Story last updated at 3/25/2009 - 10:58 am
Is craft the new buzzword of the millennia? Okay, that may be wishful thinking on my part, but everywhere I turn, craft is strutting her stuff down a catwalk (shout out to all the Wearable Arts), or decaling his way onto a porcelain pot (check out the State Museum's current exhibit featuring Jeremy Kane), or gracefully and patiently adorning walls (the Juneau Arts and Culture Center has the Capital City Quilters this weekend). With all this craft about, I have to think that, yes, local craft really is hitting its stride. But what about the rest of the U.S.? When are they going to catch up?
In the lower 48 the crafting movement has been "growing up" bit by bit since the sixties and seventies macramé-laden, bra-burning years. Nationwide, the new craft entourage is youthful, politically charged, and chanting, "This is not my grandma's craft." While estranging my Grannie may not be first on my agenda, the messages sent out reach me with their positive declarations - "Buy handmade," "Recycle, reuse, reduce," and "Craft for a better world."
Take Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerl, authors of the new book "Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft and Design." They've tracked crafting in the U.S. to compile a visual and mental indulgence in all that is hip and new in the world of craft - although they somehow missed Alaska. Nonetheless, by page 2, I was hooked. Lime pages covered in childlike scribbles track the rise of this handmade scene, which rooted itself in the early 90s mostly through fairs, blogs, and political craft movements. Politics, you wonder? I did too. But the movement is entrenched in groups like the Church of Craft, whose members find higher aspirations in handmade creation and Craftivists, who dedicate their daily lives to making a statement through craft.
Founder Betsy Greer puts it best: "In a time of over-ease and overuse and overspending, I can take back the control . . . I [can] start a revolution - just by making things." Brief interviews with successful career-crafters pique just enough interest to make you wonder, "Could I join this crafting elite?" But this taste of the craft-life is not quite enough to satiate the hungry enthusiast. Luckily, the book is merely a precursor to a full-length documentary currently premiering, well, not here (but there's interest, so keep your fingers crossed).
Fortunately for Alaskans, craft's popularity is not just in the political indie scene, but also on the big blockbuster screen. "Coraline," the brainchild of Neil Gaiman (author) and Henry Selick (director) has taken three years and a troupe of crafters to animate. Not for the weak-hearted, this twisted tale follows a little girl as she discovers a secret door leading her to an alternate (read: creepy) world.
The amazing cunning of this feature is in the tiny puppets used to create every second of stop-motion animation that weave the tale. Miniature knitted sweaters, tiny acrobatic mice and a forest of minuscule tulips only brush the surface. And of course, the devious characters of the other world have button eyes. Who knew such immaculate craft could be so creepy?
Not only can we trip down to the local screen for a viewing of this fairytale nightmare, but Juneau's JUMP Society has even cajoled the head of the "Coraline" puppet department, Georgina Hayns, to come visit for a workshop and lecture this spring. Mark your calendars for April 25 and 26 and stay tuned for registration opportunities. And think about inviting your Grandma, because we Alaskans know where the coolest crafters get inspiration: right at home.
Tanna Peters is a crafter and designer from wonderful, rainy Southeast Alaska. View her latest creations at suiteliving.blogspot.com and her shared crafting sitecraftaddicts.blogspot.com. Send local craft inquiries and info to email@example.com.