Creating a New Craft Culture » A Handmade Nation

Presentation by Faythe Levine


Faythe Levine’s documentary “Handmade Nation” explores the world of D.I.Y. and indie craft fairs throughout the United States. Levine discussed the making of her film and the publication of her companion book, published by Princeton Architectural Press.

Levine was drawn to the DIY craft scene through both her own work and the attendance of several craft fairs, beginning in 2006 with Chicago’s Renegade Craft Fair. To create her documentary, she traveled over 19,000 miles with a filmmaker friend to visit craft fairs in 15 cities, where she interviewed the crafters who sell at these fairs to discuss their work and the state of indie craft. Levine used social media outlets like her blog to garner interest and create an audience for her film while she was in the process of creating it.

In her presentation, Levine highlighted a selection of the crafters featured in her film who she felt best expressed the new wave of D.I.Y. and alt-craft. Many of the craftspeople Levine discussed are seeking to make statements about American culture and consumerism through their work. For example, Kate Bingman-Burt’s Obsessive Consumption project documents her daily consumption and credit card bills through hand-drawn illustrations posted to her blog.

After her slide show, Levine fielded questions about her curatorial choices, explaining that she chose crafters whose work she liked, but that her tastes have changed over the last three years. Levine also stepped squarely into the D.I.Y. vs. Traditional Craft discussion that played a large role at the conference. Attendees asked if Levine felt that indie crafters like those featured in “Handmade Nation” were taking away from the traditional crafts and their outreach. Levine summed it up best when she said, “Whether you like it or not, it’s there.” DIY and indie craft may not be going anywhere, but it is up to the traditional craft community to realize they should not be threatened by this movement and these two can work together in a symbiotic relationship if they focus on their similarities and not their differences.

Reporting by Gloria Dunlap, a graduate student in the history of decorative arts at Corcoran College of Art + Design, who attended “Creating a New Craft Culture” on a student scholarship.

Gimme More!

Download the audio podcast
(Can’t open the file? Listen online here)
Read Faythe Levine’s biography
Browse Faythe’s blog and watch the “Handmade Nation” trailer
Blog coverage by conference attendees:
Ask Harriete, by Harriete Estel Berman
emiko-o reware, by Emiko Oye

I am a writer and a potter. I make both functional and ‘art’ pottery, as does my husband, John Dietrich. This conversation can get artists’ undies all bundled up. Perhaps if the art and skill needed to make great functional ware was honored by the conventional art world this discussion would wither away. Remember, if you can piss in it- it’s craft and if you can piss on it- it’s art. I didn’t make that one up, but I dooo like it.


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