as usual i am really excited to bring you folks my latest q&a. but this q&a i am especially happy to post up, as it is w/ faythe levine co-owner of paperboat gallery and boutique, co-author of the upcoming book handmade nation: the rise of DIY, art, craft and design and film documentarian of the upcoming film of the same name, handmade nation. i absolutely love what faythe is doing. she is a woman not only living her dreams but someone who works hard to help others realize their own. faythe is an amazing example of a woman who cultivates a community. always passing on artists and film clips to me for my love for you, she is a definite inspiration to me...and i've only met her online! so i was very excited to get to ask her the below q&a's. check it out, i hope you guys enjoy it. i love what she has to say about the importance of cultivating creative youth programs, her admiration of her peers the power of DIY and craft in a world that is in perile and just her overall enthusiasm for the world of DIY and craft. she is beyond inspirational. for real.
but wait! there's more! this saturday, july 19th poketo is hosting a silent auction to help raise funds for the documentary handmade nation. if you are in the LA area, you should most definitely make a point of going to help support this worthy cause. there is a ton of amazing art that has been donated, by many of the artists we love (to see what will be donated go here.)!
for those of us, who can't make it, faythe has sent me the craftifesto screen print illustrated by kate bingaman-burt as a give-a-way! i know, i know, very exciting. so please enjoy the q&a and leave a comment to be entered in the give-a-way. i will choose a winner on tuesday morning. thanks faythe!
your upcoming documentary and book handmade nation catalogs and documents the new wave of craft and DIY culture. can you tell us a little about the film and the book?
both the film and the book showcase a wide variety of creative people, methods, places, and events from around the country. my intention is to document the thriving independent art community and the people who are a part of it.
craft is very close to your heart, can you talk a little bit about why you wanted to document the rise of DIY art, craft and design?
it was really obvious around 2003 that something was happening within what we now refer to as the DIY community. indie craft fairs, galleries, boutiques, and online shops all were popping up everywhere. this was not just happening in the United States but around the world. it was very important to me to make sure that this energy and community was captured. creating and nurturing a supportive creative community is not something to be taken lightly. i noticed there was a hole that needed to be filled and i figured it may as well be me to fill it.
did you grow up around crafts? what were some of your favorite craft projects as a little girl? what do you like to work on now?
i have this amazing lineage of artists in my family tree. i like to think there is an “art gene” in my DNA. but the reality is, i was very lucky to grow up with two incredibly supportive parents that encouraged my creativity from a very young age. as a kid i think i was into what most girls my age were into - making piles and piles of friendship bracelets. summer camp and girl scouts encouraged bead looms, lanyards and ceramics. after taking my first black and white photography class when i was 12, i was hooked on the darkroom. now...i don’t have so much time to work on my own artwork, but when i have the opportunity i am a big fan of hand sewing, appliqué, embroidery and sequining. collage and assemblage work somehow fit into that train of things too. but, first and foremost, i will always be a total photo nerd, i take pictures constantly.
you spoke to over 50 artists, crafters and movers and shakers in the DIY/craft world. that must have been an extraordinary experience for you. can you share any special moments you had on this exciting journey?
interviewing people that i have the utmost respect for was a complete life-changing experience. i think that meeting artists in their workspace was always my favorite thing to do. getting to see first hand where people make their creations was really magical. also, having conversations about survival as an artist was really powerful for me. discussing things like time management, financial stability, health care and how we can make a creative lifestyle work for us, that was totally empowering and really kept me going during the production.
also, filming a feature length documentary with micaela [o'herlihy, director of photography for handmade nation] was amazing. she somehow managed to travel with me 19,000 miles and shoot my film, keep up her personal art career and be a single mother. that was an amazing thing to witness and i always want to share that with people, i think it’s really encouraging to mothers who are trying to balance their lives.
can you tell us about some of the indie artists you met who we may not know about?
it was interesting because most of the people we interviewed i had planned on a head of time, but there were a few folks we met along the way that we ended up spending a lot of time with. for example, mandy greer is an artist that we were introduced to via curator yoko ott in seattle. mandy’s work is flat out amazing she does large scale installation work using a lot of “craft materials” and we spent a lot of time in her home with her husband (paul margolis, who is a master quilter) and their two year old son.
