Looking down on Benefit Street from the top of College Hill Saturday, only a sea of bobbing heads was visible — adults, children and dogs all making their way slowly through a vibrant crowd. Myriad tables lined both sides of the street, displaying the creations of student and alum vendors at the Rhode Island School of Design’s annual fall craft fair.
RISD Craft: Fall 2022 featured the work of over 130 artists affiliated with the school. Both current students and alums showcased their art, which ranged from prints to ceramics to clothing. Some sold jewelry while others offered kitchenware. One booth consisted entirely of repurposed steering wheels.
While alums filled a sizable portion of the fair, RISD students presented their work in a separate designated section.
Brown-RISD dual degree student Dexter McChesney ’24 sold various blown glass projects for the first time at RISD Craft last year and returned once again this fall. He described Saturday’s fair as “a lot better than last year’s fair (with) a lot more activity.”
RISD senior Lena Luo sat next to McChesney and also sold blown glass pieces. She sold her work at RISD Craft last year, and had previously been involved in two other artist markets.
Both McChesney and Luo noted that they ended up selling much more than they initially expected.
“I mostly do it for the experience and exposure, but I sold quite a lot yesterday, and that was awesome,” McChesney said. He was also grateful for the opportunity to simply show off his work.
McChesney sold about 25 items worth around $500, he said. While this sum was much greater than his total last year, it was still low compared to other vendors, he added. “The prints sell a lot better than a glass object, so I’m assuming people get more there,” he said.
“My expectations were to sell half or most of my pieces and at the end of the day we almost sold out,” Luo, who sold about $880 worth of art, wrote to The Herald in an email. “I have only two pieces left in my possession.”
Luo added that she received unexpected commissions from people who purchased her art at the fair.
McChesney said that the work he sold during the fair differed somewhat from his typical pieces. He explained that the items he sold were not created for his own studio practice, but instead were the pieces he had made for fun or thought looked interesting.
“If I didn't sell my art it wouldn't be accessible to everyone because I need to survive and enjoy life. If I didn't sell my art, I wouldn't have the time to make my art. And I value art, and I value accessibility, and survival,” Luo wrote.
The artistic prowess on display translated into an enjoyable experience for attendee Isabella Yoo ’25.
“The fair offered an opportunity for me to witness firsthand the artistic talents of people from all different walks of life,” Yoo said. “Whether pottery or prints or clothing or painting, each artist's work was unique in its own way.”
“Even last year when I didn’t sell much, it was fun because people saw my work and that was a big confidence boost,” McChesney said.
“I think the fair went well,” Luo wrote. “I think the fact (that) I did much better this year compared to last year just means I've gotten better at blowing glass. I can finally make truly beautiful things and the fact that people agree and are willing to pay for that really validates that.”
RISD Craft occurs each fall and spring. The spring fair is currently slated for RISD’s commencement and reunion weekend in early June.
Rya is an arts & culture section editor from Albany, NY. She is a junior studying English and Literary Arts, and her favorite TV show is Breaking Bad.