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More than 170 craft vendors will come together at Union Market on Saturday and Sunday. Left: A shoulder bag by Awl Snap Leather Goods. Photo courtesy Awl Snap Leather Goods. Right: A planter by Foxwood Co., a woodshop based in Annapolis. Photo courtesy Foxwood Co.

Crafty Bastards is like a real-life Etsy, a fair that brings together more than 170 independent artists who make jewelry, accessories, clothing, ceramics, home goods, and many other pretty things. This year's lineup has a bunch of new names--including one who makes hand-drawn rubber stamps... of your face. (Seriously, one vendor sells portrait stamps.) Project Runway season one winner Jay McCarroll returns this year; here are six other artists you shouldn't miss.

Elizabeth Benotti Ceramics

Fourty-four bucks may sound outrageous for a cup, but think of all of the amazing things you could do with one of Benotti's gorgeous herringbone ceramic pieces--it could be a toothbrush holder, a fancy salt box, or even your designated water cup. Benotti makes them in her studio in New Hamphshire, where she hand paints each piece and inlays her drawings using a Japanese mishima technique. (Bonus: She also sells flasks.)

The Zen Succulent

You could try making your very own terrarium, or you could stop by the Zen Succulent for a very cool hanging one. Plus, they're super low maintenance. All you have to do is mist them once a week.

A photo posted by Foxwood Co. (@foxwoodco) on

Foxwood Co.

This family-run, Annapolis-based woodshop makes home goods, most notably, succulent planters that are like little works of art. This geometric cedar planter ($48) is charred to a beautiful matte black.


Local designer Sarah Bayot creates earthy jewelry with touches of quartz and cord. Kicheko sales benefit a primary school in Uvira, Democratic Republic of Congo by providing students with scholarships.

A photo posted by Krissy Callahan (@earthcadets) on

Earth Cadets

Earth Cadets sells totes, scarves, wall art, baby bodysuits, and home decor pieces made from organic, recycled materials. The brand's hand-printed kitchen towels, napkin sets, and pillows are sold in vibrant colors and patterns--including these nifty polka dots ($16).

A photo posted by @awl_snap on

Awl Snap Leather Goods

Stop by this vendor's booth for functional bags in clean, classic designs. Everything, including this petite green shoulder bag ($148), is handmade in Virginia--usually with leather that's a byproduct of the food industry. This one doubles as a backpack and bucket bag ($235).

Crafty Bastards takes place at Union Market on September 26 and 27 from 10 AM to 5 PM. Tickets are available online for $5.

Posted at 11:17 AM/ET, 09/25/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Fair-goers can watch the "Best Bud" finals at 4:15 PM. Photo courtesy Shutterstock.

Saturday's DC State Fair will host its usual contests for the best compost, home-brewed beer, and pie. And, thanks to some recent changes in city law, this year's fair will also feature a contest for marijuana. The "Best Bud" contest, sponsored by Let'sGrowDC!, pits a handful of homegrown entries in the battle for top pot.

Pulling off the competition required a careful reading of DC's laws. When narrowing down the 56 entries into five finalists, the contest's judges worked in waves so they never had dozens of ounces of marijuana in their posession. (The marijuana-legalization statues allow adults to possess up to two ounces.)

Contestants strolled into the judging space with their buds, handed them over for inspection, and then left with their entry. Judges aren't testing for taste or quality of high. They didn't even try the stuff.

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Posted at 01:59 PM/ET, 09/11/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Step inside this shipping container, and you can start a conversation with someone from Tehran, Herat, or Havana. Photo by Elizabeth Bick.

Imagine stepping inside a shipping container and coming face-to-face with a live feed of a stranger inside another container in Tehran. Thanks to audio-visual technology, that's exactly what you can experience September 10 through 15 during the NextNOW Fest at the Clarice.

These so-called "Portals" operate like wormholes, connecting people in Washington to people in cities like Herat, Afghanistan or El Progreso, Honduras. A translator stands on the opposite end, enabling a 20-minute conversation between two people who live in completely different parts of the world. Inside these gold-painted containers, though, they might feel like they're in the same room.

Prompts serve as ice breakers: "What would make today a good day for you?" or "Where do you feel safest?" It sounds like an introvert's worst nightmare, but that's usually far from the case. "People come in quite nervous," says Amar Bakshi, the DC native who created the project. "They come out saying it flew by. It was unlike any other experience they've had before."

Bakshi, a former Washington Post reporter, launched the project in December 2014 with the hope of enabling conversations between people who wouldn't typically meet otherwise. Even though interconnectivity has never been easier, Bakshi says, social media can ensconce people in a closed network, rather than introducing them to strangers. Portals use technology to accomplish the exact opposite--to connect people instead of alienating them.

