“Craft” might seem like it’s for the amateurs, and “fashion” for the auteurs. Yet we live in an age where creativity and innovation are increasingly found in collaborations between makers and users, crafters and designers, designers and manufacturers, and in the loosening of the boundaries between them. Open sourcing and the emergence of DIY everything (from apps to dresses to education) are THE design stories of the 21st century.
If the philosophers and economists are right, such stories reflect renewed possibilities for building communities, for growing businesses, and for practicing everyday forms of enchantment, ethics, and sustainability. It is time to expand our way of thinking about the relationship between craft and fashion, between the self-made and the ready-to-wear, between fashion as intellectual property and fashion as an open source. What can we learn from the fields of music, product design, and education? Does a backward glance help us see how fashion was at the forefront of these innovations from the start? What is a Vogue pattern if not an open source? What are les petits mains other than artists?
PULL UP A CHAIR AND FIX IT
We finished our week of MAKESHIFT with Crafting Design, a chair workshop hosted at Partners & Spade in New York City.
From the New York Times piece “Pull Up a Chair, Then Fix It” by Andrew Wagner:
“Last Saturday, as part of a conference called MakeShift, Natalie Chanin, the founder of the fashion label Alabama Chanin, held a workshop to rehabilitate some of these castoffs at Partners & Spade on Great Jones Street. The event, which she called Crafting Design, was dedicated to resurrecting the bent, twisted and broken remnants of what the poet David McFadden has described as ‘the most ubiquitous and important design element in the domestic environment’: the chair.”
Krrb provided found chairs for our day that were piled in front of the design studio. Guests picked through the random selection of chairs – ranging from your standard IKEA chair to retro, a leather chair, and a stool – then chose from mounds of fabric scraps, nails, stencils, and an assortment of tools to redesign them.
“Ms. Devers, a furniture designer and the star of “Fix This Yard” on A&E, was hammering nails into the seat and back of her old Ikea chair, piling T-shirt scraps on top and carefully threading them through the nail bedding, so that the material began to take on the appearance of a colorful shag rug. One lone, loose piece from the back was left to dangle gracefully to the ground.”
Saturday’s open collaboration in the design studio reinforced MakeShift’s conversation on design, craft, and DIY.
Check out “Pull Up a Chair, Then Fix It,” by Andrew Wagner for the New York Times. And take some time this week to refurbish some of the furniture (stuff) in your own life. Or throw your own Crafting Design party.
Andrew Wagner’s knowledge of the Bloody Mary was especially helpful to the whole design process. We suggest the following recipe from page 88 of Alabama Studio Style for your own Crafting Design event:
ALABAMA’S BLOODY MARY
3 cups tomato juice (use juice leftover from canning tomatoes this summer if available – this makes all the difference in the world!)
1 cup vodka
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
6-8 dashes Tobasco sauce (or to taste)
Juice of 2 limes
Olives, pickled okra, or Tomolives (pickled green cherry tomatoes) for garnish
Stir all ingredients but the garnishes together in a serving pitcher, add ice, and serve.
We are planning a Crafting Design event for our studio in Alabama.
Start collecting chairs…
MAKESHIFT 2012 HIGHLIGHTS
After taking time to reflect on our recent week in New York for MAKESHIFT, I’m already thinking about MAKESHIFT 2013.
Here are some highlights from the conversation at The Standard Talks. We reported the MAKESHIFT events here on the blog throughout the week, and had great press coverage from the New York Times, Style.com, Page Six, and Jezebel. Here’s a recap of our memorable conversation.
From The Standard Talks panel discussion:
Andrew Wagner began with a grand introduction and also referenced Ettore Sottsass’s essay, ‘When I Was a Very Small Boy’.
AW: When we all got together to talk about this [MAKESHIFT], we decided to not call it a conference, even though I just did; we decided we were going to call it a carnival, because it is going to be a pretty weird evening in the best possible sense. It is going to take a lot of interesting twists and turns, but part of why I am here is to try and figure out and wrap up what we are doing here.
I would like to suggest that life is not about compartmentalization. It is about a myriad of experience and emotions that come together to form a vivid life. Our life is not about ‘what we do’, but how we experience the world.
Rosanne Cash opened the panel discussion by singing “Fair and Tender Ladies”, a song that would be crafted by the audience during the conversation. Read more about Rosanne’s participation in MAKESHIFT here.
