Handmade Nation began as a documentary film. Officially released in February, it is scheduled to make its local debut in April at the Museum of Contemporary Craft. In the meantime, director and author/editor Faythe Levine is reading this week to promote a book version of Handmade Nation, which collects testimonies from members of the craft community, and essays on how "the new wave of craft" (think Crafty Wonderland's monthly bazaar and Etsy.com) coincides with various forces, from religion to the internet.
MERCURY: American Craft Editor Andrew Wagner's introduction to Handmade Nation mentions the damage done to craft's reputation for quality in the '60s and '70s by over-proliferation. How will the new wave avoid this?
FAYTHE LEVINE: It's important not to have quality control on one level, because it's important to remind people that having a creative outlet—no matter what it is or what the quality is—is incredibly positive. Our generation is embracing the fact that you can do whatever you want with a medium. Some are focusing more on quality, some more on process. It's all really important.
The virtues of buying handmade flow closely to buying local. Is it contradictory to buy a handmade item and have it shipped?
I definitely see that point. If you are making the decision to buy something online instead of buying it direct from someone in your own community, there might be a reason for that. You might live rurally; you [might not] have access to something that's more innovative and cool.
How do you think the current economy will affect the craft world?
It seems like because people are becoming more conscious about how they spend their money, and where they spend their money, it's proven to be a really positive thing for the craft community. Ideally, people will realize the benefits of being creative and having a creative outlet, and hopefully that might start to reflect back into the educational system, where there's no more art programming in most public schools. This is just the beginning of what's going to unfold.