After years of engaging with a national nonprofit known as American Craft Council by attending marketplaces and reading articles in American Craft magazine, a queer Minnesotan artist named Kasey Payette recently joined the organization as a marketing specialist. Payette brings over a decade of marketing and communications experience to the organization, which will undoubtedly uplift artists supported by American Craft Council. She is a published author of stories and essays who is looking forward to the upcoming American Craft Made marketplace coming to Saint Paul RiverCentre on October 7th-9th.
In its 35th year, the marketplace is the place to find unique handmade goods and connect with hundreds of nationally renowned artists. These artists specialize primarily in contemporary jewelry, clothing, furniture, and home décor. For those who cannot make it to the show in person, there will be an e-commerce component opening up the show to craft lovers everywhere from Monday, October 3rd until Sunday, October 16th. The event draws thousands of attendees primarily from the Twin Cities, where American Craft Council is headquartered, as well as western Wisconsin.
The esteemed artists include locals such as internationally acclaimed hat designer Karen Morris, woodworker Benjamin Leatham, jeweler Karin Jacobson, wearable textile artist Susan Bradley, furniture maker Craig Johnson, and porcelain ceramic artist Stephanie DeArmond. Hailing from Silver Bay, Leatham locally sources all of the lumber he uses to make his wood-turned bowls and hand sculpted utensils. The jewelry from Minneapolis resident Karin Jacobson includes hand fabricated wedding rings and other unique creative pieces. Bradley’s wearable textile art has been described as luxurious and architectural.
Although Payette is a literary artist, she notes how much writers and craft artists have in common and how vital those ventures are for the queer community. “I think there is a natural resonance between LGBTQ+ folks and the arts,” declares Payette. “Queerness is a creative process in itself, as we are creating lives and identities outside of the dominant cultural narratives. For me, this means valuing difference over conformity, which transfers to my aesthetic. I am energized by surrounding myself with the kind of beauty that challenges norms and pushes the form.” Some of the artists that Payette thinks best represent her sentiments include Jeremy R. Brooks, Sheila Pepe, and Sylvie Rosenthal.
Additionally, Payette notes that the AIDS Memorial Quilt, started in 1985 by activist Cleve Jones, is the largest ongoing community folk art piece in the world, to our knowledge. She remarks a specific connection between queer people and textile or fiber arts. Textiles evoke feelings of community care, homemaking, and gentleness, which she states as values integral to the queer community. Craft practices with gendered histories such as quilting and crocheting are subverted by contemporary artists like Harmony Hammond, Josh Faught, and Ben Cuevas.
One can find Payette’s work like “An Egg is Still An Egg” in the Blue Earth Review, which is an essay that reflects on craft. Some pieces that can be read online include short story “Courtney” in Juked, as well as “We’re Not Weird About It” and “Preserves” in Water-Stone Review. She is actively working on a book-length collection of essays and has a novel manuscript in progress. One of her favorite places to write is Open Book, which has also been important in her development as a writer. Despite being an English major in college, she feels like taking classes at the Loft and participating in the Loft Mentor Series Program within Open Book were what took her writing to the next level. Her other favorite places to write include Caffetto, Sisters’ Sludge, any cabin in the woods, and spots out near bodies of water. When she is not creating art or working with other creatives, she finds that hiking, swimming, and cooking help her feel grounded and are necessary to open up space for creativity away from screens and the bustle of everyday life. Using handcrafted goods like textiles or pottery also contribute to a sense of groundedness, which is one reason why she is so drawn to craft.
As Payette’s path increasingly crosses with a wide variety of craft artists both socially and professionally, she expresses her gratitude for how craft brings people together. She describes her attendance at iron pours and kiln firings as a privilege. One of the reasons why she is eager to work for the American Craft Council is that one of her core values is viewing artistic expression as vital. Since she has spent most of her adult life doing marketing and communications for nonprofits, she wanted to use her experience to contribute to the wellbeing of art communities. Please consider supporting the work of Kasey Payette and the artists she supports through her new role by reading her literature or visiting Saint Paul’s American Craft Made in October.
When: Friday, October 7th, 2022. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday, October 8th, 2022. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday, October 9th, 2022. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Where: St. Paul RiverCentre
174 West Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55102
Tickets: $15 for a one-day pass in person. Advance tickets are $10. Entry for American Craft Council members and children 12 and under is FREE.