This past weekend, UNIQUE LA held their 5th Annual “Made in America” independent design show in the heart of Los Angeles, just thirteen stories up in the California Market Center. I have to say, the creativity and talent flowing through each of the 350-curated vendors amazed me as their unique character and passion for the products just flowed right into you! From a poster-maker to a hand-knitter to a hot-sauce guy to a robot jeweler, I couldn’t be more glad to have been able to attend this event—and talk to some cool people as well!
In just 2010, Meg Frampton of the lesser-known alt/indie-rock sister-duo Meg & Dia picked up her jewelry-making in quieter times at home as a hobby. “If you would have asked a four-year-old version of myself what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up,’” she writes on her website, “I would have exclaimed with glee, ‘I want to be a pop singer!’ Who would have known I would end up designing robot jewelry for your wearing pleasure?”
It’s been seven years since I can say her music had first entered my life, shedding some entirely new light and bringing my little thirteen-year-old self some hope, courage and an enthusiasm into this little thing we call “living.” Over the years I have avidly been following her and her band—whether it be nagging my brother to take me to Warped Tour at fourteen, attending school-night city-ridden concerts in high school, or driving distances for a TV-appearance, I not only loved the music and words they were putting out, but I admired the genuine kind of people they were, as it was almost like I was finding a piece of myself in them. They, as indirectly as it may be, pushed me to follow my own interests and sharpen my gifts as an individual to create the best kind of impact I can have, not only on my life, but on the lives of others as well.
To hear that Meg and drummer-turned-boyfriend Nick Price were pairing up this weekend to sell Chandler the Robot and Bolt Lighting was enough of an excuse for me to go out, support and have some fun of my own at their first independent craft show. Talking with Meg, she told me, “There’s so much amazing creative talent here, and I’ve got so much to learn!”
Over the course of some time in college, I’ve been fiddling with my interests and have found that my knack for writing and love for music could lead me to some great places—possibly including music and event journalism, writing and sharing the stories of others while I share in their experiences myself. One of my latest assignments for one of my classes was to go out and do an event coverage—and who’da thunk it?! UNIQUE LA came right in time for me to do that!
Finding almost no one to be able to drive to this event with me, I became desperate and reached out to one of my high school friends Andrew, who is attending school down here as well, if he would like to come along—and by gods I struck luck! (Last October I auditioned for The Voice’s “Dia’s biggest fan in LA” for kicks, which consisted of ditching school and paying $60 for an hour-or-two AMTRAKing and taxiing myself up to Sherman Oaks. Read about it here.) We hit the road 9a.m Saturday morning and made sure to make it in time for the event’s opening at 11a.m. I was determined to at least make the most of my time there, since I’d be there for only a day. I was curious to see what UNIQUE LA had to offer!
Upon first entering that convention center, the curious seekers and conversation-hadders filled the generally quiet room as vendors were already tending to many on-lookers. As I surveyed the area and looked around the booths with just $80 straddled to my wallet, I eyed a lot of cool little gift ideas for friends and family, sampling tons of freebie Luna bars, Honest Tea, chocolates on chocolates, pies, cake truffles, and more tea… The food was absolutely scrumptious. I later asked a macaron-guy what the difference between macarons and macaroons were (the first being made of almond butter, and the latter with coconut, I had found), and had a full-on conversation with a kooky award-winning hot-sauce guy who never thought his product for his family would lead to him winning a hot-sauce competition and his own business. It was just as pleasing to see a few familiar old vendors that I had ventured into becoming a big fan of at UC Irvine’s Vendor Fair, such as Love Nail Tree and Oh, Hello Friend.
Stumbling across some great innovative and individualistic artwork and posters, pretty light fixtures and “magic wallets” made out of vintage book-covers made my insides soar with glee! I couldn’t help but snag one of these adorable cards created by The Little Red House, or these neat little wallets designed and handmade by the man behind Magic Industrie himself!
What struck me the most was how passionate and down-to-earth these people were. From sampling chocolate delicacies to asking to take a picture in front of a light fixture, the vendors were more than happy to talk about their work with you as they were so passionate about it. Isn’t that where passion stems from, anyhow?