Cathy Bailey of Heath Ceramics discussed the history of her company and Edith Heath, the founder. She then related her experience with design and making.
CB: At Heath, everything was under one roof. Nothing was outsourced. Everything that the company needed was done and produced there. That is what gave the space its energy and its hum. I think it was simple and it was pure. It didn’t seem backwards. It seemed pure to us and that was exciting.
Another draw to the company was that there was such focus. There was one material that was being focused on since 1947. I found that fascinating and totally inspiring. That is what Heath felt like in 2003 when we bought the company.
This photo (below) reflects back to the Sottsass’s essay that Andrew mentioned. Here is my son and I get to see in him something beautiful. He has ideas, and he gets such satisfaction and confidence in ideas coming out of his hands. There is so much incredible joy and confidence he gets from drawing and making something from clay.
Because we are in this place that is focused on one material – we design our own glazes. We design our own shapes and we put them out there in a larger level.
This is the transparency that you get with glazes over glazes. It is something that gets missed when the ‘designing’ and the ‘making’ get separated.
Natalie and I did a project together to honor the work she was doing. The plates are etched by hand and not that dissimilar from stitching fabric. This woman etches every plate – which mimics Natalie’s work.
The last part of this- back to Edith Heath who was so obsessed with clay – she was a never-ending fountain of new ideas and inspiration. At one point she decided that the space between the plates in the kiln was not being utilized. These spaces were being fired for free. She started using beads and buttons in between the spaces. We started to making them again. For this event we have made beads, and Natalie is going to teach you how to make something.
To follow, I showed the audience to make knotted necklaces and how to finger knit using yarn balls that Alabama Chanin made for the event. I shared thoughts on fashion, making, and design.
NC: Our company is all about making. Design is important, but design is not enough. We make fashion, but we also teach people how to ‘make’ fashion. No one in our studio can keep their hands still.
In your bag you will find balls of rope that have been tied and pulled together. I am going to teach you how to make something like this necklace. All you have to do is keep tying knots. The one I am wearing took about four hours to make. The knotting – everyone can do it – and I am also going to teach you finger knitting. You have a loop on the end of the rope and you pull your fingers through the loop and keep pulling loops and as you make a longer loop, you can go back the other way – this is called finger knitting. It is very similar to crochet, made exactly the same way as what you are doing.
Once, as I was growing my company, I was told by a very wise man that the surest way to success was to “stick to your knitting.” His point was that if you area of expertise is to build buildings, you should, simply, build buildings. If you know how to sew, you should keep sewing. If what you know best is knitting, you should simply stick to your knitting. I was given this piece of advice almost a decade ago and it has served me well. When I am unsure about a business decision or what to do, I simply go back to my knitting.
I hope you all enjoy your knitting tonight.
Then Maria Cornejo discussed how an empty space helped her turn making into fashion.
MC: I had a space and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. I hated the fashion business, but I wanted to do something. I wanted to make something without any preconceived ideas. In the beginning, the space was a gallery, and I gradually started making things.
When combined, a circle and a triangle make a garment. We first placed a rack near the door of our gallery. If people responded to those garments, we made them the following week. We were always printing t-shirts. We’d get an order for 200, and we printed them all. A lot of t-shirts were all hand-painted and nothing was the same, but it was more about the idea of making something that was more immediate.
Jessamyn Hatcher spoke on “Worn Stories,” a project curated by Emily Spivack about the attachments that we form with our clothing – or things that we make and/or buy. Her work with these stories, and the consequent Human-Textile Wellness Pop-Up Clinic, drills home the point that we have stories that become imbedded in our articles of clothing and that, rather than discard a piece, we can identify those connections and find ways – both emotional and physical to alter any piece for a new place in our lives. In the end, Jessamyn asked the audience members to participate with the process by sharing one of their worn stories.
Read about Jessamyn’s contribution to the MAKESHIFT conversation here.
Rosanne Cash read her own personal worn stories, and then performed the “crafted” version of ‘Fair and Tender Ladies’. We fully recapped Rosanne’s performance here.
Andrew ended the evening by asking the audience to stay, introduce themselves, and to further the conversations on making. It seems that everyone took it to heart and did just that.
We hope everyone in attendance had a fantastic time, left inspired, will continue the conversations in their own communities, and then return next year to further the process.
Let us know what you think…