A few weeks ago, I got invited at the last minute to go with a couple of friends to a fiber “meet and greet” event, held at Arcosanti (about an hour and a half south of Flagstaff). I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I am so glad I went. Not only was it fun to hang out with other fiber crafters and get a glimpse of the architecture on a rainy, blustery day in the desert, but the speaker was fantastic.
Aimee León, who is working towards her MFA at ASU in Phoenix, had agreed to come up and speak to us about her felt artwork – for free. Her talk epitomized one thing I just love about the maker movement and modern crafters; people who are not just looking to make something, but thinking deeply about the connections between materials, handcrafts, and society.
Aimee shears sheep (did you know they can weigh more than 200 lbs each?) and uses discarded wool in her artwork, which reflects her ideas about society and gender norms. She talked about how much wool is wasted because small farmers don’t have the resources to ship whole container loads to China (!) for processing, and about her goal to bring more of that local wool to fiber artists. And about the historical connections of wool and fiber with labor, women’s role in society, commodities, and how we think about the clothes we wear today. One great thing about a small venue is that I had a chance to talk with Aimee quite a bit, before and after her presentation. There are so many ideas to pursue in these topics that I could have talked much longer . . .
I love thinking about how what I make is connected to the materials I use and where they come from, the historical use and place in society of the materials and the maker, and all the choice that gives me in the modern world. It just reinforces the fact that the choice to be a maker in modern times is a powerful one for us as individuals, with implications for our broader society as well.
A desert road near Arcosanti on that foggy wet day
Do check out Aimee’s website, there are lots of pictures of her work and links to other interesting projects she’s working on. If you live around here and would like to be on the mailing list for this event next year, let me know and I’ll pass your info on to the lovely woman who organizes it, Kimberly Hatch (thanks Kimberly!).
What do you think about art and craft and its potential to change us? I’d love to know!
I love this sort of thing!!
I think what I like most about craft is the connection to something real, some THING with a bit of soul. I can buy almost anything craft-produced cheaper through a mass produced process. Not better, but cheaper.
That same item, hand-made, takes on some aspect of the creator. The story shifts from “I bought this at a fantastic store in downtown Anaheim; lowest prices in the nation – GUARANTEED!” to “a dear friend made this for me. He realized I could use it”. Or even “I found this in a shop downtown, made by a local artist with material grown/created/made right here!” In a reasonably sized town, chances are good you will know the maker. That alone has intrinsic value.
I sometimes wonder if the cultural drive for stuff is really a drive for stories, and most stuff doesn’t come with a very good story, so we need more stuff to get our minimum daily allotment of stuff-story.
Plus: zombie apocalypse. Or even global warming.
What an interesting idea of stuff and stories!
I definitely think that the story behind an item (when it has a good one) is an important part of thinking about the connections that come with it, not just the disposable thing. Such as, if you have something that belonged to your grandfather, or was given to you by a dear friend on a special day, you are much more likely to take care of that thing, to repair it rather than replace it if it breaks, etc., even if the thing itself is not super valuable.
I love the phrase “choose to be a maker”. It’s so empowering.
Totally! That’s at the core of it for me.
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