Craft Lake City Wanted to Be More Diverse — so It’s Giving Scholarships to Single Parents, Refugees and Others

Asia Dutson gently waves the golden flame of a soldering iron over a strip of silver, waiting patiently for the metal to “speak” to her.

“It shows me where it wants to go,” said the owner of Salt Lake City’s Asia Raine Designs. “That’s what is so exciting, every piece has its own personality. It can’t be replicated.”

The market brings together more than 200 Utah-based artists, tinkerers, food producers and vintage vendors to celebrate the state’s do-it-yourself talents, from quilters and jewelers to potters and bakers.

Dutson, a single mother of six, is able to participate as one of five recipients of Craft Lake City’s new artisan scholarship program.

The goal of the program is to expand the diversity of artists and include underserved populations — from minorities and single parents to refugees — who might not normally get the chance to participate, said festival founder Angela Brown.

Recipients get their $300 booth fee waived, take a three-hour course in business and marketing and are assigned an experienced DIY Festival alumnus who mentors them in all aspects of the show, from merchandising and booth design to credit-card payments on a mobile device, Brown said.

While her children were young, Asia Dutson was a stay-at-home mother who dabbled in pencil and ink art. “I wasn’t in the workforce for 25 years,” she said. “I got divorced and my whole situation changed.”

She went to work as an office manager to pay the bills, but found her creative spark in 2014 when she learned how to make jewelry. She specializes in silver, copper and gold.

“I really found my passion with metals,” she said. Whether she is heating silver for a stone pendant or creating patina on a copper bracelet using ammonia and vinegar, she finds the alchemy fascinating. “It’s a playground that is magic,” she said.

The artist scholarship program is the second step in the festival diversity crusade. Last year, Brown, who lives in Salt Lake City’s west side, was looking for a way to get underserved communities to attend the festival.

“There’s a stigma about our neighborhoods,” she said, “and I wanted to break down the misnomers.”

Board members met the families at the entrance, gave them a tour of the festival and provided vouchers for food, children’s crafts and merchandise. Removing the practical and economic barriers was so successful, Brown said, “we thought, ‘How can we take this into the artisan side of things?‘ ”

Brown said the first step to finding the artists was removing barriers in the festival’s digital application process. “Not everyone has internet access or a cellphone with a camera,” she said.

Teams set up events at local libraries, helping artists fill out applications and write biographies. A professional photographed their art and uploaded it to the application site.

Those who received the scholarship had to be first-time artisans at Craft Lake City and meet certain financial requirements, said Brown, who hopes to expand the program next year. She also sees a need to offer child care. “For these communities, especially the refugee population, they want to participate but can’t be gone for three days without a child-care plan,” she said.

As part of the diversity effort, Craft Lake City reached out to The Spice Kitchen Incubator, which provides refugees and immigrants education and resources needed to build a viable food business.

At Ashikat, which means “love” in Turkish, some of the dishes will be familiar, like baklava made with hand-made phyllo dough, nuts and honey; or dolmas, rice and vegetables wrapped in grape and cabbage leaves.

Others items will be less familiar, including the slightly sweet kunafa — Arabic noodles, filled with a soft cheese and topped with pistachios and honey syrup.

Born in Iraq, Hassan grew up in Jordan, where her parents owned and operated a restaurant. By the age of 7, she was cooking for her younger siblings. After the sudden death of her father when she was 14, Hassan stepped in to help her mother run the restaurant.

She gets encouragement during telephone calls to her 77-year-old mother, who remains in Jordan. “She is so happy when I tell her how much the people love our food,” said Hassan, who caters events through The Spice Kitchen and also sells at the weekly farmers market at Wheeler Farm in Murray.

The exposure at Craft Lake City should help her follow in her parents’ footsteps, she said. “In the future, I want a small restaurant and bakery.”

The ninth annual Craft Lake City DIY Festival showcases the works of more than 200 Utah-based artisans, tinkerers, food producers and vintage vendors. Don’t miss the Kid Row youth makers and local performers on two stages. New this year are two workshop and demonstration areas, where participants can make and take DIY projects.When • Friday, Aug. 11, 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 12, noon to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, Aug. 13, noon to 7 p.m.Where • The Gallivan Center, 239 S. Main St., Salt Lake CityAdmission • One-day pass, $5; three-day pass, $10; children 12 and younger, free; VIP ticket, $25, includes admission to one day of the festival plus access to the VIP LoungeDetails •

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