But there's something out of the ordinary at this monthly craft fair at Young Blood Gallery in Grant Park. There is nary a crocheted poodle or toilet paper cozy in sight. Instead, Martha Franzen, an Atlanta College of Art student, is selling strange fabric devices about the size of an eyeglass case, red on one side, white on the other.
They're homemade menstrual pads.
Though a nearby male ACA student helps Franzen explain how the thing works, the guys in attendance seem to play the part normally reserved for girls at their boyfriends' band practice: sitting on the sidelines, bystanders to the chick-centric action of indie craft.
A radical new interpretation of craft practiced by a younger generation, indie craft has a punk-rock sensibility that makes it akin to the same grassroots counterculture that nurtured the zine movement.
Look around and you can see that craft is booming on the national front. It's featured in Bust magazine (whose editor Debbie Stoller is a craft icon and author of Stitch 'N Bitch); in the DIY magazine ReadyMade and the techie-crafty Make; documented at myriad websites such as www.craftster.org and www.churchofcraft.org; and sold in annual alterna-craft fairs like the Brooklyn and Chicago Renegade Craft Fairs.
The trend is rooted in the turn-of-the-century arts and crafts movement that responded to the Industrial Revolution, and in the hippie counterculture of the '60s and '70s, which saw commune life and handmade goods as a response to establishment, manufactured culture. But indie craft also has unique characteristics all its own.
Born out of the postindustrial media age of copious waste and endless consumerism, neo-crafters tend to favor user-friendly, recycled and often ironic, pop culture-informed goods. Vintage slips are reworked into fabulous dresses. Purses are made from the pneumatic tubes used to propel bank deposits to the drive-thru teller.
Young crafters have radically interpreted an old impulse to suit modern times, and the fresh countercultural spin is highly informed by the contemporary realities of the Internet, which acts as a kind of cyber-swap meet. Tendrils of Japanimation and divorce-culture neediness crop up in the prevalence of homemade stuffed animals on the scene, while iPod cozies answer the predominance of cold technology with a soft, human-friendly touch.
Such gestures may not initially seem political, but in the hands of crafters, who are practicing the same impulses as the biodiesel and organic gardening crowd, they are. As our culture becomes more homogenized and uniform, more and more people are looking for an alternative in the defiantly regional and handmade.
Not that indie craft isn't also fun. A hybrid of '70s consciousness-raising sessions and the female camaraderie of the quilt circle, the neo-crafters represent a community-based, highly social movement that answers corporate dominance with shared resources and strength in numbers. Its largely female makeup both acknowledges the domestic impulses that feminist political correctness has suppressed while offering an ironic, post-Martha awareness that in the humble form of a recycled fashion or jewelry line, women can be the makers of their own entrepreneurial destinies.
Indie craft is also an artist-driven movement, propelled by a new generation of artists eager to expand outside the narrow, elitist and often unprofitable confines of the gallery scene. The old hierarchies that used to torment artists, between high art and lowbrow craft, seem irrelevant for this new craft generation.
"I don't want to limit myself to a specific crowd," says Franzen, a third-year print-making major at ACA who sells everything from those DIY maxi pads to button bracelets and pricier artworks at Young Blood's Kraftwork.
"Most people who are involved in fine arts came up in craft in some way," says Garth Johnson, webmaster of a snarky Atlanta website (www.extremecraft.com) that celebrates the ecstasy and excesses of craft. A kind of Harper's-cum-blogger's anthology of the best and weirdest of craft's myriad incarnations, the site is a fascinating, hyper-witty roundup of soft-core porn rugs and techie-crafty yarmulkes knit with icons of iPods and Treos.
Johnson says that conceptual artists who incorporate craft and repetitive craft gestures into their work, such as Mike Kelley and Ann Hamilton, coupled with more institutional support for intuitive folk and outsider artists, have given craft more presence on the gallery and museum front.
"Somehow barriers have broken down toward people's natural tendencies to create," he says.
