Moth Danner

Moth Danner (left) and her mother, Susan, at an Edible Muncie meeting to promote the Makers’ Market and discuss hunger in Muncie.

Finding home among Muncie’s Makers

By Emily Sabens

On a Saturday evening in mid-October, the Muncie Makers’ Market bursts with life. The scent of homemade candles and soaps lingers slightly in the air. Baskets of fresh breads, cookies and cake pops sit on the tables. One artist displays her painting of a joyful snowman and another of a creepy clown.

Moth Danner, the founder of the market, could be considered a piece of art. Raven black hair, twisted into dreadlocks and adorned with silver clips, cascades down her back. Her dress, a floor-length gown, is the exact color of a starless night.

The Muncie Makers’ Market is one of many community events Moth has created. She adores her hometown and those who inhabit it. To Moth, the Muncie community has not only given her numerous opportunities, but also a second family.

Changing caterpillar

Moth—a seventh-generation Muncie resident—grew up in a tight-knit family. Her mother, Susan, prefers conservative crew-neck sweaters to long, black dresses, and a short pixie cut rather than Moth’s dark dreads. Looking at the two sitting side-by-side, it is difficult to see any family resemblance.

Moth jokingly describes her mother as a “Quaker” because of her values and beliefs.

Susan remembers the day when Moth, then 17, came home after school with a Mohawk. She was surprised, but it did not compare to when Moth later arrived at the house with a tattoo on her hip.

“At the time, the only people who I knew of who had tattoos were wrestlers,” Susan said with a laugh.

Despite their different hair and clothing choices, Moth and her mother remain close. Even now, at 50, Moth spends a majority of her days with her mother. Moth also had a strong relationship with her grandmother, who inspired the creation of the Muncie Makers’ Market.

After her grandmother died, Moth felt drawn to the kitchen, where the two spent hours baking together. Moth and Susan began producing so many sweets that they searched for a way to share their baked goods. The mother-daughter duo ventured to Hartford City one early 2016 Saturday morning to sell their sweet creations at the town’s Growers and Makers Market. Moth loved watching community members come together to sell and share.

“Why doesn’t Muncie have this?” Moth recalls wondering.

In June of 2016, Moth, with help from her mother, officially opened the Muncie Makers’ Market. Like the one they attended in Hartford City, the market sells produce, baked goods, crafts and more, all made by local community members.

Although Moth did create the market to provide Muncie’s artists and bakers with an outlet, another goal was to increase access to local produce and goods.

The market is held each Saturday from June until October in the Old West End neighborhood—an area of Muncie that does not have easily accessible grocery stores. By holding the market in the historic area, residents can walk to the market for baked goods and fresh, seasonal produce.

Coming out of the cocoon

As a teenager, Moth viewed Muncie as a comforting nest, where she was safe and surrounded by her close-knit family. But, just as many young adults do, she felt the need to fly away and explore.

According to a study by Pew Research, six out of 10 American adults choose to move away from the city they were born and raised. In the late 2000s, researchers from the University of Montana found that those who never leave their hometowns tend to have less money, less education and a less hopeful outlook on their futures.

“There’s perhaps a stigma associated with not leaving,” said John Cromartie, one of the researchers who worked on the study.

After graduating high school, Moth attended Indiana University in Bloomington for her undergraduate degree, then George Washington University in Washington D.C. When finished with schooling, Moth not only ventured to other areas of the county, but she also explored different career paths.

Despite studying psychotherapy in school, Moth found a love of alternative performing arts. She and her colleagues created stage names from the four fairies in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.” They adopted the names Peach Blossom, Cobweb, Mustardseed and Moth, and even after the troupe disbanded, they all continue to go by their unique pseudonyms.

Moth loved traveling and seeing the country. But, wherever she went, it felt as if something was missing, even when she was surrounded by new friends. While living in New York City, it hit her: Moth realized she missed the town and the people who raised her.

When Moth told her New York friends she wanted to return to Indiana, they thought she was deranged. They could not understand why she wanted to trade her glamorous city to “go raise corn or cows.”

On Sept. 9, 2001, Susan drove to New York and helped Moth drive the contents of her small Brooklyn apartment home to Indiana. Two days later, Moth turned on the television as two airplanes smashed into the Twin Towers. She—along with the rest of the nation—was in shock.

Spreading her wings

Moth has been back in Muncie for almost 15 years. Since her return, she has founded various events throughout the community.

In addition to the market, Moth founded Muncie’s “Stitch ‘n’ Bitch,” a fabric arts group that gathers once a month at local coffee shop The Cup. Moth also created Cuplets, a group of aspiring poets that share their work.

Twice a year, Moth hosts Muncie’s YART sale, which gives artists another place to sell their wares. As Moth explains, she urges artists to create a “yard sale vibe” by setting up their work on tables and keeping prices under $40.

Moving back to Muncie allowed Moth to grow closer to her family, but it also gave her the chance to inspire community among those who might feel “out of place” otherwise, but feel welcomed by the  “50-year-old bisexual goth woman,” she said.

She is quick to point out, though, that she has never experienced discrimination in Muncie, but rather receives regular compliments about her dramatic clothing and hair.

Moth has even remained in community with her New York friends, who visit her often for a nice change of pace from the Big Apple.

Moth wants them and others to know Muncie is not the stereotypical “meth capital of the world” many believe it to be. She sings its praises in hopes that if people can embrace her, they—too—can fall in love with this quirky city and all its charms.