Saturday, March 13, 2010

Current Read: Handmade Nation

Roller Queen by Jenny Hart.

Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching definitively makes the claim that "crafting is better than drugs, alcohol, or therapy." It's one of my favorite quotes from the documentary film Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design, which screened in MICA's Falvey Hall on February 25th. Those privileged enough to attend were privy to a discussion with the film's producer and director, Faythe Levine, who I'm pretty sure inspired everyone in that auditorium with her laid back wisdom about following dreams.

Faythe first encountered the indie craft scene as a vendor at the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago in 2003. One year later, she founded the Art vs. Craft fair in her hometown of Milwaukee. Faythe continued to run her own crafy business, Flying Fish Design, and also opened Paper Boat Boutique & Gallery. Three years passed and DIY wouldn't die. In the book Handmade Nation (a companion to the film), Faythe explains how the craft scene was growing exponentially, "It reached out virtually through websites, blogs, and online stores, while brick-and-mortar boutiques, studios, galleries, and craft fairs connected the greater public regionally." She felt a sense of urgency to document this burgeoning movement before things changed too fast.

In 2006, Faythe traveled 19,000 miles and interviewed more than 80 independent artists and designers. Their stories, which are told one after the other in the film, are amusing, enlightening, and downright inspirational. If ever you think that knitting, painting, stitching, or beading won't amount to much more than a hobby - think again. These folks are committed to their craft, and while they concede that business isn't always booming, their underlying message, as expressed by the author herself, is a compelling one: "I am making my own destiny with what I create, whether it is with the materials I pick, the colors I choose, or the words I write."

The film, Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design is available at Buy Olympia. The book is available at Amazon.

Oh Yeah Silkscreen Poster by J W & Melissa Buchanan.

Swans latch-hook rug by Whitney Lee.

Cover page of Handmade Nation.

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