It kind of smelled like burrito in the backroom at Akbar last Wednesday night. Folding tables and chairs filled the room, Belinda Carlisles Mad About You played over the sound system, and the bar was filled with corks, colored puffballs, pipe cleaners, google eyes, scissors, construction paper and glue. Everything was ready for CraftNight.
Wed already bought beers at the bar inside, having come too early, of course, cause were dorks. But when things got started we were in a good position to raid the supplies like first-graders and nab a table at the edge of the dance floor. The mood was an odd but not unpleasant blend of discotheque and day camp.
Im intimidated, said a friend staring at the metallic pipe cleaners and mound of furry balls before us. Julianna Parr, the mohawked mastermind and benefactor of CraftNight, overheard and came over to give us some moral support.
You can talk to me, she said, smiling, her hands tucked into her crafting apron. You dont need to be intimidated. This is about having fun.
I went to work making pipe-cleaner snakes in little caps reminiscent of Esther Williams. Within minutes, the room was packed with handsome gay men, lesbians of all varieties and a smattering of straight singles. At the table next to us, Shane and Ariel made elaborate pipe-cleaner creatures: a red crab, a bee and cork-bottomed reeds with fish floating in them. Another friend began sketching out her plans to make a pipe-cleaner bike.
Okay, now I was intimidated. I basically glued google eyes on pipe cleaners. But I was having a great time. Periodically, I looked up from my crafting and noticed the pickup vibe in the room. Occasionally people would saunter by our table and check us out or were they just checking out our crafts? It was hard to tell, but thats kind of the point. Its easy to strike up a conversation when youve got glue and pipe cleaners to keep your hands busy during any awkward pauses. Parr is on to something here.
She started CraftNight four years ago at Mr. Ts in Highland Park before moving on to different clubs around town. Now Parr, who calls herself a craft captain and basically pays for supplies out of her own pocket, thinks she may have found a permanent home at Akbar. Its just a great vibe, she said later.
And some of the crafters are really good. When I took a break from my snakes, I walked around the room to check out the crafts. Lori, a jewelry designer, made a fabulous and colorful 40s-style hat and a matching necklace with her pipe cleaners. Cricket held a few creatures in her hands and told me she comes every week last week they made paper groundhog dolls and outfits for them. I made a dominatrix groundhog and an astronaut. For Hanukkah we made dreidels, learned all about them and sang songs. Cricket said all this in a very sweet, this-one-time-at-band-camp kind of way. In July, she went on, we made beer cozies!
The pipe-cleaner-puffball-cork thing is much more freeform than most CraftNights, which tend to be structured around a specific theme. And sometimes Parr takes her show on the road. Last week, CraftNight made a special appearance at the adult-toy shop Babeland, where crafters gathered to make cock cozies for Valentines Day. There were snacks and cocktails, and everyone who participated got a free ShowerBabe vibrator.
To keep up with Parr, crafter regulars sign up for her weekly e-mail bulletin. I was bummed to miss the night they baked Shrinky Dinks, but Parr always has something up her sleeve. Like she says, Its the most fun you can have in this city for two dollars.
Akbar, 4356 Sunset Blvd. (at Fountain Ave.), Los Feliz, (323) 665-6810. CraftNight, every Wed., 9 p.m.-mid. To keep track of special appearances and craft themes, sign up for Parrs e-mail bulletin at www.crafthead.com.
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