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A Ravenswing 2013 retrospective

By Adria May on June 4, 2013

Ravenswing stands out as being one of the more interesting, fun, and accessible grassroots creative events in Ottawa. I went last Sunday, May 26, and there were zines, live music, as well as Do it Yourself (DIY) arts and crafts vendors offering quality stuff. The event had gotten bigger and more bustling than years past. The diversity of participants of all generations and interests, as well as a group of passionate and dedicated volunteers gave the event an incredible energy.

“Ravenswing is a labour of love.” said co-Director Lauren Potosky, who became involved in the event over five years ago. “We are 100% volunteer-based, self-funded and totally [operate on] cost recovery. People help because they love what the fair stands for and believe in creating an accessible market place for everyone in our community. ”

Sean Zio and Faye Estrella originally started Ravenswing when they were looking for a place to sell their handmade zines to the local community. What first started out as a monthly fair organized at the Jack Purcell Centre in 2005-2006 has since grown to a yearly fair showcasing over 100 local artists, free workshops and musical acts. They now have a team of more than eight coordinators and 35 volunteers who help organize the fair every year.

“We share a common love of community and grass roots activism,” added Potosky, who also runs Les Ateliers, which promotes DIY, arts and hand-made movements by offering workshops in Ottawa.

Wandering around the park, I met a number of different folks offering up their own DIY crafts. There were many quality up-cycled items in the form of jewellery and fascinators, stationary products, children’s toys made from recycled fabrics, silk-screen printed clothing items, candles, soaps and other lovely items. The complete list of vendors can be found here, and the good thing is many of them have their own websites so you don’t have to have attended this year’s festival to see or possibly acquire what was on offer.

It was print-maker Kimberly Edgar’s first Ravenswing. She recently graduated from the Ottawa School of Art and had a table of hand-printed posters, t-shirts, tanks, with her designs, which feature insects.

“The reason I work with insect imagery is that I have a fear of bugs which I am trying my darnedest to get over,” said Edgar. “When you draw or otherwise artistically render something, you objectify it, turn it into an aesthetic object. This helps separate my irrational fear from the insect, and helps me cross that fine line between revulsion and fascination.”

Ottawa illustrator Colin White’s work captures street life and architecture in Ottawa, more recently the Elmdale Tavern and Ottawa’s food trucks. He was there selling some of his prints. He participated in his first Ravenswing in 2008. “I liked the fact that it was independent and supported the DIY ethic and smaller vendors. I also happened to meet some of the founders and organizers around the same time, and liked their attitude and vibe!”

Fiona Sant and Michelle Potter, co-owners of the Curious Shop at 159 York Street, were there selling their own crafts from Idi Designs and My Jacket Pocket respectively. “We love the wonderful sense of community we feel when we come here. We always have such a good time with all the artisans, the live music and all the visitors… and it seems to get better every year.”

May was also Sexual Assault Awareness Month and the Women’s Initiative for Safer Environments decorated Minto Park with painted t-shirts on clotheslines, to reflect the messages and experiences of survivors of violence. Ravenswing attendees could make their own t-shirts as part of the Clothesline Project.

Some people came and stayed for the music. Free live music by local acts added to the spirit of the event: The Yips, Winchester Warm, Scattered Clouds, Jesse Dangerously and SaxsynDrum. Ottawa’s Loon Choir helped wrap up the event up by playing an energetic closing show for the day while the vendors packed up.

“Once again the fair was incredible,” said Potosky. “The quality of our vendors and the talent of our local musicians astounds me. I love that all these people come together to bring such a wonderful event to the Ottawa community. It makes me excited to start the planning process all over again in preparation for next year.”

Even though Ravenswing runs once a year, the spirit of the initiative is kept alive through its Tumblr site where you can find zines and reviews.