In 2007 Kelly Malone had an enviable job as a stylist for Victoria’s Secret and was in New York City when she received a fateful phone call from her San Francisco doctor. “He told me I had ovarian cancer,” says the Philly native, who moved to SF in 2005 to work as a visual merchandiser for Gap, Inc. The then-33-year-old promptly quit VS and underwent chemotherapy. “I didn’t want to sit at home and feel sorry for myself, so I threw a party in my backyard for all my friends to sell their handmade crafts.”
Now known as Indie Mart, the cult festival, which occurs six times a year, has outgrown the backyard and moved into rock-music venues all over the city (110 local craft vendors and more than 2,000 visitors attended the most recent event at Thee Parkside). Its wild-fire momentum propelled Malone, now 35, to open Workshop, a DIY studio in NoPa, last September. “Indie Mart is where you go to buy and sell handmade; Workshop is where you come to make it,” says Malone.
Workshop’s industrial space features a slew of sewing machines, an arsenal of gleaming saw blades, light bulbs galore, DJ turntables, a PBR-stocked fridge and a healthy supply of miscellaneous cast-offs from Malone’s frequent trips to Urban Ore in Berkeley. Patrons pay a nominal fee for DIY classes on, among dozens of other topics, how to sew secret condom pockets into pillowcases, build succulent gardens from old shoes and engineer chandeliers from—what else?—zip ties. Expert instruction is imparted by neighborhood artists and Malone herself. Mood music is courtesy of power tools and Black Sabbath on vinyl. “It’s rock ’n’ roll. It’s grassroots. It’s about stepping away from the computer and doing something creative with your hands,” says Malone, who credits her current remission to all the fun she’s having. “If the cancer didn’t happen, I’d probably still be in New York, doing some exhausting corporate job. Instead, I’m in San Francisco having the time of my life.”