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.”
Dutson will display her original jewelry this weekend during the ninth annual Craft Lake City DIY Festival, which runs Friday to Sunday at the Gallivan Center in downtown Salt Lake City.
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.
Last year, attendance was more than 20,000.
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 have 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.
Crusading for diversity
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.”
Organizers contacted the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion and identified 10 families that could benefit from attending the event.
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?‘ ”
The Artisan Scholars program is designed to give the participants help in attracting new customers and increasing sales.
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.
A place for refugees
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.
Saadiyah Hassan, owner of Ashikat Kitchen, has been a participant in The Spice Kitchen program since 2015 and is excited to share her Middle Eastern sweets with Utah’s DIY enthusiasts.
At Ashikat, which means “love” in Turkish, some of the dishes will be familiar, like baklava made with handmade 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.
When she arrived in Utah in 2009 — along with her husband, Tom, a native of Turkey, and her son, Haitham — she decided a food business would help honor her father.
“I need to keep going to remember my dad,” she said.
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 last two weeks we have sold out of everything,” she said.
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.”
Getting crafty in the city
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 City
Admission • 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 Lounge
Details • http://craftlakecity.com/diy-festival