Love geeky stuff and handmade crafts? This expo coming to Minneapolis is for you

Daniel Way with unicorn deadpool
Daniel Way poses with unicorn Deadpool at a GeekCraft Expo.
Courtesy Daniel Way

The GeekCraft Expo returns to Minneapolis this weekend with nearly 100 artisan vendors selling their own geeky handmade work from 3D-printed dice towers to toy photography. Daniel Way, a comic book writer for Marvel, founded the expo in 2016 with his wife, Kimberly Matsuzaki, who worked at Ubisoft. 

The idea came about when Way and Matsuzaki were dating and went to a craft fair. It was “pretty underwhelming” for him because he “saw so many things there that weren't made by the people who were there selling them,” he said.

Giant Turtle Creations 3D print works
Giant Turtle Creations sells 3D-printed works at GeekCraft Expo.
Courtesy Kyle and Claire Smaagard of Giant Turtle Creations

“They were just the sellers and then there was also an aluminum siding place, a water softener place, a Toyota dealership, and a cell phone company. Like, me, I thought I was gonna see cool stuff that people made and I didn't see a lot of that.”

Thus started the idea to make a “viable” place for vendors to “be able to put more into this and to make more things and for it to become more of their career, as opposed to just extracting money from them and then moving on to my next event that I’m putting up.”

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Now, he runs an expo where people sell their own arts and crafts on a range of “geeky” topics and hobbies like mythical creatures and video games.

Vendors go through an application process, to see if they follow in line with the theme or complement the other vendors: “No car sales or offtopic vendors find a way in,” Way assured. It’s also juried, meaning only the highest tier of crafters are selling.

It’s “a mall for nerds” but, unlike regular malls, nothing is mass produced. There’s jewelry, stuffed animals, home decor, clothing, 3D-printed work, polymer clay, embroidery, toy photography, and more. “The Craft,” as some call it, “really does cover the spectrum,” Way said.

Since the first GeekCraft Expo in 2016 in Madison, Wis., the expo has expanded to cities across the country.

“It's still hard for me to accept this because I've been a dork for a long time, right? So like, when I was a little kid, this stuff was not popular. Matter of fact, it was very unpopular. And now, it is literally the most popular thing on the planet,” Way said.

On April 22 and 23, GeekCraft Expo will be at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The community and craftspeople at GeekCraft Expo

Deborah Oakes joined the first GeekCraft in 2016 with her company Novel Embellishment and has been involved in many since. 

“I think what happens at the Craft that I think is really cool is that first off, you get all these kids that like to come, and they see adults being into this stuff. And they're like, ‘Okay, well, this is pretty cool that I like these things and, all these adults like these things.’ And one of the other things I really enjoy is like a lot of parents that come, they reconnect with old stuff from their childhood, a lot of the time.”

Oakes makes small diorama pieces and jewelry. She said she’s a “scavenger” when it comes to making her crafts: “I am especially very fond of fossils and crystals and rocks and a lot of things you can find in nature.”

One piece was vampire themed including 18th-century coffin nails, handmade ceramic coffin beads with little crosses on them, and black moss. Oakes put it on the booth to sell, a bit reluctantly since it took time to make. 

“I think I had it on the table for maybe five minutes before somebody was like, ‘Oh my gosh! Buffy the Vampire Slayer!’”

Interactions like this represent the community at GeekCraft Expo.

“I started off every show really nervous. And I can't imagine I'm the only one, but it doesn't usually take very long before someone says something to you, and you say something to them, and it just creates a really great little connection.”

novel embellishment
A collage of work made by Novel Embellishment.
Courtesy Deborah Oakes of Novel Embellishment

‘Like going to a farmer's market versus going to a grocery store’

Giant Turtle Creations is another exhibitor at GeekCraft Expo. Claire and Kyle Smaagard started their business in 2016 after Kyle Smaagard got into 3D printmaking. 

“We’re big board gamers,” Kyle Smaagard said, “So to enhance the experience … rather than having a cardboard token that has like a picture of a computer on it, there's an actual 3D-printed computer that you can have. And it just makes your games a little more immersive, a little more fun to play.”