Ground zero for local indie craft is undoubtedly Kraftwork, launched in January 2003 by Young Blood Gallery & Boutique owners Kelly Teasley and Maggie White. Aware of a growing market both nationally and locally for artist-made goods, the two were eager to supplement the fluctuating profits of their gallery exhibitions with an in-house craft-centric boutique.
Teasley and White's shop leans heavily toward locally made goods: skirts by visual artist Shana Wood, painter Ryan Linicome's popular ugly-sweet stuffed animals, and White's own reconstructed used clothing.
"Out of necessity a lot of artists just to survive have to create things that are more palatable to the general public, and craft makes a lot of sense in that regard," says White.
A "Charlie's Angels" of super-craftiness, Christy Petterson, Shannon Mulkey and Susan Voelker met at Kraftwork. The perky threesome has since parlayed its mutual love of craft and fashion (each has her own design firm) to form the Indie Craft Experience, a collective that produces a line of recycled fashions and organizes craft events. Indie Craft Experience will present a kind of crafty camp meeting June 18 at Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery.
The Eyedrum event and Young Blood's Kraftwork signal not only the rising stock of a craft lifestyle on the local front, but evidence that craft has become an answer to the economic vagaries of the post-Sept. 11 art market. It is a telling coincidence that after Sandler Hudson Gallery vacated its Peachtree Road retail space for a new west side location, the more egalitarian - and affordable - goods produced by designers and crafters rushed in to fill the void.
Featuring everything from retro-hip children's clothes to a line of chic Eames-ish furniture, the Beehive Co-op is also home to the designs of the ICE collective.
From posh Buckhead to the sketchy Eyedrum complex, it appears craft is king.
WHERE TO FIND LOCAL INDIE CRAFT www.extremecraft.com
Garth Johnson's erudite, laugh-out-loud craft blog is essential reading for anyone who wants to explore the excesses and cultural ramifications of extreme crafting.
This slickly designed site features an online gallery for textile, metal and other craft artists and is dedicated to promoting emerging American craft with the motto: "Craft is not a four letter word."
Local art promoter Susan Bridges stages two annual artist markets in her Inman Park home, featuring various permutations of craft, design and fine art: Made in the Shade in the spring, and Big Angel Blowout in the fall.
Indie Craft Experience
Craft sale, fashion show, raffle and entertainment by Hope for agoldensummer, dp3 and DJ KRSA. Sat., June 18, 8 p.m.-midnight. $8. Eyedrum, 290 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Suite 8. 404-522-0655. www.eyedrum.org. www.ice-atlanta.com.
Local and national crafters and designers rent space to sell their wares, from underground fashion to high-end housewares. Fashion Fridays, held the first Friday of every month, features fashion, refreshments and a DJ. 7-10 p.m. 1831-A Peachtree Road. 404-351-1166. www.beehiveco-op.com.
Alcove Gallery and Studio
Artist-made dolls, jewelry and T-shirts are featured alongside the underground and folk-inspired artwork at this Buckhead alternative gallery. 2110 Peachtree St. 404-663-0159. www.alcovearts.com.
T-Shirt Construction Factory
You can design your own T-shirt or buy one of the designs by local artists such as R. Land, Eric Gillyard and Travis Pack. Also hosts small rotating exhibitions of local artists' work. 674 Highland Ave. 404-452-0205. www.t-shirtconstructionco.com.
Young Blood Gallery & Boutique
You can find craft at the Young Blood Boutique during regular hours (Thurs., 2-7 p.m.; Fri.-Sun., noon-5 p.m.) or at Kraftwork, the first Thursday of every month, 7-10 p.m., where selling your craft is free if you bring a snack to share. 629 Glenwood Ave. 404-627-0393. www.youngbloodgallery.com.
YoYo Boutique & Artspace
This funky Cabbagetown art space and shop features shows devoted to local graffiti and underground artists, and clothing by local designers. 188-A Carroll St. 404-389-0912.
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