October is my favorite time of year in a lot of ways. Football games on the weekends, people suddenly getting very creative with their use of pumpkins, and of course, Halloween descends upon the city. For those of us lucky enough to live in Albuquerque, we also have the October Octofair.
The Octofair, which takes place this Sunday, Oct. 27, from 10am to 3pm, is a twice-yearly arts and crafts fair created by The Octopus and the Fox, a locally owned boutique crammed full of gifts, art, clothing and more. Located next to the shop itself at 514 Central SE, this outdoor craft fair features over 30 different vendors, each selling their own unique works of practical or whimsical creation, from found-art earrings to Day of the Dead paintings.
“We wanted to host a craft fair that was open to everyone, as well as affordable,” explains Jessi MB Campbell, one of the consignment shop's owners. "Lots of craft fairs in town charge so much to get a booth that you don't end up making any money.”
Four women, including Campbell and Belita Orner, formed The Octopus and the Fox back in 2010. Campbell and Orner now co-own the shop and curate all the merchandise sold there. Popular items run the gamut from hand-painted postcards to t-shirts silkscreened with roadrunners proclaiming “I ♥ New Mexico.” Vintage goodies like checkered dresses and polyester ties from the ’70s—the kind your (grand)parents might've worn—are also in demand. Campbell and Orner each have their own work for sale in the store as well, as do the half-dozen artists who volunteer their time there.
“Our volunteers are the lifeblood of The Octopus and The Fox,” Campbell says. She explains that it started out with friends who volunteered their time simply to help with the workload. Eventually they began to offer a higher consignment percentage to artist-volunteers, causing the shop to feel more like an artists' collective than a mere retail store. This arrangement is a “win-win,” as Campbell puts it.
The artists who work at The Octopus and the Fox “bring different energy and enthusiasm to the shop, and have helped plan and work events,” Campbell says. Events like the Octofair. Many who sell work inside the shop on a daily basis will have booths at the fair, giving the public an excellent opportunity to actually meet some of the creative minds behind these handmade treasures. People like Alaska Piper, who fashions her own brightly-striped hula-hoops in three different sizes, or Dagwood Reeves, who sculpts and paints papier mâché animal masks. His foxes, cows, mice, and other creatures currently hang inside the gift shop, lined up in rows and just waiting to be tried on and worn out for Halloween.
Another one of the shop’s regular contributors, photographer Justin Simenson, will also be at the fair. He sells full-color rectangular magnets depicting birds, flowers and other natural subjects, but on Sunday, Simenson will focus on fairgoers. His booth on Sunday is a photo booth where people can stick their heads through the holes of hand-painted signs to pose as either an octopus or a fox.
Of course, if you’d prefer to pose as something else, those coming to the fair on Sunday dressed in costumes receive a free raffle ticket. Tickets may also be purchased, since prizes, including t-shirts and gift certificates, are being awarded to fairgoers throughout the day. If you have kids, bring them along—the day features games like a bean bag toss and “Giant Jenga.”
Besides a carnival-like atmosphere, Octofairs always highlight great local music, so check out the classical guitar strumming of emerging favorites Cameron and Fabrice and other fun acts like Billy Crooze and Jackson Volcano. All of this entertainment is bound to stir up an appetite, which is why Soo Bak Food Truck is serving up their delicious Korean “Seoul” food, everything from spicy pork tacos to vegan sushi rolls. Pop Fizz, the Barelas-based paleteria, provides the desserts. But this carnival’s not done yet—Etherea Belly Dancing will also be performing part way through the day.
The Octopus and the Fox has worked hard these past four years to run a store that is full of one-of-a-kind items, and this weekend they channel that same enthusiasm into a craft fair. Games, raffles, music and, of course, lots of handmade art, clothing and ephemera. With the holidays just around the corner, the October Octofair is a great chance to score creative gifts for your loved ones directly from the people who made them. If supporting local artists and playing “Giant Jenga” won’t save the world, then I don’t know what will.