Art in Old Town

A few weeks ago a good friend of mine came to visit from DC. She had already been to most of the touristy spots here in Chicago, so I wanted to show her around a few of the eclectic neighborhoods in the city. Because the Wells Street Art Festival in Old Town is one of the “must do” events here in Chicago, I decided it would be something fun to go check out.

On Saturday and Sunday, Wells Street was lined with hundreds of artists looking to showcase and sell their work. The art featured was of a diverse variety – including jewelry, photography and 3D sculptures. The price tags for the larger pieces (including the gorgeous panoramic photo canvases I was in love with) were fairly hefty, but you could purchase many of the smaller items at a reasonable price (including the vintage key necklace Meredith bought!)

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One of the booths that really caught our eye featured Renee King; an artist who creates oil and acrylic paints as well as mixed media art. Her paintings were heavily influenced by the underground jazz culture in Florida, featuring saxophones and other instruments in vibrant, sultry colors.

As I went to snap a picture on my phone, Renee ran over quickly to see what I was up to. She said that in the past, individuals have tried to zoom in on her paintings with DSLR cameras, looking to recreate them. After chatting with us for a bit, Renee let us take a photo of her booth area (guess we passed her test!)

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As we made our way down Wells Street towards North Ave, we came across some very odd 3D pieces – including bizarre ceramics and animal-like sculptures created with wire.
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The event was entertaining for both adults and kids alike. It was nice to get out and enjoy the beautiful day with my girlfriends, and our furry friends as well!

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Serving Up Your Monthly DOSE of food and fashion

It was a packed house last Sunday at DOSE Market, a year-round, monthly flea market catering to Chicagoans interested in food, fashion and fun. Held at the River East Art Center in downtown Chicago, the event featured 54 vendors serving up handcrafted designs, tasty cocktails and local homegrown foods. Launched in 2011, DOSE market’s popularity is steadily growing, with about 1,500 shoppers socializing, eating, networking (or just plain people watching) at each event.

As I walked around soaking in the sights and aromas from the different booths, I had the chance to speak with several artisans and entrepreneurs eager to show off the designs and products they worked so hard to produce. I’m excited to share their stories with you!

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Emmy Star Brown

As I began perusing the aisles at the market, Emmy Star Brown’s creations caught my eye. Emmy is a Chicago-based artist that creates freehand designs on salvaged glass windows and frames scraped from local alleys and flea markets. Her background in graphic design and love for doodling combined with her interests in type, pattern and movement serve as an inspiration for her designs. Over the past 3 years, she has resurrected more than 300 glass windows from the streets of Chicago.

Emmy’s biggest accomplishment to date is her recent partnership with Sharpie. As she uses various types of Sharpie pens for her whimsical designs, this seemed like the perfect match. She was designated as a 2012 Sharpie artist and featured as one of the stars in Sharpie’s 2012 ad campaign. Emmy’s artwork is also featured on the cover of Sharpie’s Facebook page as well as digital banner advertisements featured on popular websites such as MTV and Fuse.

Emmy’s designs are best described as whimsical, smooth and seamless – no stencils are ever used (amazing right?!)

For custom art inquiries and more information on Emmy Star Brown, please visit www.emmystarbrown.com.

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Heritage Bicycles

As I continued to make my way around the market (and take advantage of the drink tickets!), I ran into Arlan Derussy, who was working away on a unique vintage bicycle. Arlan is the head mechanic for Heritage Bicycles, Chicago’s original bike café. This café combines two concepts – bikes and coffee – creating an environment quite different from your average Starbucks.

Heritage Bicycles, created by Michael and Melissa Salvatore, is the epitome of a community bike shop, which has developed into a place where people can bring their kids, parents and friends to watch a bike being built – or just hang out with coffee and a laptop.

The bike frames are made in Chicago and built from local materials. Arlan’s responsibilities include design work, building, and fixing bicycles. “One week I’m building a bike and the next I’m building a sink,” Arlan said. “I like working for a new company that’s constantly changing and growing.”

Every bicycle is handmade and unique. All of the bikes are vintage inspired and custom built, attracting people that like to bike in stye, Arlan said.

On the Heritage Bicycles website, their concept is described as a “shop that feels like home, looks like your favorite memory of a city you used to visit, and smells like the best coffee you’ve ever had.”

This sounds pretty convincing to me. Check them out at www.heritagebicycles.com and 2959 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago.

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Real Soaps

One of the most enthusiastic vendors at the market were the folks at Real Soaps, Jason Cox and Shamus McClain. After looking at the ingredients in many commercial soaps and cleaning products, they decided to make something of their own. Real Soaps are made from vegetable based oils and natural ingredients. According to Jason, they wanted to develop a concept in which their soaps were as close to nature as possible.

Each bar is hand cut and the wrappers are made from brown paper bags. All of the materials are repurposed and made from recycled material. With 10 different scents including wintermint, lavender and vanilla, and peppermint, Real Soaps has something for everyone.

“We wanted to develop a product that’s great for your skin and the environment,” Jason said. “I like to know that just by doing something as small as showering every day, I am making a difference.”

And hopefully you will too. You can purchase Real Soaps at realsoaps.etsy.com, or like them on Facebook at facebook.com/real.soaps.

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Sir & Madame

Wondering where you can snag a funky handkerchief or retro riding pants?  The folks over at Sir & Madame definitely have you covered. Brian and Autumn Merritt are a husband-wife duo that own a men’s and women’s boutique on Damon Avenue in Chicago.

What makes their store unique? They bring in clothes that are traditional silhouettes; carry unique prints and eccentric accessories; and even have their own Sir and Madame lifestyle brand. The Merritts best describe their private label as “classic with a twist.”

I have such a love for fashion and I’ve always been involved in it,” Autumn said. “It just seemed right for us to fill the void in Chicago for an equal representation of men’s and women’s wear in a boutique space.”

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To find that perfect accessory or outfit, make your way to www.sirandmadame.com or 938 N Damen Ave, Chicago.

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Local, handmade, reusable – those were the words I heard repeated throughout the day as I explored DOSE Market. What I noticed (and loved) was that everyone had such a strong connection to Chicago – whether they had just moved here, or, like Mike Salvatore’s family, have been in Chicago for 5 generations. Although I’ve only been here 6 months, I hope to develop the same sense of pride for my new city.

If you live in the Chicago area, I highly recommend checking out the next DOSE Market on May 12. More information can be found at www.dosemarket.com.