They started attending GeekCraft Expo in 2021, and have attended about “six or seven” since then “not just in Minnesota but all over the Midwest.”

“It’s for a group of people who are coming to look for handmade goods, versus just the stuff you can find online. It's like going to a farmer's market versus going to a grocery store,” Claire Smaagard said.

“It's not just run by a corporation that's looking to profit off of maybe nerdy people … they're looking to enhance the community of the modern day geeks and nerds and sci-fi enthusiast and that sort of thing. So it really allows us to form a bond,” Claire Smaagard said.

“The people who go to these things, they're there to see the vendors. So they're there to talk with you and get to know you and your stuff. And so it's very different from the conventions where people are there to see the biggest star that they could get on the billboard.”

Claire Smaagard said the expo is great in part thanks to its coordinators, including Way.

“They help us load and unload our merchandise. They bring carts to the car, they help us bring in the boxes, they have volunteers working to get in and out of the building. No one else does that. They talk with us before and after the event, saying, ‘Hey, what do you think we can do to improve? How can we make things better for you? Do you think a venue change will be good?’” 

“At GeekCraft, it's a part of this community and we're doing this together. And it's really a group effort. And you can feel that,” she said.

Giant Turtle Creations Dice Tower
The dice tower displayed by Giant Turtle Creations at GeekCraft Expo.
Courtesy Kyle and Claire Smaagard of Giant Turtle Creations

Twin Cities have ‘a very DIY spirit’

GeekCraft Expo has come to Minneapolis every year since 2018 except for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The whole Twin Cities area … there is already a cultural kind of a maker culture, you know, it's, I don't want to say pioneer, but it's just a very DIY spirit. I mean, it goes back to like, quilting bees and stuff,” Way said.

Smaagard said Minnesota's culture makes it perfect for artisans and craftspeople.

“Personally, I think it's that classic ‘Minnesota Nice’ stereotype, as well as the homey feel that you get here. I mean, it's where art can thrive when you have the homemade hot dishes and everything tastes like comfort food, and everyone around you is supportive and looking to enrich your life and their lives together,” Claire Smaagard said. “That’s where art thrives.”

“Winter makes people creative,” Oakes said. “I think that we have a lot of really good art schools. And there are a lot of schools that encourage young people to do art, especially now that it's been widely recognized the mental health benefits and emotional benefits of having a way to express yourself.”

Way said vendors are mostly from Minnesota but some will be from the region.

“We always try to stuff as many local crafters and makers in there. Every once in a while we have someone, and they make something that no one in that area is making. And they live relatively close too, they’re kind of local, so we'll bring them on over and introduce that to the market,” Way said.

Mandolorian toy photography
Toy photography by Father's Figures shows the Mandalorian with Grogu. This piece is titled "MandoToy."
Courtesy Father's Figures

What to know to attend GeekCraft Expo

There are a few pieces of advice Daniel Way shared about attending the Craft.

“There is no mass production. So if you see something, jump on it,” he said. “If you see something that you like, you should buy it. Because there's a very good chance that it won't be there by the time you circle back around to it. There's also a chance that what you're seeing is – that's it, they’re done making that, that was what they were into and they've moved on to something else.”

He also said to dress how you want and let your geek out through cosplay. 

“A high percentage of the crafters, our exhibitors are also cosplayers, and they work with cosplayers,” Way said. “It's a great way to just immediately throw up the flag, and be like, ‘This is what I'm all about.’”

There won’t be food sold at the venue, but there are restaurants near the Convention Center.

Admission is $2 and tickets can be bought in advance at or at the door. 

Up until this year, Daniel Way has attended every GeekCraft Expo across the country. But he now resides in Hawaii, “so this will be the first year where I'm not at every show.” His brother and sister-in-law on the mainland are now helping with the Craft. 

Luckily, he said, “they're all just giant nerds like us.”

Daniel Way's daughter with cosplayer
Daniel Way's daughter with cosplayers at GeekCraft Expo.
Courtesy Daniel Way