another lovely woman we met was artist jenine bressner. she gave us a fantastic lampworking tutorial in her providence, RI studio. [she's] a great spokes person for how D.I.Y is not only an adjective but a lifestyle.
can you share w/ our readers what was the common theme you continually heard form the people you spoke w/?
there were a few common themes that transcended lifestyle differences. one was that most people stated that they had “always made stuff”. to me this really stresses the importance of investing in youth culture and making sure that there is resources and funding for kids to have the ability to explore creativity. another similar statement that came up was that this is not a trend - most artists we spoke with stated that they don’t see an end of the tunnel in regards to the resurgence of handmade, craft and art. i think that our generation is finding a way to maintain a living as working and taking advantage of technology and what it has to offer (viral networking, online shopping, information sharing) and supporting one another.
so many people that are involved in DIY/craft grew up around arts and crafts. what do you think it is about the DIY/craft that has lead to such an enormous sub-culture?
i believe we are ready for change in a time of immense global disaster and distress. community and creativity are both viable ways to do something positive and together the two are very approachable and powerful.
you are incredibly busy, every time i speak to you you're on your way some where or creating or setting up for something. you curate shows, you co-own Milwaukee's paperboat boutique and gallery, you're a writer, a film maker, a musician...girl you are dynamic! how do you do it all?
ha! people often ask me this question - i'm no superwoman and something is always getting less attention than it should and i am learning the lesson of how to say “NO” to stuff (it’s sooooo hard!)
BUT, i would honestly be miserable living my life any other way - i just try to prioritize and check stuff off the ever-growing list. there are just too many connections to make, people to meet, information to absorb...to not keep moving forward. lisa congdon made this rad gocco print that is in my studio that says “it’s always worth It”. that is my mantra right now.
within the past five years or so artists like jill bliss, monica canilao, lisa congdon and nikki mcclure (just to name a few) have really helped to blur the line between arts&crafts and contemporary art. looking back on the early 90's did you have any idea things would move in this direction? was there a specific moment for you when you started to realize that this was an actual movement happening?
in the early 90’s i was a teenager ripping up magazines and typing out angst-y rants on my typewriter to put into 'zines. i didn’t give any thought to art, craft or how that would influence the rest of my life. if anything, the current aesthetic seems so normal and comfortable to me i don’t think i can really step outside from my box to really see how the punk/D.I.Y/riot grrrl culture of the 1990’s has affected modern art and design.
however, when i participated in my first indie craft fair (renegade chicago, 2003), it was the first time as an adult that my punk roots were “revisited” (they never really left). basically, it was a blend of my teen years and what i am currently involved with and that is when i knew that something big was happening.
that being said, there is still a separation of craft and contemporary art. for instance a few years ago california college of arts removed craft from their name. whereas here in boston, mass college of art added design to their name. why do you think there is such a wide gap between craft and design? do you hope that documenting and opening DIY and craft culture up to a larger audience will lessen this separation? have you started to experience that on this journey already?
honestly, i don’t think i can summarize why there is such a wide gap between craft and design without personal dialog with someone. yes, i do hope that the documentary will provide an insight for those who may not be familiar with what is going on within the D.I.Y. community. this would ideally lead to a dialog with a wider audience and raise awareness about what opportunities are out there for designers within the D.I.Y. scene. as a side note, the cover story in (which i am included in) the august 2008 HOW magazine is on handmade design.
can you give any advice to people who want to start their own craft circles or fairs? what are some good resources to begin w/?
currently there are so many resources online for people to tap into. i’d start with these few gateway sites then just start clicking on links and seeing what is out there!
can you tell us about some of the events and opportunities that are coming up to help support handmade nation?
july 19th: silent art auction, poketo headquarters, LA, CA
august 7: jane addams hull-house museum, chicago, IL
october TBA: institute of visual arts, milwaukee, WI
october TBA: kohler arts center, sheboygan, WI