Peanut butter and Jellyfish by

Peanut butter and Jellyfish by

On Metal Clay Gallery list a bit ago, there was this discussion about “what is indie crafts?” that started because someone was turned down for a show because her work was “fine crafts” and not indie enough.

I was surprised how many people had never heard of indie crafts.

In response, I posted this tome, thought I’d share here:

Actually the Indie craft movement thing is pretty big and I think we would be remiss if we dismissed it out of hand.

What is it? Near as I can figure, it’s a resurgence of crafts among 20somethings, sort of a ’70s back to the land thing, only this time the “land” is maybe vermiculture in your apartment, growing tomatoes on your balcony, and making your own stuff.

Not every Indie crafter is about making craft as an art form — for some it’s about making as much as they can of their own stuff that they use. Partly it’s an eco-thing — reducing the amount that they buy from commercial sources — so this aesthetic includes thrifting and remaking clothing.

I have a friend who buys as much as possible either 2nd hand or from Etsy.

The ’70s crafts movement was the 2nd wave (the first being the Arts and Crafts Movement), I see what’s happening now as a 3rd wave, and I think it’s a very good thing. We do need customers, don’t we? We need people to learn our Craft.

The 2nd wave was pottery, metalsmithing, fiber arts, wearable art. Now the Indie crafters are expanding the boundaries a bit — is a hand silk screened Tshirt an art form? Sometimes.

Not all young indie crafters are completely without standards, to say that all of them are is an insult to the young people who embrace Craft with a capital C and who strive to master their material.

And not all indie crafters are making stuff with skulls and such. It’s a diverse group, just as we are.

So, what is Indie craft? To see some, check out Craft zine (the publishers of the now defunct Craft mag.), Crafty Pod, IndiePublic.

It’s bigger than just young people who don’t want to buy soulless corporate stuff.

Something is happening, culturally. There’s a massive increase in the technology in our lives. Someone wrote about it in an article, sorry I can’t remember where I read it — the idea is High Tech, High Touch. We’re so immersed in technology — chained to your Blackberry anyone? — that we need as humans to do some things that are not technology based. Some you know, IRL (In Real Life) things.

Making your own stuff feels good, makes you feel human and capable.

The other half of the technology bit is –

the technology we use to make our crafts/art/stuff of everyday life that we want to be handmade instead of mass produced.

Right now, without leaving home, I can design my own fabric on the computer, have it shipped to me, and then make my own purse out of it. Is it less handmade because I didn’t hand silk screen the fabric myself?

There’s CAD/CAM. Is it still crafts if I design it on the computer and email the file somewhere and the product is shipped to me, did I still make it?

There are laser welders — if I laser weld a seem is that less handmade than if I soldered it?

Did anyone notice that the American Craft Museum changed their name to the American Design Something Museum? (Art and Design?)

There’s a change afoot about what matters — the making or the designing — and to a lot of people, the designing is the thing. Whether the item is produced in small amounts or large amounts is a separate choice.

Not everyone cares if it’s handmade.

I think that some people will always care.

Some of us just have to make stuff, and it’s important to us that it’s well made. Technique matters. Achieving mastery of our chosen field and material matters.

What do you think?

Update: after pondering this more, I realized that I’d written as if every Indie Crafter is a 20something, when actually, some of the biggest names in Indie Crafts are Gen Xers.

Want to read more about Indie Crafts? The book, Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design is a great introduction, with artist profiles and essays.

Visit to see more great plushies and other cool products.

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