FLINT HANDMADE AND A CITY IN RENAISSANCE
MARY KATHERINE QUASARANO
THURSDAY FEBRUARY 23rd, 2012
Some people have suggested that Flint’s best days are behind it. Clearly, these folks haven’t been to a Flint Handmade event, and they certainly haven’t met Crystal Pepperdine. As the founder of Flint Handmade, an urban crafts movement, and as a proud urban homesteader, Pepperdine is very adamant that Flint’s very best days are ahead. “Flint is a fantastic place for enthusiastic people like me,” she chirps. It certainly is. Her story is about a renaissance woman assisting a city in a renaissance of its own.
Flint Handmade began in 2007 as a part of the Greater Flint Creative Alliance, a local grassroots arts activism organization. “I attended the very first Detroit Urban Craft Fair, sponsored by Handmade Detroit, and immediately decided that Flint needed handcrafting events, too,” shared Pepperdine. Handcrafting, as defined by Pepperdine, is “…the perfect marriage of beauty and functionality.” After two years, there was enough of a demand for handcrafting events that Flint Handmade became an independent organization. Several friends and fellow crafters (Jessica Nickola Planck, Michelle Stolz and Amy Kelsey) helped Pepperdine start and maintain Flint Handmade in its first independent years.
As the friends left to pursue personal goals and dreams, by 2011 Flint Handmade was being run solely by Pepperdine, who had applied for and received 501(c)(3) non-profit designation through assistance from Wayne State University’s Small Business and Non-Profit Clinic. This valuable designation has allowed Flint Handmade to apply for grants and accept tax-deductible donations from supportive individuals from within the city as well as “Flint ex-pats” from as far away as Arkansas, Maryland and California. These two funding sources, as well as assistance from several dedicated event volunteers, have allowed Pepperdine to grow and expand programming.
That expanded programming now includes eight to ten craft lab workshops, two craft swaps (material exchanges between crafters), two large markets, participation in three community events, and five skill share workshops. In addition to these events, Flint Handmade has a permanent working shop display selling handmade goods from at least 15 local crafters at The Lunch Studio in downtown Flint. Pepperdine celebrates and lauds the willingness of the restaurant’s owner, Tracey Whelpley, to support creativity by supporting crafters. “I hear from people who attend our events, or see our work at The Lunch Studio. They share their gratitude that Flint has a group like Flint Handmade; they are thankful for the opportunity to participate in the revitalization of the city.”
Pepperdine has a full-time career at the University of Michigan – Flint, and for the past eight years she has managed four interdisciplinary graduate programs, including the new Master of Arts in Arts Administration. “It may sound a little unusual, but I consider administration my art. I truly enjoy the development and implementation of programs and projects,” shared Pepperdine. “My ideas for supporting and promoting the handmade movement are like a painter’s ideas for the canvas. The events and initiatives that I help produce are my works of art.” She calls Flint Handmade her “vocational call.”
But wait, there’s more.
Pepperdine and her fiancé Russ Bedford are urban homesteaders. An urban homestead is defined by urbanhomestead.org as “…a successful, real-life working model for sustainable agriculture and eco-living in urban areas.” Pepperdine and Bedford own a home in the city, and they tend an 800 square foot vegetable garden plus fruit trees, nut trees, berry bushes, along with all kinds of herbs and flowers. Pepperdine cans jams and jellies and she describes crafting (quilting, paper craft, stained glass and pendants) as her hobbies. The couple’s next project is the construction of a greenhouse.
Where does Pepperdine get her “juice” – the inspiration and motivation to keep up enthusiasm at 12-hour swap meets and other events; to maintain the Flint Handmade blog and Facebook page, and thrive as a professional manager of graduate students and programs? She describes her juice this way: “…there is always one person at every Flint Handmade event that walks in, looks around, and their eyes begin to gleam and become wide with wonder. It’s as if their face is saying, ‘I didn’t know this existed! These are my people!’ Those people are having the same reaction to Flint Handmade that I had to Handmade Detroit in 2006.”
Some people have suggested that Flint’s best days are behind it. Clearly, these folks haven’t been to a Flint Handmade event, and they certainly haven’t met Crystal Pepperdine.