My mother and my grandmother were the ones who actually taught me how to sew, and I grew up in a real crafty family. When I went to school for my BFA, a couple of my girlfriends got together and wanted to start a women's craft collective. I worked with them for a couple of years, and started my own clothing line that I sold on Saturdays in a market that was in the parking lot of an organic grocery.
I grew up in Seattle in the '90s, and was kind of privy to being a part of the punk scene there. I was going to all ages shows and a lot of my friends were in bands, so through them I was exposed to the whole DIY punk scene—people silk-screening their own shirts, making their own zines. Then in 2003, I started producing a line called Flying Fish designs, and it was around then that I started to become aware of the craft sites, like Craftster, getcrafty, CutxPaste, and through them I found this community of creative, like-minded women who were coming from a similar place with a DIY point of view. It was around that same time that I went to Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago, and I just kind of became addicted.
We have a timeline in our book, and we kind of said it started in 1994, with the first BUST zine; 2000 was when people really started to have online communities. 2003 was when it really started to coagulate and it really became obvious that there was something happening.
I think something that is important to remember when talking about DIY and the craft scene is that a lot of people have different motivations behind what they're doing. But I think for a lot of us, it's the camaraderie and the feeling of community, and of making something yourself, following through and having a final product to share.
An extended trailer for the documentary.
A lot of crafting is subverting traditional techniques, but it's specific to the individual people who are doing it. It is reflective of individual desires and tastes, and what they want to create and what they want to pursue. I think there is a definite link to the third wave of feminism—for some people. There's an idea of reclaiming domesticity as women, and it isn't something that we have to do but something that we're choosing to do. Some people definitely have a feminist agenda, but then there are people who can't relate to that at all. Talking about craft, DIY and the resurgence of handmade, it does make it really difficult, because it's not one type of person, but that also makes it really exciting.
We started production on the documentary, myself and Micaela O'Herlihy, in 2006, and we spent about a year and a half shooting around the country. We interviewed more than 80 people for the documentary, and for the book, we plucked 24 people who we had interviewed for the documentary, and the text in the book is directly from the documentary.
The opening sequence for Handmade Nation.
For me a big part of handling production for the documentary was being able to dig in to all of my personal favorites and go and meet the artists. That was the whole motivation behind this, was to be able to tell people about other people, so it was really exciting to be able to call Jenny Hart from Sublime Stitching and be like "Hey, can I come to your studio and talk to you for three hours about embroidery?" It was just a really awesome experience to get to connect, and I've developed life-long friendships with a lot of these people.
When I first started production on the documentary, I was really surprised at the number of people following the blog and where we were shooting. It has been amazing on a community level, but also on a larger scale. People can really relate to handmade, everyone knows someone who makes something; everyone has a story to tell, so it's a very approachable topic. Hopefully, that contagious feeling of wanting to make will continue to spread.