Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design by Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerl (Princeton Architectural Press, 2008) is as creative a book as the artists and crafters highlighted within. The book design is enticing as are the stories of the artists who dared to try something new. A mix of stories and graphically pleasing photos, logos, and designs, the book portrays over 24 artists from across the country and highlights the unique indie art and craft movement across the country. Filled with artisans both bold and enviro-friendly alike, there is something for everyone. A variety of mediums are represented, including glass artists, paper and fiber artists, graphic designers, clothing and shoes, and a host of artists using recylced materials and fibers for purses, pins, bags and toys. One clothing artist highlighted (Stephanie Syiuco) manufactures her clothing under the tag line “Because Sweatshops Suck.” Each story shows an artist following her dream and breaking free from the big consumer mode. I felt peace and joy radiating from each page and from each artist. That’s a pretty neat feeling to get from a book!

As a beader and jewelry maker, my personal favorites are the glass artists including Jenine Bressner, Jennifer Perkins, and Tracy Bull. View their profiles in the book or check out their websites and businesses. I also loved the work of book and paper artist Deb Dormody. Another crafter that inspired me with her timber jewelry and folksy clothes is Sue Daly. Every page I turned was filled with a craft to delight the senses.

While not an instructional book, the authors have chosen to present a book to inspire, to dream upon, and to get moving! I was struck by each artists path of live, where they came from, their schooling or training, and the courage to try new things and be experimental. The book spoke courage, confidence, and the choice to follow an artistic dream. Like most things, developing an art takes time and practice and the ability to move on and learn from mistakes. There are no mistakes actually. It’s all a beautiful process of developing, making, crafting, and doing. Many of the artists referred to themselves as ‘makers’ and the term instantly appealed to me. (With its indie focus, the book has a very GenX and Y feel although all generations of artists and crafters will appreciate this book). Makers use their art and craft as a form of activism, to make a statement, and to stand by ideals, like reusing materials as a direct reponse to our throw-away culture. (The book opened my eyes to viewing things in my world as potential art or materials to create with; endless possibilities!).

The book is organized by region with artists from across the country, coast to coast. With reflective and personal essays, I felt a personal connection to these inspiring and down to earth artists and crafters. One essay, “The Church of Craft: Making Our Own Religion,” explores the spiritual side of creating and making. In talking with other artists (music, poetry, media, etc), the spiritual connection (not necessarily religious) is an important part of the creative process. It’s partly getting in touch with another side of life and seeing the world through a different perspective, or view, or lens.

For more about Handmade Nation, visit the blog or website which includes information on both the book and the movie. Check it out and get ready to be inspired and think about art and craft from a different angle. Kudos to the authors! Highly recommended!

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