Milwaukee’s past and present are stuffed with maker-friendly arts-and-crafts extravaganzas. Influential events like Art Vs. Craft and Gallery Night And Day have laid the handmade groundwork for the Urban Garage Sale, Maker Market, Maker Faire Milwaukee, and NEWaukee’s massive Night Market. Now, a new homegrown market looms on Milwaukee’s DIY horizon: the Counter-Craft Night Market, set to debut Friday, July 15 at Company Brewing.
Counter-Craft is the brainchild of Milwaukee artists Rachel Stenman and Amanda Mills. Stenman is a self-taught silversmith and an artisan who does freelance work with local theater companies. Mills is a multi-disciplinary artist and one of the former organizers of Cocoon Room. Both women stumbled upon the idea for a Riverwest-based night market after a chance meeting at the 2016 Milwaukee Psych Fest at the Cactus Club.
“I’ve been a vendor at Milwaukee Psych Fest for the past two years,” Mills says. “This year, [Psych Fest organizer] Andrew [Shelp] asked if I would run the vendor area, contact people, and coordinate it. I actually knew Rachel before this event, but it was the first time we had talked on this level. The Psych Fest market ended at 5 p.m., and we were like, ‘Man, everyone is coming after 5. It would be cool if we had lights out here.’ It kind of spun out from that.”
“The idea was also buzzing around in my head,” Stenman adds, “because my sister, who lives in Berlin, Germany, runs night markets over there. It’s kind of her thing.”
Remarkably, it was less than 24 hours later that the nascent market had a home: the outdoor patio of Company Brewing. Explains Mills: “Since Company Brewing opened we became friends with [owner] George [Bregar]. He’s very open to events. He wants to expand the wings of this place and show it in a new light. I brought the idea up to him the next day and he was all about it. ‘Yes, have it here.’ He’s been very helpful.”
Similarly, it didn’t take long before Counter-Craft had a full list of vendors, including jewelry makers, artists, illustrators, herbalists, and more. (Stenman: “We tried to get a little bit of everything.”) Mills chalks the strong response up to Milwaukee’s thriving craft scene. “People are looking for outlets and markets like this,” she says. “I seem to know a ton of people who are getting more involved in crafting and making stuff. When we put this out there we got a ton of responses.”
“A TON of responses,” Stenman adds. “We didn’t solicit anyone. Everyone has been coming to us.”
Friday’s event intends to create a “dreamy atmosphere where local artists, creators, crafters, and small businesses alike can share their hard work in a relaxed nighttime market setting.” It will be the first in a planned three-part series. In addition to the expected collection of artists, makers, and crafters, there will also be live music. Johana Rose and Stephanie Lippert will perform as a jazz duo on the outdoor stage, while Lex Allen and Siren will both turn in rare acoustic performances. Inside, Q The Sun and friends will keep things lively into the night. Bermuda Triangle will provide a specialty drink bar, while Company Brewing will serve its own beer both inside and on the patio.
Despite Counter-Craft’s name, and the fact that it’s happening during the same week as NEWaukee’s Night Market, Stenman and Mills don’t see it as a rival event. Instead, it’s simply a chance to celebrate the creativity of the neighborhood it calls home: Riverwest. “I’ve been to the NEWaukee Night Market,” Stenman says. “I think I was at the very first one, and it’s huge and super, super busy. With ours, we’re doing something to enhance the neighborhood. We’re definitely a different flavor.”
“It’s something to do on a Friday night that doesn’t necessarily involve being in a standard bar atmosphere,” Mills adds.
The inaugural Counter-Craft Night Market will take place (rain or shine) Friday, July 15 at Company Brewing, from 7 p.m. until midnight. A full list of vendors is included below.
After School Special
B Man Vintage
Tyler Poncho Toys
Shelby Page Ceramics
Ashes in Ether
Kari Oaks Embroidery
Shannon Connor Prints and Zines
Art of Shannon Lee
Books to Buttons
Intuitive Tarot readings by JenKnee
Henna by Luna Moon
Typewritten poetry by Anja Notanja Sieger and La Prosette
Traveling bar by Bermuda Triangle
Scenic backdrops by Kristina Rolander