As I sit here stumbling around for words looking for a convenient moniker to describe Faythe Levine, I'm finding it difficult. How can a simple name like a film maker or author accurately describe someone who is involved in so many things? Faythe Levine is the mastermind behind Handmade Nation, the much anticipated documentary about "the Rise of D.I.Y., Art, Craft and Design scene, an author on an accompanying book coming out this fall from Princeton Architectural Press and co-authored by Cortney Heirmerl (pre-sales available through Amazon.com here), independent curator and creative director/events organizer of Art vs. Craft, a bi-annual indie market in Milwakee, a brick and mortar shop owner (with partner, Kim Kisiolek), Paper Boat Boutique, saw musician, fundraiser and crafter extraordinaire! If I had to pick a moniker for someone like this, I'd say she's an artist. An artist is someone who creates and Faythe creates much. I was thrilled when she accepted to do an interview with Poppytalk and so getting to the point, here's how it went:
Your documentary explores the movement you refer to as "the new wave of craft" and the uncertainty of where fine art meets craft. For our readers, can you clarify what this movement is.
My personal definition of the “new wave of craft” is a movement of people who have an interest in the handmade and doing things themselves. A generation of creatively motivated people who want to reclaim their lives and lay the foundation for their future with a progressive, supportive network of like-minded people. A community that is not so concerned with defining what falls under the labels of craft and art is but more interested in the act of creating and making work, often repurposing and regurgitation old ideas and methods, making them their own.
The amazing thing about this movement is that it means different things to different people, because creativity is personal and we make it what it means to ourselves.
I've read your goal from the beginning of this project has been to expose people outside the indie craft community to what's going on in the world of craft and give exposure to the community itself and the people who've created it. How do you feel the response has been thus far and is it meeting up to your expectations?
My intention with the documentary from the start was to make sure this massive amount of people around the world who are living these creative lives didn’t slip by without being documented. I wanted to make a film for the community members themselves, as well as those who weren’t aware this was happening.
I guess I didn’t start out expecting much, I just knew I was surrounded by amazing artists all around me, supporting each other, and I wanted to make sure their story was told. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming support for Handmade Nation (the film and book). It has been above and beyond my expectations and the film isn’t even done yet! And, to my surprise the support isn’t just coming from within the community, there has been a shocking amount of interest from those who don’t consider themselves a part of the scene but can relate to the project. The amazing thing about “craft” is that it is very approachable from a lot of different angels.
I am definitely taken back by the amount of attention that the project has already received and I am really thankful because I need that support to keep me going.
With the documentary almost ready to be shown and your experience since filming, where do you see craft within the world of art?
It is incredibly difficult for me to talk about where I see craft fitting into the world of art- not because I don’t have an option or observations, but because saying “the world of art” to me, is similar to saying “the new wave of craft”. Too large of a blanket term for a very touchy subject that some spend their entire lives arguing about.
I do think it is safe to say that there is a trend of artists using craft materials and methods in their work. Beyond that observation I would need to have a more specific direction with the question to go any further with my thoughts.
What was the highlight of making this documentary?
The best part of making this documentary was getting to meet and interview everyone I respect and admire creatively. Also, visiting the boutiques, galleries, and studios where everyone works. It was an amazing expierence.
I like your thoughts on finding affordable health care for independent artists and the social aspect supporting an artist's lifestyle, do you think this film will help bring light to this side of the business?
It would be ideal if a progressive dialog came out of people watching Handmade Nation and I think if people discuss the film after watching it that those types of questions will naturally come up. Watching the featured makers in the film you wonder how they maintain living as a working artist with issues like health insurance and child-care.
Could you explain to our readers your involvement in Craft Congress, and what it entails.
Craft Congress met for the first time in 2007 in Pittsburgh. The idea was for organizers of indie craft fairs and other indie social networking communities that benefited the movement would get together and discuss a wide variety of topics. The first year we talked about things like the pro’s and con’s of corporate sponsorships, health care and event marketing. This year Craft Congress was held in San Francisco and enrolment was open to all involved in the indie craft community. A variety of new topics were introduced including “how to get published”,” craft and activism” and “crafting green”.
I think the best thing to do to learn more about it is to visit the website and read about past events. I’m not sure what is in store for 2009 or who will be hosting the event yet.
What other projects are in your future?
I am really interested in continuing to do freelance curatorial projects. I have a show I am working on right now that will open in October at the Lawton Gallery at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay called “Craftivism: Reclaiming Craft and Creating Community”. I am really excited about doing the creative direction for a new pattern design for Sublime Stitching with Kate Bingaman-Burt (www.obsessiveconsumption.com who did the typography for Handmade Nation, the book) to raise awareness for the documentary. Also, I hope to tour as much as possible with the documentary and book in 2009 and get started on my next book!
These posters are hand numbered and printed in an edition of 100. Lemon drop paper with chocolate shimmery ink, 19" x 19" $12 each, illustrated by Kate Bingaman-Burt available at the Renegade Craft Fair in Brooklyn.
Is there a way our readers can help your project?
If people are interested in helping there are a few ways to help. The documentary is still in the postproduction phase and we have a lot of finishing costs to cover. There is our Etsy shop where you can get Handmade Nation t-shirts and totes as well as donated items from other community members (interested in donating to a future raffle, drop me an email); all proceeds of sales help us a great deal. We have been doing monthly raffle packages on our blog and the ticket sales go towards the production. And, something as simple as blogging about the film and book is a fantastic way to help hype up the projects as well as sharing the link to the clip on youtube.com and pre-ordering our book on Amazon.com.
Also, if you live in Los Angeles or know anyone who does, please help spread the word about our silent art auction we are doing in association with Poketo on Saturday July 19th. All the information you need to know is HERE.
I'd love if you could take a look at Poppytalk Handmade and give us a few faves of yours!
Here are a few things that caught my eye at Poppytalk Handmade:
• I love the work of annikki's weaving studio
• The Designer Chair Cocktail Napkins by avril loreti
• colleen baran’s felt jewelry and Summer Series
• Teenager Tricks silk screen print by ice bear
• Summer Kite Series by Lab Partner
• Paperiaarre’s line is amazing in design and uniqueness
Thanks so much Faythe and good luck with your upcoming happenings, we'll be watching.
Faythe will be part of the Kohler Art Museum DIY programming this Summer/Fall. A piece of her embroidery/appliqué will be on display along with the 8-minute clip in the community gallery beginning June 15. I will also be doing a weeklong residency at Kohler this October, more information on that programming to come.
June 10th: NYC/Brooklyn screening 20 minute short of Handmade Nation at Light Industry, "No Idle Hands" curated by Sabrina Gschwandtner
June 14th & 15th: NYC/Brooklyn swing by Renegade Craft Fair (over 200 vendors!) and say hi to the Wisconsin crew (Faythe, Kim Kisiolek and Cortney Heimerl) at the Handmade Nation booth!
June 17th: Milwaukee, Faythe will be a presenter at Pecha Kucha.
July 12th & 13th: San Francisco, Faythe will have a Handmade Nation booth at the first ever SF Renegade Craft Fair!
July 19th: Los Angeles, Silent Art Auction Fundraiser, information HERE.
August 7th: Chicago, screening 20 minute short of Handmade Nationat the Hull House Museum More information and programing details TBA
Handmade Nation site
Watch the trailer