Saturday, 17 January 2009

Handmade Nation.

You can imagine how I acted when I came across a wonderful book this past Fall entitled "Handmade Nation : The rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design."

There it was sitting on a shelf at a local New York City bookshop, calling to me with its Stitched United States image and its pink lettering on a black background. I was intrigued, I was inspired, and still am. Within its pages lies the story of 24 creative people and work from 5 essayists all on the subject of handmade. And if that's not enough for you, there is a documentary in which this book is a companion to and which will be released this Spring.

*Image from Readymade Issue 38*

I feel very lucky to be able to bring you this interview with Faythe, and I thank her for taking time out from her busy schedule to fit us in.

With her movie premiering all across the United States I can just start to imagine how hectic things will be with planning and traveling, its really awesome that she agreed to share some tid bits of how this project all started and also a little introduction into who she is.

There is just so much I can say about this project and how wonderful I think it is, and how important it is for it to be out there, in the big ole world being introduced to people who may not know what goes into all things DIY especially the people and their stories behind it. But I am going to stop myself and allow you to read more about it

from the women who started it all, and contributes in big ways to the handmade community itself.

*Faythe Levine*

1. One of the reasons I do this blog is to get an inside scoop of the masterminds behind all things handmade. So following along in that tradition, why not tell us a little about yourself, especially your creative beginnings. How did you settle upon the indie craft community?

I came across the indie craft community in early 2002 through a few very specific craft websites including, and It was through these sites that I began connecting with other makers who were doing similar things as I was. It was also around this time that I started up my business Flying Fish Design. In 2003 I heard about the first Renegade Craft Fair taking place in Chicago, only a few hours away from my home base of Milwaukee, WI and I applied. This was my first experience selling my work in a market environment. It was also my first time meeting a lot of the people I had become Internet friends with. That first Renegade was my "gateway drug" into the indie craft community. From there I continued to run my business Flying Fish Design full time for 3 more years, start Art vs. Craft Milwaukee’s indie craft fair, open my brick and mortar shop Paper Boat Boutique and Gallery that I co-own with Kim Kisiolek and begin work on Handmade Nation.

2. When I came across this book as well as your site, I finally felt like I found a topic that I could totally relate to. I pretty much grew up crafting and I felt like it was a topic that wasn’t really spoken about a lot or at least brought to others attention through film and book. What started this whole project, what pushed you to explore the subject of DIY across America?

From 2003-2006 my experiences traveling around the country to indeed craft fairs as a vendor, running my shop and coordinating Art vs. Craft I was exposed to an immense amount of incredible people and work and I felt compelled to document what was going on around me. I was concerned that the community wouldn’t be captured in the proper light. And I was also worried someone from the "outside" would come in and create some crappy craft expose reality type show and not show the important aspects of the community, for example, the bonds people had formed with one another, the counter economy we are creating, and the empowerment that makers feel when they create.

*Jenine Bressner being filmed*

3. The book is amazing and I cannot wait for the movie to come out. I know that the film was the beginning of it all and the book followed in its footsteps while the documentary is still in production. Usually its the book first and then the film. Why did the book come second? Why did you find it important to be able to place such a great book in people's hands as well as giving them a movie?

Initially I wanted to make a book, I am a photographer and it seemed to make sense to go that route. However, the idea of putting together a book and getting it published was really overwhelming and the reality of shooting a documentary was actually much easier to wrap my brain around because my best friend happens to be a filmmaker. I approached Micaela O’Herlihy in early 2006 with the idea of shooting the film for a year and she signed on. The two of us traveled around for what ended up being a year and a half gathering the footage for the final movie. The book came about after my editor Cris Siquiera cut an 8-minute teaser that we released on in April of 2007. The response to that clip was huge and three publishers approached me at that time. Princeton Architectural Press was the publisher I was most interested in and at that time I approached my friend and now co-author Cortney Heimerl to put together a formal proposal for Princeton that is now Handmade Nation the book. Having Princeton behind the project has given the documentary a lot of validity. There support has been invaluable to the soon to be released film.

4. So I have to say that I am a bit jealous that you got to meet so many wonderful, creative people along the way. What was the process like when it came to choosing the people that would be featured in your film as well as the book? What was it like to be able to sit and talk with them, see where they create? And also I have read that you traveled 19,000 miles during this whole process, share some pros and cons about that whole aspect!

