ACC Conference: Natalie Chanin - “Marketplace and the Personal – A Story of Thread”
ACC Conf.: Rob Walker - “Handmade 2.0”

ACC Conference 2009 - Faythe Levine - “A Handmade Nation”


Faythe Levine was the concluding speaker for the first day of the Conference. She is the rather infamous director of the film titled, “A Handmade Nation”.   CLICK HERE IS SEE A 9 MINUTE VIDEO CLIP on YouTube. At this point, there is also a book,  Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design41mswK4GeOL._SL160_

The production of this film seems almost mythical since she financed the entire project herself as well as the filming and editing as a personal mission to document the D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) movement. She traveled all over the United States to interview D.I.Y. artists and eventually winnowed down to the artists featured in the film.


Counterfeit Crochet
hand crochet Channel Bag

While traveling and filming, Levine generated visibility for the endeavor within the D.I.Y. community using the Internet. Since this community is largely a youthful subculture of 15 to 40 years old, word spread rapidly and even gained notice in the craft world at large.

I look forward to seeing the film, but we will stick to the content presented and the "vibe" that reverberated during the Conference.

Video shows a Postcard Machine by Michelle OTT. The artist sits inside the box, making postcards. Passersby turn the dial selecting criteria for their hand-made postcard purchase.

Faythe Levine's presentation was very well done including video snippets within the presentation. She showed interesting examples of work from the D.I.Y. world including the Postcard Machine (video above) and the images of artists' work included in this post. It was kind of like we were roaming through a virtual Bazaar Bizarre.

Garth Johnson
Garth Johnson

Despite the visual feast, I found Levine's demeanor subdued. She did not look like she was enjoying this opportunity to share her world. Maybe she was feeling self-conscious and unappreciated by the audience representing the established craft world of academics, galleries owners, craft organizations, and patrons. The D.I.Y. community was definitely a minority at the conference, but some were there such as Garth Johnson,  Emiko Oye and I both participated in Etsy and Maker Faire, maybe there were others we didn't know.

It seems that the D.I.Y. world has excitement, trendiness, irreverence, and a fashion-forward appearance.  The alternative craft fairs have funky names like Crafty Bastards, Renegade Fair, and Bazaar Bizarre. They know how to have a good time and how to market themselves!

Deadman dolls
Deadman Dolls
Cory Thompson at Craftland

Just to be clear, I have no blind allegiance to either the established craft world or the D.I.Y. world.   I don't understand nor agree with the dismissive antagonism from either side. In my opinion, there is plenty of boring or badly made work AND fabulous work in both arenas.

Merchandise using Peace symbols
Craftland, Providence, RI
Maker Unknown
Image from Flickr

I frequently see parallels between the current D.I.Y. community and the craft world of the '60s and '70s that often represented an alternative lifestyle and less sophisticated fabrication.   Just one example among current D.I.Y. makers is the use of the Peace symbol from the 60's time period.



Soft Porn
Hooked Rug
Whitney Lee

"What does she like?" Her tastes have grown. Ms. Levine said that after meeting so many artists and makers in the D.I.Y. world, she would possibly be more discerning in her criteria for selection of people in the film, the book, and personal purchases. She made this comment inferring that she had begun naively, but with extended exposure, she's learned to evaluate the quality of work much like a curator.

WHAT DID I LEARN?  We all should watch the film, "Handmade Nation" and see what we think. Despite the egalitarian aspect of the movement, the cream still rises to the top.

LIFESTYLE OR LIVELIHOOD? It seems to me that most people are not making a living off their work. There are exceptions, of course, but both the D.I.Y. world and the craft world struggle with generating income from selling their work. Thus livelihood remains out of reach and lifestyle is an aspiration.

SUMMARY: Both the D.I.Y. and the established craft world have A LOT to learn from each other.  If they continue to be antagonistic or consciously ignorant about what the other has to offer, they are both doomed to marginal financial success. 

I look forward to your comments. Please write to me directly or leave a comment.




51weEtnKCuL._SL160_ 1000 Ideas for Creative Reuse (Book includes D.I.Y. work and more)

This post was updated on January 3, 2022, to provide current links.