He started developing the idea when he traveled abroad for a Post project. While reporting in 12 different countries, including Pakistan and Venezuela, he realized his most memorable experiences occurred on the long bus rides between one city and the next, where he struck up conversations with complete strangers. Once he got back home, he began brainstorming ways to re-create those serendipitous encounters using technology. "People find connections," he says. "It's our natural tendency when we're one on one."

So far, the project has connected about 3,500 people across the globe. In April Bakshi's collective, Shared_Studios, installed a Portal at Georgetown's Davis Performing Arts Center that was connected to Herat. In June, on Woodrow Wilson Plaza, they installed one connecting DC to Herat, Tehran, and Havana.

With a reservation, participants at the NextNOW Fest can chat with strangers in Afghanistan, Mexico, Honduras, or Iran. Artists will also connect with each other for live-streamed performances at the Clarice.

Shared_Studios recently installed a Portal connecting people in DC's Woodrow Wilson Plaza with folks in Tehran, Havana, and Herat. Photo courtesy Shared_Studios.
A portal at Yale University connected New Haven and Tehran. Photo courtesy Shared_Studios.
A portal under construction in Herat. Shared_Studios counts on "Portal curators" across the globe to help with the project's logisitics. Photo by Omid Habibi.

Posted at 10:05 AM/ET, 09/02/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
A panel at last year’s AFI Docs. Photograph of AFI panel courtesy of AFI Docs.

After a year with no full-time director, AFI Docs hired Michael Lumpkin, who arrives at a key time: The festival recently shifted most screenings from Silver Spring to DC, with more documentaries chosen for their potential impact on policymakers. But it’s not just about targeting wonks. “You have to know your audience,” he says.

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Posted at 06:00 AM/ET, 06/09/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
See Benedict Cumberbatch (center) in “The Imitation Game” at this year's Middleburg Film Festival. Photograph by Atlaspix/Alamy.

AFI Docs

A panel at last year’s AFI Docs. Photograph of AFI panel courtesy of AFI Docs.

Formerly known as Silverdocs, this festival sponsored by the American Film Institute puts socially conscious documentaries in front of policymakers who might even do something about the subjects. After-parties, which have drawn the likes of Spike Lee and Al Gore, don’t actually require a hipster beard or a PhD for admission; the only must-haves are the festival’s app and a good pair of walking shoes for venue-hopping. Insider perk: Become a film screener (or volunteer) and attend for free.

When: June 17 through 21.

Attendance: 11,000.

Where: Six screens in Penn Quarter, three at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring.

Bragging rights: Taxi to the Dark Side, Man on Wire, Searching for Sugar Man.

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Posted at 08:45 AM/ET, 06/01/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
About 8,000 people attended the Hindu festival in Potomac. By Lauren Joseph, Emily Codik
Hopefully that wasn't a brand new T-shirt. All photographs by Lauren Joseph.

Cherry blossoms weren't the only attraction in Washington this weekend. About 8,000 people attended Holi DC, a Hindu festival in Potomac celebrating the start of spring. On Saturday and Sunday, festival-goers participated in "rainbow throws," which involved throwing vibrant powders at one another and covering themselves in patches of color. There was vegetarian food, music by kirtan musician Gaura Vani, and lots and lots of laundry to be done. Here's a peek into what you may have missed this year.

FREE ADMISSION FOR ALL - Register now at

Posted by Holi DC on Sunday, February 15, 2015

Posted at 03:45 PM/ET, 04/13/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Catch Luc Jacquet present his Oscar-winning film "March of the Penguins" at the Environmental Film Festival.
Global swarming: King penguins on South Georgia island in the documentary "The Penguin Counters." Photograph by Harriet Getzels.

March offers several film festivals, encompassing everything from internationally acclaimed documentaries to locally produced shorts. Here are four to keep on your radar:

Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital

Various Venues

This year's festival goes on thanks in part to a $15,000 contribution from the National Endowment for the Arts. More than 150 films, including several DC, US, and world premieres, examine climate change, endangered wildlife, clean-water issues, and related topics. A highlight: Filmmaker Luc Jacquet presents a survey of his films, including the Oscar-winning March of the Penguins and Ice & Sky, a new work. March 17-29; selected films $10 to $12, others free.

Northern Virginia Jewish Film Festival

Opening night, Theater J; other screenings, Angelika Mosaic

See 16 contemporary films focused around the Jewish faith or made by Israeli artists. Top picks include The Green Prince, a thriller based on the memoir of Mosab Hassan Yousef, a Palestinian who spied for Israel; Arlo & Julie, a quirky tale of a couple who become obsessed with the mysterious daily delivery of puzzle pieces to their doorstep; and Above and Beyond, about the early days of the Israeli Air Force. March 19-29; $12; festival pass $64.