By the time I worked my way to Meg and Nick’s booth, I asked them how setting up and their days have been. Nick told me they were there since 9p.m last night figuring ways on “how to make that green wallpaper stay” for the booth they were setting up. I have to say that I loved seeing all of their work put together collectively, since it had always remained just separate images I had seen online. Their booth looked absolutely amazing and I loved how simple yet intricate it was! Meg was saying how Dia, sister and former band-counterpart with Meg, kept going back to the booth every hour with excitement saying, “This looks so cool!”
I told Meg about my broken-clasp on her “Leaving on a jetplane” bracelet, which she said she would gladly repair; and, unknowingly, she gave me her “Giraffe” bracelet for keeps! After I inputted my mailing info into her iPad, it didn’t quite process in my mind that she did that until I left the booth. (She’s such a gem!) I snapped a photo with the two as she noticed my friend Andrew’s SF poster, and she then told us about her sister Jade who was dropping by later in the day who drove down for a friend’s graduation. She told me to totally go tell Jade that I read her blog, for she’d love it (but I never got the chance to meet her, unfortunately. I wonder what she thinks of that place I call home!).
After going around some time, I spotted Dia randomly shopping around with a friend (which I wasn’t quite expecting, for I’d no idea she’d be dropping in as well). I ran into her five or six times throughout the entire day, approaching her once in which she was caught a little off-guard—or “aloof” as Carlo, guitarist of Meg & Dia, would say. (This was the second time I’ve seen Dia in this setting, just as when I met her and Carlo in the Farmer’s Market of the Grove last July. Read about it here.) As the busy-little-bee that I was throughout the day, on a mission to interview some vendors and event-goers, I looked fervently for gifts for my family (oh indecision is killer!) and sampled more and more yummy treats. I ran into Carlo and his wife later as he recognized me and Meg & Dia’s long-time manager Mike Kaminsky when he found me lurking around after he texted me he was there. The last thing I’d expect was for the day to turn into a band-reunion of some sort!
After I had finished interviewing an enthused event-goer, the hot-sauce creator of All Spice Cafe, the event producer of UNIQUE LA (in which I found invaluable information from), and Meg Frampton herself, it was already rounding up into the end of the afternoon. My eyes were struggling to stay open, my legs were starting to tense up, and my energy was dying from the sugar-filled diet I had all afternoon. More and more people flooded the room (maybe getting a little warm in there) as vendors continued to chat, sometimes relax, and answered questions for event-goers. I’m pretty sure I walked around the place collectively about 10x—yes, still seeing if there were any little presents I might want to bring home—as some of the vendors seemed to recognize me! One adorable Asian man selling bath salts with his family called out to me, “You’re back?!” (His bath salts were magical, I might add.)
It was an exciting day running around trying to take the time to really bask in the hand-crafted foods, products, artwork and trinkets offered, and seeing to the vendors and event-goers, recording quick Vine videos and snapping shots of everything… And yet, throughout the day of running into all these familiar faces, I was experiencing a familiar sort of “excitement” and “anticipating” sort of feeling that reminded me of that little thirteen-year-old girl who begged her mom and nagged her brother to let her go to Warped Tour in 2007…
As the event was approaching its close at 6p.m, I decided to go back and visit Meg’s booth to say bye to Mike and the band. I noticed a guy who was with them and reluctantly asked, with hesitation, “Aren’t you MySpace Tom?” He smiled back and said, “Yes I am!” Mike was telling him how I listened to the band’s music ever since I was a little girl as Tom asked me what was their first show I went to. I mentioned how I fondly remember seeing the band on the front-page of MySpace as Nick replied, “That was the happiest day of my life.” Tom then thought that I was “the sister who was supposed to eat dinner with them” when he saw me sitting on the bench across from the booth. One of the mothers added, “Yeah I thought she was too. I mean, I’ve seen pictures of the sisters and I thought she was one of them!” Tom and all of them were saying how I could pass as one of their sisters, with even Nick agreeing and nodding his head. I told them that I’ve been getting that a lotlately (and if you’re an avid reader of my blog and Meg & Dia-followings, you would know that ever since Dia went on The Voice, every event I’ve gone to has always consisted of a stranger telling me that!). He then asked what I was—“…Japanese?”—which I corrected as Filipino, and he said he should’ve known! Hah. (It is flattering to look like the ones you’ve looked up to in your life, but hey—I’m my own person too, and I think I’ve reached that point where I can look past the giddy-excitement and just take it as a humbling compliment.)
