“We wanted to create an event that would showcase the awesome work that women artists were doing in Portland,” says December Carson, artistic director and co-founder of Siren Nation.
Carson is speaking about the organization’s annual festival, which kicked off its eighth year last weekend and continues through November 12. The Siren Nation Festival features a wide variety of events, including visual art shows, music and theater performances, an art and craft sale, and workshops, along with a networking and mixer night.
“Siren Nation’s mission is to inspire women of all ages to create their own art,” explains Carson. She helped launch the organization in order to generate performance and exhibition opportunities for women throughout the year. Carson hopes to expose people to the incredible work that women are doing in comedy, visual art, music, film and fashion. “We wanted to showcase that different voice,” she says.
The festival’s popular Art & Craft Sale, which took place last weekend at the McMenamins Kennedy School in Portland, featured an eclectic mix of artists, including first-time participant Cindy Clair of awisewoman. “I saw their event announcement and knew I wanted to be one of the creative women in their maker collective,” said Clair.
Clair, who is from Eugene, makes jewelry from recycled and repurposed materials. Each piece began its life as another object before being turned into a necklace or earrings.
Portland artist Alison Comfort of House of Moss, who makes woodland-themed miniatures out of felted wool, began displaying her work at the festival in 2012.
Initially, Comfort participated in the Art & Craft Sale as a way to promote her fledgling business. Now, Comfort returns every year because she feels that “Siren Nation consistently emphasizes our business skills, strength and independence.”
“In my dealings with [Siren Nation], I have always felt uplifted and empowered as a female business owner,” Comfort said.
Emily Riley was excited to return to the Art & Craft Sale for her second year. Riley makes a line of Meanie Greetings through her Portland business, Rx Letterpress. She says that people in her life, including her boyfriend, inspire her cards. She explained that if her boyfriend laughs, then she knows she has made a good card.
One of Riley’s favorite things about crafts shows is trading her work with other vendors. “The high quality of the Siren Nation event guarantees fun trading!” she said.
In addition to exploring the Art & Craft Sale, festivalgoers could attend a variety of free workshops, including “Improv Skills for Real Life,” “Using Art for Activism,” “Funding Creativity” and more.
Overall, Carson is passionate about the impact that the Siren Nation Festival is having on women in the arts and on the community.
“We tell people, ‘Hey, look at what this woman is doing! It is really cool!’ Hopefully they gain fans, they gain exposure, they get some press and they make a little money. Hopefully we give them the confidence to keep making their art,” says Carson.
The Siren Nation Festival runs through November 12, 2014. For tickets and a schedule of events, visit the Siren Nation website.