My husband and I took a trip to Portland over the weekend, ostensibly for our 14-year wedding anniversary, but he had also registered for the marathon. Unfortunately, a stress fracture in his leg prevented him from running. For someone who is completely addicted to running, this hasn’t been easy.
With limited walking abilities, we concentrated on food, crafts, beer, coffee, and record stores. We found lots of great vegan restaurants, but the vegan food truck was probably our favorite. I visited Crafty Wonderland and Woonwinkel, both amazing shops. And we explored breweries and record stores all over town. The weather was sunny and actually warm, so we picked a great time to visit.
Since it was Portland Design Week, there were lots of things going on around town. Sunday night I attended a panel discussion with three craft book authors: Besty Greer of Craftivism, Kim Werker of Make it Mighty Ugly, and Leanne Praine of Strange Material. All very interesting and inspiring books! The discussion was led by Kate Bingaman-Burt, author of Obsessive Consumption.
In the discussion, they talked about using craft in different ways and in particular, Kim Werker talked about allowing yourself failure as a way to find your creativity. She recounted an experience at a crafting party where she felt uncomfortable and didn’t really know how to sew well, so she intentionally made an ugly doll and found this experience incredibly liberating. They talked about all of the beautiful creative images we see online, which Kim referred to as “fiction”, and how these images can be frustrating. As she said “shame is combated by honesty.” In the same way that it’s often cathartic to open up about our personal lives in all their complexities, sometimes acknowledging and embracing creative failures can help you move forward.
Make it Mighty Ugly is a book filled with stories about the creative process and tangible things you can do to exorcise your creative demons, overcome fears, and build confidence in your creative abilities. Her suggestions for finding inspiration include riding the bus for a full day, getting up early to make things, reading a book, and taking directions from a kid. I love this last one and I can guarantee that trying to make something a kid has requested will challenge your creativity. I recently realized that the thing I love most about making is the problem-solving involved. If I want something to look a certain way, I have to figure out how to make it happen — that place between inspiration and creation is often my favorite part of making.
Betsy’s book, Craftivism, focuses on using craft to make statements or express a viewpoint, often in a very public way, whether it’s to tell a personal story, making a political statement, or engaging your community in a discussion. Betsy feels that craftivism is all about creating a dialogue. The book includes essays, interviews and photographs of a wide range of crafts. Whether it’s an intricate needlepoint image of a still frame from the Columbine shooting, making handmade nets for neglected basketball hoops, or yarn-bombing an airplane, these images and stories send a powerful message and often bring people together in the process.
In Strange Material, author Leanne Prain shares the stories from those who create textile art with meaning. In her introduction she says “Narrative is the binding thread of human experience, and stories are the medium that we use to know one another and ourselves.” Her interviews and essays include artists working with embroidery, knitting, sewing, and quilting. As she points out in her introduction, stories told with textile art are often those of the disenfranchised throughout history — women, slaves, children. Textiles are often the only available means of communication for these groups. I highly recommend this inspiring book that blurs the line between art and craft.