A lot of people look at me and tell me, “You’re so lucky.” I’ve met a handful of amazing and interesting individuals over the years—from a YouTube star hitting on me to meeting a Disney starlet who put my video on her page. They laugh at the things that happen in my life when I indirectly break boys hearts or those who try to play slick when I sit on a couch playing video-games at a party. As this band has been the first real encounter for me growing up—who has also weighed the most importance to me over the years—they’ve made meeting anybody such a humbling experience for me (six years’ practice I would suppose!). What makes meeting and chatting with this band so different from the others is that I have a genuine interest and respect for what they do (and I find myself being interested in the same things—talk about finding a piece of myself in them again, ya?). But, growing up, I never really vocalized my support to the band even though I always met them at every show I’ve been to. I’ve always laughed at those who got all giddy when they saw popular faces and, when it came to this band, I knew how much they meant to me—whether I showed it through YouTube covers, blog posts, concert reviews, video recordings, photos, attending TV-appearances or “auditions,” for Heaven’s sake! I showed my support by actively going out and genuinely loving the moment—whether they knew me or not (I just wanted to be friends with them!). And yet, one thing led to another.
Although anyone would be all gaga at the idea of being able to hang out and genuinely get to know their “role models,” I, with my experiences with the band and, as of late, being able to really chat with them, feel just blessed and humbled enough to have been able to go this far in being able to know them like this. (I owe the extremely nice and down-to-earth manager Mike Kaminsky for all of it! My sincerest and hugest of thanks to that kooky and kool dude.) I can say that getting back into my thirteen-year-old self’s head that I would’ve never imagined in a million years that I’d be able to see them as much as I have been. It’s weird—stuff and things just happen. You go to this and you go to that. Whether they do ever get to know me as well as I know them (it’s sad to know you can know so much about someone yet they know nothing of you) remains a mystery. But, I feel so blessed to have had that moment in my life where I was able to “let go” and just “do me”—because I’ve always wanted to do the music, the writing, and the traveling myself. Which is maybe why I felt I’ve always identified with them. As I have my own things in my life that I’m doing, who knows where my interests and career choices will take me. But one thing’s for sure–-Meg & Dia have created a community within themselves and, I may be able to say that I have found myself to have become a part of that community as well—and that has been the most humbling thing I could have ever owed to myself.
That mentality of forcing myself to go out of my way and sporadically “drop everything and go” has given me my most craziest and weirdest of experiences to date. I definitely have grown with the band myself growing up, for looking at my meek experiences with them years back almost embarrasses me! But, being able to attend UNIQUE LA and enjoy this culture as much as they do themselves was a great feeling. It was awesome being able to meet and chat with like-minded people whom I don’t often find back home or at school. One girl I had talked with told me, “I just like how people make [stuff] and make it into a business. … It’s everyone’s individuality set out there. You can just tell how everyone is based off of their stuff.” Also, my conversation with the hot-sauce vendor was equally entertaining as he commented, “It’s an awesome show. You’ve got all these amazing vendors, and I couldn’t sell [my stuff] fast enough! I’ve done every [show] since then.”
The passion flooding from these people is amazing and particularly inspiring to witness. People want to talk. People want to have a good time. People want to eat each other’s food and spend time with DIY-crafts. Nothing’s like buying and supporting from the community for the community. These are people just like us, which makes their crafts that much more personal and meaningful. Attending an event like this has shown me a great new appreciation for the art in buying and supporting from people just like yourself.
So, I tell you here on out… Show some love for your community! I find that too often people have grown scared and shut-off from each other, that the love and openness and willingness to be with others is hard to find. Put yourself out there and do what you do. Once you take that first step, you’re opening yourself to so many opportunities! And that doesn’t go just for one thing. It applies to all of us, whatever community we’re in. Whether you’re that band-geek or groupie or homebody or foodie…being open can take you a long way. And it all starts with taking that first step.