Monday, February 09, 2009

Greenjeans Review: Handmade Nation - The Book

The companion book to the documentary of the same name, Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design by Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerl is a book you want in your collection (Princeton Architectural Press, 2008, $24.95. On Amazon for $18.96).

A collection of profiles of 24 new wave craft artists, with lots of photos and text written by the artists, comprises the majority of the book. Organized by region, they offer friendly glimpses into some of the many studios and lifestyles of independent craft-makers around the country.

I generally like portraits-of-the-artist-in-the-studio books, and Handmade Nation is a valuable addition to the genre. While Liberman’s 1960 gem The Artist in His Studio is still my all time fave, this book just might be the much-needed all-female counterpart to that.

The essays interspersed throughout are good, at times thought-provoking and inspiring. Written by Andrew Wagner of American Craft Magazine, Callie Janoff of the Church of Craft, and Garth Johnson of the blog Extreme Craft (who asks “would there be indie craft without the internet?”), among others, they add context and insights for understanding this new craft movement.

In the Preface, Levine tells the story of how her project to document the handmade scene was born. At one point she writes, “Without really being conscious of it, we were creating an independent economy free from corporate ties.” I believe in this idea of a parallel economy – it's part of what inspired us to start Greenjeans -- and despite these rough economic times I am optimistic about the future of independent craft, throughout the greater craft world.

The book – and I expect the documentary too -- is essentially a love letter to the handmade nation, as well as a delicious gift to anyone who loves craft. I challenge anyone to read this book and not fall in love with the phenomenon of the craft new wave.

. . .

Levine and co. are in town this week at Powerhouse Books for a talk and book signing, then at the Museum of Arts and Design for the documentary's New York premier.

Click here for more opportunities to catch Handmade Nation on tour!

And check out the Handmade Nation blog to see media coverage and events corresponding with the book and film tour.

Posted by Amy Shaw for Greenjeans.

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