Bethesda Film Fest

Imagination Stage

Filmmakers from the Washington area will be around to answer questions after their five short films at this festival, making it an excellent chance to familiarize yourself with local talent. Be sure to catch The Stillbrave 100, which chronicles Springfield runner "Tattoo" Tom Mitchell as he completes a 100-mile trail, dedicating each mile to a different child with cancer. March 20-21; $10.

Annapolis Film Festival

Various Venues

Catch 70 documentaries, narratives, and shorts, plus Q&As and panel discussions. Don't miss the searing Oscar-nominated documentary The Act of Killing, in which members of an Indonesian death squad reenact the murders they committed. March 26-29; $12; festival pass $105.

Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 03/11/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Kendrick Lamar will headline. By Kristen Doerer

The Sweetlife Festival will be held on May 30 and 31 at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Tickets for the festival went on sale Friday morning, so if you’re interested in seeing Kendrick Lamar, Calvin Harris, the Weeknd, Pixies, Charli XCX, Billy Idol, or Phantogram, and you have $175-$350 handy, you'd better buy your tickets now.

This is the sixth year of the festival, which will feature two headliners per day on the mainstage. There is also a slew of local musicians playing, including Sun Club, GoldLink, and the Walking Sticks.

Sweetgreen puts on the festival, and there will be plenty of interesting food, including food trucks and eats from culinary partners including Toki Underground's Erik Bruner-Yang, José Andrés, and DGS Delicatessan's Nick Wiseman.

Posted at 05:48 PM/ET, 03/06/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Inertia Dolce shares a few tips everyone can use. By Rebecca Nelson
The 2013 High Heel Race, with champion William Dennis shown on the right. Photograph courtesy of William Dennis.

For two years, Inertia Dolce, the red-wigged alter ego of 28-year-old William Dennis, has been the runner to beat in DC’s annual High Heel Race, last year finishing the three-block hoof down Dupont Circle’s 17th Street in 49 seconds. Dolce—who, as Dennis, is general manager of the Dupont brunch spot Level One—competes for a third straight title on October 28. A former Division 1 cross-country and track-and-field runner at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Dennis was born fast, but he gave us a few tips anyone can use.

William Dennis. Photograph by Jeff Elkins.

Pick function over style.

“A common mistake is that people wear a regular high heel,” says Dennis, who sports calf-high boots—albeit with five-inch heels—to support his ankles. “You don’t have to worry about it flying off or buckling.”

Walk the course.

Before race day, he advises, “walk up and down the bike lane of 17th Street. That’ll give you a feel of the ground.” Scope out the manholes—like the one outside Floriana restaurant—and small cracks that can prove treacherous.

Duct-tape your soles.

“Putting duct tape down there helps keep you from slipping.” Especially when wet—the race goes on, rain or shine.

Wear socks.

“Make sure they’re thick enough that your foot’s not sliding up and down.” Dennis wears athletic socks over nylons, topped with an ankle brace to keep his foot “as stable as possible.”

Have a cocktail.

With all the pre-parties and celebrations, you’ll spend a few hours in heels: Dull the pain with a cosmo or two.

Watch out for saboteurs.

“Last year, these four competitors come up and say, ‘You’re not going to win this year.’ So they stand in front of me, and as I’m taking off, one of them elbows me in the chest!”

Dominate with grace.

Dennis plans to retire if he wins again. “Some people are like, ‘You can’t win again. It’s not fair.’ ” But for this year, he says, “it’s still a race—I’m going to go for it.”

See photos from this year's race, and find out who won, in our earlier post.

This article appears in the October 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 03:01 PM/ET, 10/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Virgin Mobile’s annual music festival at Merriweather won’t happen this year. By Tanya Pai
Robin Thicke headlined the 2013 FreeFest. Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

This has been a rocky year for local music festivals. First the summertime-staple Fort Reno concerts were canceled—though thankfully organizers managed to get them reinstated. Now comes word that the annual Virgin Mobile FreeFest, held in the fall at Merriweather Post Pavilion, has also been nixed. 

Says Seth Hurwitz, chair of I.M.P. (which owns Merriweather) and one of the producers of FreeFest: “The Freefest was this fantastic product of a crossroads of Branson and some very creative people at Virgin. The mixture got shaken up every year, and it always settled at the last possible moment for that year. That was part of the spontaneous magic that everyone could pick up on I think. Unfortunately, the pieces are not all there right now with Virgin. Whether they are again who knows. But the Freefest concept is fantastic and we are exploring options to continue it at Merriweather.”

So what does that mean? We’re not really sure. We’ve reached out to Virgin Mobile for (hopefully less-vague) comment, and will update when we hear back. In the meantime, we’ll be pouring one out for the event, which since 2009 has been giving Washingtonians the chance to see big-name acts (which last year included Vampire Weekend, MGMT, and Icona Pop) for a price even cash-strapped college students could afford—that is, free. 

Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai.

Posted at 04:44 PM/ET, 07/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()