From Portland to Milwaukee to Ypsilanti, a new wave of do-it-yourself art, craft, and design is, and has been, emerging across the nation. Intertwining interviews of crafters from all areas of the nation with photos of their work, Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerl compile the ever so timely book, Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design.
Upon skimming through the brightly-colored glossy pages, we see photo after photo of young emerging artists showing off their handiwork. Lampwork beads, handmade shoes, latch-hook rugs, refurbished jewelry, altered clothing, and knitted purses are exhibited by twenty-four crafters. Through interviews, they all share their inspiring stories of how independent (also known as “indie”) craft has impacted their lives.
With blogs, forums, and craft websites hopping with both makers and buyers, many indie crafters have transformed small projects, which at one point started from sitting on their bedroom floors cross-stitching, has now turned into an underground economy from which many are able to make their living. A dream come true for some of the crafters featured; the ability to combine their passion and skill to create and make money doing what they love, drives them – for others, it is a reclamation of the creativity and uniqueness that they feel is stripped from our society by corporate influence and uniformity, that makes them flourish in the art. As Andrew Wagner states in his essay entitled “Craft: It’s What You Make of It” he says “Making your own clothes, your own dinnerware, your own art has become a way to politely (or maybe not so politely) give ‘the man’ the middle finger, for lack of a better term.”
Wagner’s reaction to the rise of the indie craft revolution perhaps best envelopes many of the feelings the twenty-four crafters share about their community. So whether they intend to or not, these crafters are stabbing capitalism in the heart by outwardly refusing to participate in the corporate economy while supporting their own independent market that eliminates mass production, the “middle man”, and may also take the form trading goods and eliminating any or all currency in their transactions.
Even someone completely foreign to the world of indie craft will instantly notice the complete turn-around of what makes this form of craft different from their grandmother’s. While many of these crafters borrow old traditions, what they are creating is something drastically different and completely new.
Throughout the text, Levine and Heimerl intersperse other crafters’ wisdom through short essay-like segments which give much insight into the many varying interpretations of what craft is, how it can be used as a catalyst for social change, the Internet and its affects on craft culture and business, to craft as a therapeutic and even spiritual form.
Handmade Nation makes it immediately obvious that in this particular world of craft, the medium, the creativity, and the ideas, know no boundaries and the empowering underlying message: anyone can do this.
Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerl, Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design, (Princeton Architectural Press, 2008).