Recently I finally got around to watching the much discussed documentary Hand-Made Nation by Faith Levine. And…I have to say I was super disappointed. To me the current rise of craft and the hand-made is fascinating and connected to some major cultural and lifestyle changes and trends and this documentary just seemed to me like a super slick and glossy advertisement.
Some folks have said they think this is because Faith is not a crafter and I think that has nothing to do with it. She is a documentary film maker and that is all she needed to be to make this film into a compelling story about the community and artists that she focused on. But perhaps that was the problem she focused on very little. I personally know a number of the folks that she interviewed and they all have fascinating and interesting back stories and in the film they get a 3-5 minute blurp of how and why they do what they do- in other words not enough time to learn anything about them and their work.
When I was writing my thesis for my MFA I had to mention the cultural context of what I was doing and I found in fascinating how many women in their 20′s and 30′s are turning to crafts and a level of domesticity that their mothers rejected. You also see the rise of the power house of Martha Stewart and the incredible popularity of stores like Anthropologie which cash in on this cultural trend. To me this is a cultural shift of some sort- are we dealing with a new sense of femininity, are we being drawn to the tactile and hand-made because our lives are run by computers, are we choosing to reject that the idea of feminist means not feminine or domestic. I am not an academic on the subject but these are questions that are present in the ideas of the artists and entrepreneurs of hand-made nation. But what came out of the film is missing the depth of the subject matter and seems like a somewhat random group of people working within a current trend. And I personally know that they are so much more and have such interesting and personal stories to tell.
I love what the film was trying to do but as someone who is so passionate about valuing the hand-made it did not live up. I wish the film had focused more on a select group of people who maybe are able to represent a larger group and truly research why they have made the decisions they have made- leaving behind more conventional jobs and lives to pursue their craft and what drew them to craft in the first place. Also perhaps having some academics studying the popularity and change in our culture to see what they have to say. That’s just my opinion.
I only wish there was someone else making a film with the same premise but a bit more heart.
Either way lets keep rocking our hand-made world!!!
Joetta Maue is a full time artist primarily using photography and fibers. Her most recent work is a series of embroideries and images exploring intimacy. Joetta exhibits her work throughout the United States and internationally, and authors the art and craft blog Little Yellowbird as well as regularly contributes to Mr. X Stitch. Joetta lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, baby son, two cats, a goldfish.