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Creating a Community by Hand: The Patchwork Show

In this day and age, to make something with your own hands is rare, but the effort and the glory of creating something from scratch and seeing it through to completion is a rewarding experience – something that can be felt in the objects themselves, even after the creator has sold or given the item to someone else. Handmade goods have made a comeback in recent years, and in California that is in part because thanks to the efforts of two women who created the Patchwork Show.

Patchwork Show was founded in Santa Ana in 2008 by the powerhouse craft team of Delilah Snell and Nicole Stevenson. Since that first Patchwork Show, which took place in Delilah Snell’s Road Less Traveled Store with only 25 vendors, people have been flocking to these events from all over the state of California.

Patchwork Show is a unique event that takes place twice a year, rain or shine, in Santa Ana, Oakland and Long Beach. Patchwork offers makers an affordable venue to showcase and sell their goods surrounded by like-minded people and creatives. It provides opportunities to network and build business while encouraging attendees to support local business and be a part of the DIY and creative community in their city.

Each installment of Patchwork is as different and unique as the city and community it takes place in and showcases different makers, collaborations, music and food that reflect that. Patchwork features local vendors selling diverse handmade goods, curated food trucks, DIY crafting areas, artisan and gourmet foods, live music, photo booths, bike valets and gift-wrapping depending on the location and season.

Snell and Stevenson created Patchwork Show together through an organization they call Dear Handmade Life, after a lifelong friendship and appreciation for creativity and DIY attitudes. Both crafty and hard-working, Stevenson and Snell had been dedicated to crafting and creating for quite some time before coming up with Patchwork. Stevenson had been running a handmade business and selling her goods at craft shows, and Snell had been building a creative community and running a great shop in Santa Ana called Road Less Traveled Store, which featured many different kinds of handmade goods and fascinating finds focused on DIY, artisan food education and how to live eco-friendly.

Dear Handmade Life is an everything organization. From online workshops to help you build your small business and creative skills, to podcasts and blog posts about practical business advice and inspiring creative tidbits, to a curated online store with adorable handmade goods, to their fantastic events – Patchwork Show: Modern Makers Festival and Craftcation: Business + Makers Conference.

At the time of inception, Dear Handmade Life was a creative and heartfelt outlet for Stevenson and Snell, who both felt the local Orange County artisan and handmade goods options were weak. Stevenson would trek to big city festivals to sell her handmade goods and to engage with her crafting community while Snell had become frustrated with the lack of free and fun activities and events to do in Orange County.

Within just a few short years, Patchwork went from 25 vendors in a parking lot to six shows a year in three different cities with nearly 200 vendors at each event. The next Patchwork Show will take place on November 25, 2018 in the place that began it all, downtown Santa Ana, at 2nd and Sycamore, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The festival takes over the majority of the downtown area, encompassing several streets and including local shops and museums, as well as some restaurants and bars. Patchwork Show is always free to the public, family-friendly and offers amazing one-of-a-kind goods for the whole family – even the pets. Whether you want a bag made of recycled seatbelts, hand-poured vegan candles, fine artwork, gorgeous handmade jewelry, crocheted fruits and veggies or a quirky t-shirt for your dog, Patchwork Show has everything you could think of – and you won’t find these items on Amazon.

In an area that’s so spread out and so diverse, Patchwork offers people a place to gather and be a community. If you’ve been to a Patchwork Show before, you know that the people at these events are as diverse as the items being sold at the events; but, at an event like this, it truly does feel like a community gathering, and not just another street fair.

Last year, Snell stepped back from Dear Handmade Life and Patchwork to focus on her deli and market, Alta Baja Market in Santa Ana. The market and deli has been a long-time passion project of Snell’s and is now a mainstay in Santa Ana, celebrating the flavors of Mexico, California and the American Southwest. Snell is also a master food preserver and teaches classes on small-batch preservation techniques, as well as pairing workshops and cooking classes.

Stevenson, who is still CEO of Dear Handmade Life, is an active writer, illustrator, maker, teacher and creative business consultant. She is the type of creative that everyone can be friends with – she enjoys every detail of life and finds ways to inspire others to do more and to think outside the box. Her creativity spans every area of expression: She has an MA in creative writing, runs an art-inspired clothing company and an art studio.

Stevenson and Snell created the Patchwork Show because they wanted to see something that didn’t exist. In the DIY world, that’s one of the most inspiring parts – when you don’t see what you want, you immediately start figuring out to how to make it. Snell and Stevenson have given thousands of local makers and crafters the inspiration and opportunity to make their dreams bigger. They are local legends now because of their empowerment in the DIY arts.