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Faythe Levine’s ‘Handmade Nation’

Nov. 18, 2009
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If your idea of crafts is limited to appliqué sweatshirts and Styrofoam snowmen, local artist/filmmaker Faythe Levine can help you get beyond those crafting misconceptions. For the last three years, Levine has been traveling across the country, filming and promoting Handmade Nation, a documentary about the thriving do-it-yourself (DIY) indie craft movement. She also co-authored a companion book of the same name. As if that weren’t enough, Levine continues to co-produce Art vs. Craft, Milwaukee’s first DIY indie market, which she founded in 2004.

What is DIY craft?

DIY craft is younger makers who are taking traditional methods and putting a contemporary twist on them. You’ll find all of these methods that have been around for ages and it’s really exciting to see how people are taking these ideas and making them new—making them appeal to a different audience.

What inspired you to found Art vs. Craft?

I used to have a company where I made handmade items, and as I started spending more time online, I found a lot of other like-minded people, younger people who were making the things that I was making. I connected through these online communities and I found out about Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago in 2003. I participated in that show as a designer and I had such an amazing experience at Renegade that I wanted to have a show similar to that in Milwaukee.

Why did you make Handmade Nation?

Handmade Nation came out of my continual involvement within the DIY community. As a designer and a shop owner and as a gallery curator, the amount of people that I was coming in contact with was just growing and growing. I was excited about the work that I was seeing and I felt that it needed to be captured and documented before it morphed into something totally different.

Were you surprised by the response?

I knew that there would be interest, however I didn’t expect the audience to be as international. I didn’t expect the audience to branch out as much as it has, to the older more established craft scene or within the educational system. It has become much more of an educational book and film than I had originally thought. 

Do you think that you have changed what people think of when they think of crafts?

I think what I’ve done is given people something tangible to point people to when they’re trying to explain it. The DIY craft community is like the umbrella term that so many people work under with different mediums and different motivations, and Handmade Nation has provided people with a tool to explain it.

Photograph by Michael Goelzer



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