When GeekCraft Expo launched in Portland in 2016, the Mercury’s preview, which I wrote, was disparaged and derided on Reddit. I mention this not as a sympathy-grab—as a woman with a public-facing byline, I’m no stranger to inducing ire simply by existing—but because in my experience, to be disparaged on Reddit is to be doing something right. In the case of GeekCraft Expo, that couldn’t be more true.
GeekCraft Expo, which runs this Saturday, May 12 and Sunday, May 13 at (sigh) the Oregon Convention Center, isn’t some overpriced “boys with their toys” science fiction/fantasy convention for adult men who identify strongly with the kids in Stranger Things (NOT THAT THERE’S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT). It’s not one of those things where you have to pay a million dollars to get your picture taken with Mr. Spock. (This may not actually be what happens at a Comic-Con. Never been! While I genuinely appreciate the cosplay hustle, this is simply not my scene.)
GeekCraft appeals to a very specific kind of nerd, a friendly one who loves the kooky musical stylings of Portland expats the Doubleclicks, who still keeps in touch with her internet friends from defunct niche website the Toast, who appreciates the gender-nonconforming subtext of Sense8, who has force-ranked all seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (fifth is best; fight me), and who has tried, probably, on at least one occasion, to make a small felted animal (friends who’ve attempted this report that it’s way more difficult than it seems). This is not the geek most often catered to by superhero franchises, and that in itself makes GeekCraft worth attending.
Perhaps more importantly: Admission is free, and the wares on offer appeal to numerous geeky sensibilities, from Studio Ghibli enthusiasts to those of us who read every available recap of Twin Peaks: The Return in the futile hope of deconstructing David Lynch’s associative cryptogram, to people who may not self-identify as geeks at all.
GeekCraft has slowly been rolling out their exhibitor announcements ahead of Saturday’s opening, and everything is so goddamn cute and nice it might make you forget entirely about such geek culture scourges as, you know, the thing that rhymes with “Lamergate.” You can buy your child knit Wicket W. Warrick ears made by Portland crafter Georgia Renne. Geek Girl Stuff sells very authentic-looking dragon eggs and 3D-printed wands, including one modeled on Ginny Weasley’s signature yew. Seattle’s Frozen Water Designs is bringing mica-infused light-catching nail polish. (Distract your enemies!) Finally get real about your long-running secret love for Jeff Goldblum with a pendant carrying his singular, burnished visage from Olympia’s Tiny Thunder.
But even beyond GeekCraft’s kindhearted aesthetic, what really sets it apart is that the goods aren’t expensively licensed garbage made out of fossil fuels in developing countries under dubious labor practices. Everything at GeekCraft is handmade and comes from small local businesses and designers, so you’re not throwing your money into the greedy, endlessly gaping maw of a Viacom or a Disney. Instead, you’re supporting independent craftspeople—many of them women—who make things you actually want to have on your shelf of beloved trinkets. Besides, one of the complaints I hear most often from adults who identify with the Stranger Things kids is that geek culture has gotten so enmeshed with capitalism that it’s beginning to lose the idiosyncratic charm that gave its original appeal. GeekCraft is kind of the opposite of that. It’s ALL idiosyncratic charm and homemade flair.
Speaking of which: If anyone sees a felted Porg, holler. I definitely can’t make one myself.