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When Faythe Levine gets behind a project, she puts her whole stitched-together heart into it. While making her documentary Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft and Design, she had only one other person helping her. She wrote a concurrent book to go with it. She financed most of the film on credit cards. And her precious, folky band, Wooden Robot, in which she plays the musical saw, provided the soundtrack.
It's a work ethic that fits perfectly into the DIY crafting community her film explores. But it's not necessarily something she prefers: One of the dirty little secrets that Handmade Nation reveals is that if you want to go DIY, you have to go all the way — and that means DIY toilet-cleaning, too. But the film isn't all serious — how could it be, when it's about a movement reliant on glitter and googly eyes?
City Paper: Is it true, as the film argues, that you have to be willing to seriously put in the time for a DIY business?
Faythe Levine: I think part of the experience of running a small business is the learning process. There is a lot more to do than you initially realize. I know that during the holiday season, my dishes sat in my sink for long periods of time.
CP: What are the film's crowd-pleasers?
FL: Everyone is always really excited to see what Sublime Stitching author Jenny Hart's office looks like. And, of course, they love Knitta — a knitted graffiti group.
CP: Will the indie craft industry ever reach a critical mass?
FL: In a dream world, small brick-and-mortar shops would rise above the big-box retailers and prevail. However, realistically, I think that we will always remain on the fringe.
CP: What do you think of Philly's DIY scene?
FL: I've worked with Art Star and the things they do, like the Art Star Craft Bazaar, are really fun. I've also been to Space 1026. They do amazing things there.
CP: The film discusses the complicated history of women and crafting — first it was forced upon us, then the women's movement in the '60s and '70s rejected it, and now here we are doing it again. What does it mean politically for a woman to make crafts today?
FL: I think the aspect of taking something that was once expected of us and reclaiming it and making it our own is very empowering. Also, aesthetically making craft cool again really sends a message that DIY is what we make it.
Handmade Nation Screening and Q&A | Sat., Aug. 1, 6-8 p.m., $5, Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch St., 800-432-7238, ext. 218, indiecraftdocumentary.blogspot.com.