Arts&Crafts & Rock&Roll

Arts&Crafts & Rock&Roll

My sister Emily took me to Michael’s, the mega craft store, while on the hunt for needlepoint supplies and cool halloween decor. I’d never been to Michael’s before, so it was a rather interesting experience. So much stuff…I had no idea how large the crafts industry was.

Visit CraftsterI was peripherally aware of the resurgence of the crafts industry because Em has been forwarding me interesting links like rock ‘n roll embroidery and cool sites like Craftster.

Sis says “Craftster is the New Black!” Check out this steak-shaped soap and this inspired lego yarn roller. There’s something kind of punk rock about the whole scene, except everyone just seems really happy! Sharing what you’re making is empowering and fun, whether you’re making a bikini out of old pantyhose or bitching about projects gone horribly awry. We particularly liked the Stupid Martha Stewart thread, where people vent their frustrations with the messed up instructions in Martha Stewart Living. Heh.

Visit CraftserThis Do-It-Yourself / Crafts trend has been growing for a few years, though I’m not sure when it started. I’m tempted to say it fell out of the dot-com bust, when people were reflecting on their burned-out lifestyles with nothing to show for it. Maybe making a nice jewelry box with your own hands seemed a lot more rewarding. Or maybe it’s been driven by the onslaught of television shows like Trading Spaces, American Chopper, and Monster House. The launch of the DIY Cable Network and magazines like Make are part of the latest wave, the next logical development now that the suburban landscape has been completely colonized by The Home Depot. And it’s been fueled by the blogosphere: ordinary-but-extraordinary people are out there doing awesome things, and for the first time we’re really hearing about it because it’s finally easy to put your words and your images up on the Web. Thank you Movable Type. Thank you Flickr. Thank you The last-mile of the information economy is finally in place.

Visit Husqvarna VikingA few years ago when I was buying my Miele vacuum cleaner, I noticed that there was a rather large crowd of older women gathered around some sewing machines. That’s when I noticed that they had color LCD screens and floppy disk drives built-into them. I asked one flinty-eyed grandmother about it, and she patiently explained that one could “use Macromedia Freehand to design and upload patterns” to the machine. It was an electric moment. I realized that there really wasn’t a lot of difference between me and her: we were both technology-enabled designers, wielding the same digital tools. They are totally hardcore too. Pretty awesome.

Visit SiteAnyway, I’m thinking of making pens. It turns out there’s an entire industry based around pen making. If you make them on a lathe out of wood, you’re a pen turner. Instead of doing that, I’m thinking of making them out of polymer clay molded over a chopped-down pen chassis, and then coating them with some kind of acrylic gloss. Here’s a tutorial on using a pen kit with polymer clay; it sounds a little fragile, but until I figure out how to machine solid billets of aluminum, this might be the best way to prototype my short & flat notebook pen. Plus, I can probably make it just the right shade of blue, and somehow stick my website logo on it. That would rock!


  1. David W. 19 years ago

    I’ve turned a few pens, and it’s a lot of fun. I’m a big fan of woods. I love to browse through sites like this and see all the different types of wood. The great thing about pens is that you only have to spend usually $0.50 – $2.00 on even the rarer woods, which would normally cost $30 or $40 per board foot.

    I’ve never used polymer clay but I’ve heard about it. As for aluminum, you turn that like wood, just on a different lathe and with different turning tools.

  2. Beth 19 years ago

    A big part of this movement in the punk-rock scene had to do with Bust Magazine, and their book Stitch ‘n Bitch.  Bust started profiling crafting as part of contemporary feminist radicalization of traditional “women’s work.” 

    After a while, Stitch ‘n Bitch knitting circles started popping up all over.  There’s even one in NY that meets on a Subway train that just loops around over and over.  You should tell your sister to check out the magazine, if she hasn’t already.

  3. Dave 19 years ago

    Oh, cool! Recommend any pen kits to start with? That wood site is amazing…12000 pictures? Wow.

    The pen I’m thinking of making is a flattened pen, the idea being that it doesn’t roll, fits better in my notebook, and still feels good in the hand. Since it’s an unusual shape, this is why I’m thinking polymer clay or machining, so I’m pretty sure you can’t turn it on a lathe easily.

  4. Dave 19 years ago

    Hey Beth,

    Thanks for the background…that’s really cool! Maybe Em will chime in.

    I once actually picked up an issue of Bust magazine, not realizing it was a woman’s magazine until I got home. It was the issue with Tina Fey on the cover, and I thought it was some kind of general culture mag. Although I was initially surprised, I enjoyed the magazine a lot for its chipper snarkiness, quite refreshing.

  5. Beth 19 years ago

    Yeah it’s a pretty fun magazine, I would consider it mostly a culture/life mag with a woman-centric twist.  They have some really great writers though, so I’m sure it wouldn’t be a bad regular read for a guy, it’s not full of tampon ads haha.  You or your sister may also want to check out Venus, it’s a magazine in the same vein as Bust, except it’s focus is music, and it’s just as snarky.

  6. Emily 19 years ago

    Wow, I hadn’t realized that sewing machines had gotten that high tech. Great anecdote…I remember you had mentioned that the sewing machine shop you bought the vacuum at had a weird bike shop/gearhead vibe, despite the fact that it was all grandmothers, not bikers. :)

    And yep, very familiar with BUST, and own one of Debbie Stoller’s Stitch N Bitch books. ;)