisans. HandmadeInVegas.com.
Richard Fairall has been making custom handmade pens for six years, ever since watching a pen-construction segment on television’s Texas Country Reporter. The retired civil-service engineer and Navy enlisted man moved to North Las Vegas in December 2010. And when he’s not mountain biking he’s busy building pens, from his $20-a-pop slim-line rollerball series to his high-end ($80-$125) fountain pens—Art Deco, Majestic Jr., Cigar Clock.
“A pen is a personal thing,” Fairall says. “Every time you write, you see it, feel it, and it becomes an expression yourself. And when someone asks, ‘Who uses a pen anymore?’ you have the answer in your hand. Besides, buying one is instant gratification since you’re acquiring functional artwork, really.”
Rick’s motto? “Life’s too short to own a boring pen.” He’s the new kid on the First Friday artists’ block, having participated in the event for the first time in March. You can find him on Casino Center Drive across from the Funk House, and it’s the only way to get a pen from him since he’s not selling via the Internet.
“I couldn’t keep up with online sales,” he says. “I’m too picky about quality. If I pumped them out in terms of volume, the quality would definitely plummet. Right now, 30 pens a week is pushing it. All I’ve done is turn my hobby, my passion, into a little profit.” RWPensCollectibles.com.
At first glance, five-year First Friday vet Valentina Eagar’s interests resemble those of Wednesday Addams: taxidermied bats, beetles, butterflies, tarantulas and scorpions. But the booth that Eagar oversees on Third Street, right around the corner from the Gipsy Den, isn’t aimed at goths alone.
“I try to appeal to every kind of market,” she says. “If someone’s looking for gothy stuff, I have that. But if they’re looking for something fun for their kids’ rooms, I have that, too.”
Her cartoony paintings of her character Martina the Night Owl and friends (a monkey, caterpillar, bat) are fun, and also appear on the furniture and other pieces that she sells at this event. Eagar’s specialty, though, is Steampunk/Victorian/rocker-grunge jewelry. Most of her pieces include broken things—guts and gears of watches and things from the garage, such as lightbulbs, wire, nuts, bolts and screws.
“Basically I take anything that looks old and distressed and use it to make earrings, necklaces and bracelets,” she says. TattoosOnCanvas.com.
Always Say Dye
Every First Friday, the line for the Vegas Henna stall, on Casino Center Drive in front of the Funk House antique shop, can be more than 50 people deep, meaning it’s a long wait to see Melissa Ure. One by one, attendees of all shapes and sizes sit down with Ure so she can decorate their flesh with elaborate flowers and spirals, complex patterns and motifs.
Henna is a desert shrub used to dye things since ancient times. Leaves from the plant are dried and ground into powder, which Ure mixes with lemon juice and oils.
“I order wholesale from Pakistan,” she says. “It comes out every summer and is stamped with the crop date, so you know what you’re getting is good.”
Since 2005, Melissa has been practicing her henna art at festivals, private parties and corporate events up and down the Strip. But her First Friday customers are her favorite, since they allow her to completely “freestyle” on their bodies, letting her imagination pour out—peacocks, paisleys, whatever.
“First Friday gives me a lot of room to be creative,” Ure says. “It’s meditative, and I enjoy getting lost in the details.” VegasHenna.com.