Basically my process for choosing whom to interview was very simple. A lot of the featured interviewed makers I had worked with at Paper Boat or had some sort of online friendship with already established. However there were people that I was really excited about what they were doing and the documentary gave me an excuse to call them up and hope for an interview. Getting to do studio visits was by far the most exciting part of production. Having one-on-one time with people you respect creatively was an experience I will never forget and hope to get to continue with future projects. The entire process was very casual and friendly which was great so there were never any awkward moments of wishing I were somewhere else or anything like that.
The travel part of the project was pretty insane. During production Micaela was a single mom and a full time working artist so we scheduled our shoots over the weekends when she had child-care. We would cram in 3-4 full days of interviews when we were in a city. It was pretty insane and awesome.

*Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching, in studio filming*

*Clip of Handmade Nation, courtesy of*

5. Aside from the Handmade nation project, I see that you are involved in other crafty endeavours. You co- own a brick and mortar shop that supports numerous crafters/ artists and designers alike and you also help run a bi-annual indie craft market. Basically, how do you do it? How does it feel to be so active in something you feel so passionate about?

People ask me how I balance my life all the time and to be honest I can’t image it any other way. I work all the time but I also take time to spend with my friends and relax. The thing is that there is all this stuff happening around the world, all these people who should know about each other and I feel like it is my responsibility to try and promote and connect everyone. I think this is just the beginning of a lot of our creative careers and I hope that the connections and work that we are doing now will establish life long relationships for all of us within the movement.

6. Ok, since you love to document all of the wonderful things being made by people all across the country, do you have any craft or art interests that you tend to get to work at in your down time (if you have any down time that is)

My time to work on my own creative projects is pretty minimal these days. Often if I have time I will work on promo items for Handmade Nation or Paper Boat by making flyers by hand or sewing a new banner for a show. I am a big fan of hand-drawn typography, which is something I have done for years. I do some embroidery. I am always photographing everything and everywhere I go- so I have a catalog of photos that spans the past 20 years of my life that is pretty intense. At some point I’d like to go back to painting and working on wall-based work, but I don’t see that happening any time in 2009.

7. DIY never really goes away as we all know, it just sometimes seems to take a backseat, get pushed under the rug for a bit. Why do you think there has been a sudden re-emergence this past few years of the whole handmade community? What would you say would be some key factors in this happening?

I believe there are a few key reasons that handmade has made resurgence in the past 5 years. The fact that most of us spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer, the fact that we as a society are going through economic struggles pushes people to make things by hand for gifts, the recent green trend and the appreciation for handmade- including supporting artists, buying local, and consumer conscientiousness. Also, historically during times of war handcraft resurfaces. All of these reasons have combined into the current climate of the handmade frenzy.

8. One thing I shutter to think about is that handmade will possibly take that back seat again for a bit, to me it’s such a big part of my life and something that I could not personally live without. Do you feel that it is here to stay for good this time? And what would be some advice you would give to those out there who would want to help handmade thrive.

Something that I find interesting is the number of people who approach me at my events who are in there 40’s 50’s and 60’s telling me "they never stopped making things by hand". I think that it is important to remember that just because our generation has had a recent revelation that handmade makes us feel good people never stopped making. With that said, I’m sure some folks our age will set their knitting down after a bit, but for a lot of us D.I.Y. is a lifestyle not a trend.

9. Well our interview is coming to an end and soon Handmade Nation will be wrapping up, although it will all now live on through its film and book. Do you have any future plans for new projects? What next?

I will be touring with the film over the next year and hopefully working on a new book surrounding crafts, creativity, community and politics. I also hope to continue to do freelance curatorial work, putting together art shows is something I really enjoy.

10. And of course our usual 10th question to wrap up each interview..................five things you just cant live without:)

Bourbon on the rocks
Delicious food (top 3: sushi, salads and pizza!)
My BFF’s who keep me sane during the overbooked times

Be sure to visit The Handmade Nation Etsy shop and pick up a shirt or Sublime Stitch special embroidery pattern to show your support of The Handmade Nation project!! To find out more about premiere dates and other related news, head on over to the official website of Handmade Nation. A big thank you once again to Faythe, and best wishes!!!

All photos that were used in this interview are from The Handmade Nation Flickr, Myspace, and blog.


cynthia said...

wow this was the best interview yet. loved the questions and wow the lay-out. SO, I officially christen you Patty, the barbara walters of the indie craft scene! wonderful.

danilouwho said...

awesome awesome awesome.
so excited to see this film!

Miss Aimee said...

GREAT blog. so fun to read. just added you to my blog love list- will be back :) cheers

Anonymous said...

another fab interview! I love that book! Can't wait for the movie!


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