Friday, February 13, 2009

Welcome to our Handmade Nation

image via

Whether you make things as a hobby, a business, because it's cheaper, or just to put a special touch on a birthday present - you are part of a nation-wide trend that values individual, artistic flair over mass production. Do-it-yourself (DIY) culture represents a desire to re-make our lives in a more sustainable, tactile, and self-sufficient way. Making something with your own hands is a huge statement of power and social change, that results from seemingly tiny actions.

On Tuesday, TiffanyTomato and I had the opportunity to attend a Q&A session by the makers and authors of Handmade Nation , a new film documenting the rise of indie DIY culture across the United States. The discussion was moderated by Andrew Wagner, of American Craft Magazine, and included director/producer Faith Levine, Assistant producer Cortney Heimerl, and featured New York crafter Sabrina Gschwandtner.

Handmade Nation is both a documentary and an experiment, as the making of the film itself was a DIY, collaborative, learn-as-we-go process. According to Faith, the project was driven by a desire to share the DIY crafting niche with the outside world, and learn more about work that is touched by the artist's hand. True to the DIY networking spirit, Handmade Nation first grabbed the attention of publishers by way of an explosively popular YouTube video about the film.

This event was an exciting opportunity for me because I got to engage in a community of like-minded thinkers who are making the world a more sustainable place through small actions. I spend too much time feeling like a tiny, helpless voice of in a world where everything we eat, wear, and buy is mass produced in a factory somewhere. It was very inspiring to hear these women talk about their successes, their failures, and their thoughts about uniting a country of individual artists and makers into a cultural movement.

The internet as a tool in the DIY movement was an interesting topic during the Q&A. Sabrina of Knit Knit stated that the indie craft world grew from the internet, and handmade goods are sympathetic to the web (if you've never been, check out etsy. Sabrina makes a good point, observing that the speed and rapid development of information technology has increased the need for slow, tactile arts. Their research has shown that although artists and crafters use the internet as a networking resource, the screen is no replacement for knitting circles, craft fairs, and other real-time community events.

Catch the NYC Premier screening of Handmade Nation this Saturday Feb 14th and Sunday Feb 15th at 2pm at the Museum of Arts and Design, followed by a Q&A session with Faith Levine. This film is for you if: you've ever felt the joy of making something by hand and want to learn more!

image via Handmade Nation

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