A love letter from a Kandi Kid: how plastic beads and string changed my life
Posted on December 17 2019
Not everyone ‘gets’ kandi. To most people in my family, it’s kind of a waste of time. To my friends who don’t rave, it’s really impressive, but they don’t get why I don’t just sell it so I can have a hobby that I can make bank off of. To me? It’s a way of life. Kandi is something that’s brought immense joy to my life, and is associated with most good things in it- including my fiance.
My first introduction to kandi was researching everything “EDM” on tumblr obsessively at age 13.
I’d been introduced to dance music formally by my friend Kelli over spring break, and I knew from the second I saw a raver covered in beads that I wanted that to be me- I wanted to wear all of the bright colours, I wanted to dance until dawn surrounded by friends, I wanted to be covered in these bracelets that Rolling Stone described as “beaded jewelry you’re supposed to make (not sell!!!)”. After seeing countless kandi kids on tumblr, instagram, pinterest- anywhere I could find pictures of these people who looked so happy and bright and full of life- I made my first single in 2012, and I haven’t stopped since then; I was hooked even before I went to my first rave.
I’d make special kandi to wear to school events (and every single other regular day, on that note), bring with me to summer camp to trade to my new cabin mates, I’d make pieces to give as presents- I was fully immersed in PLUR before I even truly realized what it meant to experience it firsthand myself. There would be nights I’d spend 4 or 5 hours trying to learn techniques so I could make different kinds of cuffs or peyote stitched creations to trade away to anyone who would listen to me preach and explain what kandi was instead of work on homework (or sleep). I would do mail trades with people I’d meet on tumblr.
The love grew to the point where I put the very first single I ever made into my grade 8 letter to receive back when I graduated- I never wanted to forget where I started, and if I ever grew out of wanting to be a raver, I wanted to make sure my future self could always have something to remember something good from my first year of high school.
My first “real” kandi trade- when I was 15, over a whole year after making my first single- happened on October 11th 2013, at BP Sweet 16. I was covered in almost 100 singles, my now lost DJ S3rl cuff, and a kandi headband I had busted out an hour before the event, and I had just walked out of my friends car to the venue when a girl yelled “KANDI KIIIDS LET’S TRADE!”. She taught me the PLUR handshake, and from that moment, I really learned what it meant to fall in love. That little gesture- and the single that the girl, who is my friend still all those years later, admitted was a hot mess of a small handful of beads and the words “IM SWEATIN”- changed my life. I felt a rush of happiness every single time my hands clasped with someone else’s that night, and I was hooked. I already knew I loved making pieces, but when I traded them away, it showed me a new side of a hobby I already adored to love.
I fell in love with kandi all over again when I went to my first event in Seattle, Bliss: The Awakening in 2016. I spent weeks and weeks before the event setting up trades, obsessively making pieces for strangers I wanted to become my friends just because I wanted to make them happy. From the minute I walked in, fresh off a 5 hour greyhound trip from Vancouver, I had people asking to trade, people asking to take my photo, people wanting to know how long pieces took me to make (“really??? It only took you X hours???!”)... I was overwhelmed, but when I left the venue with more kandi than I walked in with I came back home and cried, realizing that I had made so many connections with people, which was something I always struggled with as someone with excruciating social anxiety.
Ducky the kandi kid- All grown up!
Being a kandi kid, the community around kandi, is one of the most beautiful things I could ever call myself a part of. I’ve met and traded with people from all over the world, I’ve made countless friends, I met someone I consider the older brother I never got (hey, Sharmander), and I met my fiance- all because of a single piece of kandi. Had it not been for a love affair with small pieces of plastic and some elastic and string, I don’t know where I’d be in life. It seems weird how something so small in the scheme of things has impacted my life to the point of no return, but today I couldn’t picture my life without it.