What is indie craft?
This discussion can get pretty esoteric really fast, but it’s worth addressing. Crafty Supermarket is an indie craft show—not a craft show, not an art show. What’s the difference?
The lines are fine, but I think of indie crafters as people who work outside the system as much as possible. Making stuff by hand, using unique materials and doing it themselves.
I addressed this very topic in my book, Crafty Superstar, because the “indie” term gets thrown around so much lately:
Some people say screenprinted T-shirts aren’t handmade enough to be DIY. Others include vintage wares under the indie umbrella. Some exclude wares created with mainstream craft kits. Some indie crafts are one-of-a-kind. Some are made entirely from scratch. Some blur the line between fine art and traditional craft. Some blur the line between trash and treasure.
I think of “indie” (stemming from independent) as the visual contradiction of combining granny craft techniques with punk sensibilities. A classic example of indie craft (that’s been completely co-opted by big box stores) is a knit scarf with pink skulls on it.
Indie craft is really similar to indie music in terms of exclusivity. When it’s underground and exclusive, the look has the organic street cred corporate types salivate over. Eventually, the trend catches on with the general public, gets diluted and overdone, and by that point it’s totally over.
When it comes down to figuring out whether you fit in a scene or under the indie umbrella, the most important thing is to stay true to your ideals and aesthetic. Who says you need a label, anyway? (And the indie musicians would totally agree.)
You can learn a lot more about the indie craft movement in Faythe Levine’s documentary “Handmade Nation.” Faythe talked to a lot of the movers and shakers in the craft world, and the film is finally touring the US! (And I interviewed her for my book!)
As someone who wrote her grad school thesis on how participants in DIY movements – specifically indie craft – form their identities, I really appreciate any attempts to define and/or create dialogue on the meaning of “indie”. It *is* incredibly esoteric and nearly impossible to explain – though the movement is inclusive and empowering in many ways, it’s also very insular, in that those who fit under the “indie craft” umbrella know it in their gut and those who don’t may replicate the signifiers (skulls, squid, owls, mustaches) in their work, but will still seem a bit “off” to insiders. It seems so simple on the surface but is really nuanced and complex – so interesting!