MAKESHIFT: The Fusion of DIY, Music, Craft, and Humming by Melanie Falick
Fashion, craft, and design communities find Mecca in Manhattan.
Tuesday night something amazing happened in New York City. More than one hundred people gathered at the Standard in East Village, a luxury hipster hotel on Cooper Square, and joined together for a sing-along and finger-knitting. Really. It happened. I was there. Everyone looked elated, from the handsome 20-something guy across from me (who I initially assumed was a supermodel but is actually an up-and-coming fashion designer), to the chic magazine editors and design company executives who were sipping wine before they settled into the low black couches.
Everyone who was lucky enough to secure entry into this unique event seemed transported by the simple act of transforming a length of cotton jersey cord into a knitted necklace, by taking an old folk song, riffing on a few verses, and making something new.
Singer and songwriter Rosanne Cash led the sing-along. Natalie Chanin, founder and creative director of the fashion and lifestyle companyAlabama Chanin, led the knitalong. The occasion was MAKESHIFT: Shifting Thoughts on Design, Fashion, Craft, and DIY, a panel discussion kicking off a week of MAKESHIFT events organized by Chanin. Also speaking were Cathy Bailey, owner and designer of Heath Ceramics, Maria Cornejo, designer for Zero+Maria Cornejo, and Jessamyn Hatcher, a professor of fashion studies and the humanities at New York University. Moderating was Andrew Wagner, a DIY columnist for theNew York Times and the editorial director of Krrb.
“It’s like a small Pandora’s box opening,” Chanin says of the evening in which the main topic of conversation was the joy and value of making. “Making is as an integral part of all creative, design, and fashion industries. A conversation has been started and we hope it will continue.”
Cathy Bailey of Heath Ceramics recalled the tour she took of the company’s factory back in 2003, before she and her husband bought it. “Nothing was outsourced, everything was produced there. I think that’s what gave it that energy, that hum. There was such focus.” Bailey had, until then, been working as an industrial designer, but “Design wasn’t enough for me,” she says. “Something is missing when you’re only designing, when you’re not making.”
Maria Cornejo concurred. After leaving the fashion business, in 1998 she decided to open a store called Zero, where she and her team gradually started making things. “We put a rack of clothes at the front of the store; if people reacted to them, we made more, she recalled. “I miss those days when it was so hands-on.”
I personally grew up in a home where the handmade was revered and I edit craft books for a living – in fact, I edited all three of Chanin’s books:Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, and Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, the one that just came out and inspired the initial plans for MAKESHIFT 2012. So, given my background and day job, getting together to finger-knit is not as novel to me as it is to a lot of people. Honoring the maker is what I try to do every day. And it’s what Chanin does in her books – in which she shares instructions for the traditional techniques with which her clothing and homewares are made. “We make fashion,” Chanin explained on Tuesday night. “And we teach people how to make fashion.”
Rosanne Cash, who is an avid knitter and recently began hand-stitching Alabama Chanin clothing, told us: “All I want to do is follow Natalie around whatever she does.”
Chanin’s mission for MAKESHIFT is to break down some of the walls that exist between the fashion, craft, and design communities in order to find a meeting place so that “every maker, as well as the designs, products, and lives they touch, will be enriched.”
If the openness of everyone’s faces as they formed their necklaces on Tuesday night is any indication, the walls are coming down.
Sculptor turned Milliner, Leigh Magar started Magar Hatworks almost 20 years ago in Charleston, SC.
She studied the classic hat making techniques at F.I.T. in Manhattan.
She has created hats for Jussara Lee’s (1998) Bryant Park runway show, had work displayed in numerous Barneys New York ads & windows, chosen for “Women’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award” from Country Living magazine (2009), won “Made in the South Award” from Garden & Gun magazine (2010), collaborated with J. Morgan Puett in “Cottage Industry” Spoleto Art’s Festival (2002), and created whimsical bird and butterfly hats for the Rachel Feinstein/John Currin’s wedding (1998).
Her work has been in the New York Times, Food & Wine, Martha Stewart Living, Sartorialist, Garden & Gun, and others.
Her hats are available at Barneys New York and in her studio/hat shop.
Standard Talks: Rosanne Cash
To begin the evening at MAKESHIFT @ the Standard Talks, Rosanne Cash opened with a performance of “Fair and Tender Ladies,” a traditional Appalachian folk song that has been recorded by many singers. The song had often been performed by her step-mother, June Carter Cash.
Rosanne began by sharing her thoughts on crafting and writing music. In turn, she asked the audience to collaborate and “craft” a new song from the original version. This posed the question: “What can we learn from the field of music as we creatively approach a collaboration between amateurs and auteurs, makers and users?”
Following are the original lyrics, as sung by Rosanne:
“Fair and Tender Ladies”
Come all you fair and tender ladies
Take warning how you court young men
They’re like a star on a summer morning
They first appear and then they’re gone
They’ll tell to you some loving story
And they make you think that they love you well
Then away they’ll go and court some other
And leave you there in grief to dwell
I wish I was on some tall mountain
Where the ivy rock is black as ink
I’d write a letter to my false true lover
Whose cheeks are like the morning pink
Oh, love is handsome, love is charming
And love is pretty while it’s new
but love grows cold, as love grows older
And fades away like morning dew
Each member of the audience rewrote a portion of the song’s four stanzas. A selection was chosen for Rosanne to sing along with the audience at the end of the discussion.
In the “crafted” version of “Fair and Tender Ladies,” the structure, melody, and context were innovatively altered, creating a new song.
Following are the “crafted” lyrics, as sung together by Rosanne and the entire audience:
“Fair and Tender Ladies”
Come all you strong and courageous ladies
Take note how you court your men
They’re like a firefly on a summer night
They first glow and then they’re gone
They’ll toss to you some fleeting story
And they hope you think that they know you well
Then again they’ll go and court some daydreams
And leave you there in peace to dwell
I wish I was on some tall moonbeam
Where the broken rock is black as night
I’d write a song to my false sweet lover
Whose kisses are like the distant pink
Oh, love is a feeling, love is a song
And love is an emotion while it’s new
But love grows high, as love grows tall
And falls away like sweet dew