Tuesday, December 14, 2010


There is a term out there that is new to me that a friend recently shared with me: Craftivism = Activism + Craft. Wikipedia has defined craftivism as "a form of activism, typically incorporating elements of anti-capitalism, environmentalism or third-wave feminism, that is centered around practices of craft- most notably knitting. Practitioners are known as craftivists."

I think anytime you make something yourself it is a form of craftivism because a statement is being made, whether it is to purposefully avoid supporting "the man," or just ackowledging you can add more value to a product. Any one item you can make that avoids supporting a larger mass-production operation is craftivism.

Read more about the topic here:
An article on Treehugger.Com

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gifts Mom's Keep

IMAGE: http://blog.craftzine.com/archive/2009/05/kids_crafts_for_mothers_day.html

Sitting on my Mom's desk at work is a heavy green-glazed hand-smashed turtle with a top hat that holds nothing other than paper clips. For over 15 years, maybe 20, the turtle has performed it job. My mom cherishes it. Because I made it. (Sorry, no actual photo available at this moment)

The turtle is not the only object that has held such a long life; there are countless other horrible pieces of pottery, decorations, and cards I have made all through her home. What these items hold is an emotional connection and a story. Surely a store bought paper clip holder may have been trashed years and years ago and she wouldn't have thought twice about the disposal. There is a lot of discussion about what green design means and how we can create products with a smaller environmental footprint. Handmade items hold meaning and connection that mass-produced items have a harder time developing.

I ran across an interview with Technology Designer GAdi Amit discussing green design, and his following statement made me think about that silly paper clip holder:

The problem with sustainability design today is the perception that it's pure mechanics -- let's analyze carbon impact, toxicity, and so on...Objects have a cultural meaning, and objects that are lovable, that are well integrated into culture, won't be trashed after five years, and so are sustainable. If the object is connecting emotionally, connecting culturally, people will keep it. ...The bottom line is there's no replacement for emotional connection. Sustainability promoters need to understand that without this emotional, cultural enabler, they face a very tough uphill battle.

I think we all have these top-hat-turtle objects in our life. Can this emotional connection be the driver for sustainable design? Can we design products that create such a bond that we want to hold on to, fix, and never replace? How can we create business models that can succeed with these old-fashioned mentality?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Stories Disguised As Objects

The story behind an object is often where the beauty lies. Handmade objects provide a manifestation of how a person is feeling and often how they view the world around them. I love understanding artisan's process: how they get inspired, choose their materials, and execute their designs. I am fascinated by the internal thought process and the external influence.

Etsy has put together some great videos on the stories behind an artisan and their items. These stories add an incredible value to objects which mass produced items can't possibly match. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Weekend Event: Urban Craft Uprising

IMAGE: http://www.urbancraftuprising.com/index.htm

Attention Seattle lovers-of-craft: this upcoming weekend (December 4&5) is the Urban Craft Uprising at the Seattle Center Expo Hall. It's free! Looks like there will be over 120 differerent vendors selling items from yarns to desserts.

There will also be a few book signings with Twinkie Chan, author of Crochet Goodies for Fashion Foodies: 20 Yummy Treats to Wear, Moxie, author of I Felt Awesome: Tips & Tricks for 45+ Needle Poked Projects, Anna Hrachovec, author of Knitting Mochimochi: 20 Super-Cute Strange Design for Knitted Amigurumi, and Kurt Reighley, author of United States of Americana.

Check out their website for more information. Doors are open from 11AM till 5PM. Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Crafting Community

I have been doing some research for places that develop community around crafting through shared learning environments, third places, and events. Blim, located in Chinatown of Vancouver, is just one of those places. From the outside, Blim looks like a 80s clothing explosion, but walk in and you realize the place is doing more than trying to sell you clothes.

Blim has a small retail storefront that sells a range of handmade items from clothing to buttons to silk screens. The retail space helps connect consumers to local artisans and craftsmen of Vancouver. Look beyond the store and you see large workbenches, organized tools and piles of materials. Blim offers daily classes (roughly CAN$70) including book binding, drawing, collages, fabric dyeing, and sticker making. They also host a variety of events including movie showings, musical guests, and art exhibits in their upstairs gallery.

I did some research prior to my arrival at the store and had a basic understanding of what they do at Blim. I thought, however, that if it was my first time there that the space seemed a little confusing. The outside windows made it seem like it was a vintage clothing store and it didn't indicate or hint at what the store really does. I would liked to have seen more of an invitation to take the classes or been provided better information about the complete offerings of the store.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Slow Foods Ideals and Cloth

Elaine Lipson has approached textiles through the same lens that I am approaching crafting: through the lens and principle of the Slow Food Movement. I came across this great article she has written that fully explore the connection between the two.
Image: Glennis Dolce from HandEye
To clarify, she first identifies the misconception is that "slow cloth" is attempting to make things slow. Instead the idea is to focus on the relationship with the product, quality, and to celebrate the process and culture.

She has identified ten principles of the the Sloth Cloth movement that I want to continue to share:
1. Joy in the process
2. It can be contemplative
3. Honors skill with possibility of mastery
4. Celebrates diversity and multicultural history
5. Honors its teachers and past
6. Encourages sustainable use of materials and resources
7. Celebrates quality
8. Appreciates beauty
9. Supports community and respects labor
10. Approach is expressive of individual and cultures

The process of making things for ourselves is far from being an efficient use of our time (from the standards we have set in current manufacturing). Making is not about quantity of production, but being able to put a story into what we do. A friend once commmented that making is "...is a manifestation of how we see the world." When we take times to make things ourselves we appreciate the materials that go into it, our history and culture are inherently a part of it, we work hard to create a piece of quality, and the time we spent gains a new value.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Harvey Project

I met with my friend, Katy Mirra, the other day who is working on a new side project for her master's research in sustainable textiles. She recently adopted an angora rabbit, Harvey, who will be living with her in her third story apartment alongside her dog and cat.
Katy will be collecting Harvey's fur during his natural shedding cycles over the course of the year. Once the fur is collected, she will learn to spin the fur and eventually use it in to knit a sweater. She informed me that over the course of the year, one angora rabbit should shed enough fur for one sweater.

I think this is a great example of a craftsman taking the time to understand sustainable material generation, the relationship we have with animal fibers, and respecting the full life of an article of clothing. Check out her blog, The Big Bunny Blog, to watch the project.