Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lexie Barnes: Twist, a Craft Fair

Twist 2.0 from Digit all HD on Vimeo.

I started my very first business at a local craft fair (surprise!), a lemonade stand at the Old Town Art Fair in Chicago. I was six or seven years old, and my business partner was my older brother; my investors were my parents, who paid for the ingredients and supplies. We kept track of our expenses and our sales, and we worked shifts and took breaks and hired friends to help out. The art fair brought out the creative entrepreneur in the whole team, and it was a thrill every summer.

Even though thousands of people came from all over to attend that fair, to me it was a community event. It was a time when all the neighbors came out to celebrate and support the arts and each other. The kids trolled the fair in packs while the adults shopped and visited with one another. My parents and grandmother were often volunteers, many family friends exhibited their work, and local restaurants offered their tasty fare.

I haven't been back to that fair in many years, although my happy memories of it are always with me and have served as the inspiration to create a show of my own. After founding a theatre company, launching my own label of handbags and accessories (, and writing my first book (, I finally did it. Together with my husband and business partner, Cory Barnes, I started a new craft fair called Twist ( in Northampton, Massachusetts, in the fall of 2008.

Twist is very different from my first craft fair experience back in Chicago. For starters, we kick ours off at night, with a live DJ, spotlights, locally brewed beer on tap, and a spinning disco ball — we call the opening night the Market Party. And we do it indoors, so we can hold it twice a year, in May and November. For me the feeling is exactly the same: Twist is a community event that draws in a mighty crowd from all over. It's a festive place for friends and family to meet and shop and discover beautiful handmade wares. The response to Twist from the artists, the attendees, and the Northampton-area residents and business owners has been overwhelming and wonderful. Twist is something I am very proud of, and it's my goal for each show to be even better than the previous one.

Twist 2.0 will be held May 1 and 2 at the Northampton Center for the Arts in Northampton. This time my eldest son has asked to work with us at the show — and I can't wait to see what his first job will lead to down the road.

Lexie Barnes is the author of Sew What! Bags, and the creator of a line of women’s bags and accessories that bear her name and are widely available in stores throughout North America and on her Web site, Her craft bags have received rave reviews from BUST, Vogue Knitting, Adorn, and, among other publications. Her most recent line features her own custom fabrics. She lives with her husband and four sons in western Massachusetts. 

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