Craft in America: Not your momma's...wait! Yes it is!

Last night the Marimello family all gathered around with our SpaghettiO's to watch PBS's Craft in America series on the tee vee. And what a night it was since not having perused the link Grandma Marimello forwarded thoroughly, we discovered that Craft would be divided three ways: memory, landscape, community. And Community would be well past our bedtimes.

Memory and Landscape both asked interesting questions of traditional crafters and how, ah duh, memory and landscape served crafters in America. And whereas Marimello is more concerned with the of-beat and on-the-pulse crafty-types, these episodes covered traditional crafting. What we think of as Arts & Crafts. Capital A. Capital C.

But how far apart are these interests? Sure, schools allocate special time and space to arts and crafts, and give them particular importance over say learning to cross stitch the F word. But it would be remiss not to point out the HUGE ideological similarities in the ways that the off-beat crafters we usually tune into and the artists highlighted last night find new purpose and new use for crafts while still connecting with the past. The current craft resurgence could be called a re-resurgence, since after all this is not the first time people have sensed a narrowing of life experience as the world becomes overly mechanized.

We hope that Community is not on too late for us tonight. It will be interesting to see if any Stich'N Bitch crews are mentioned in between what we expect to be a discussion about craft as a community experience. Tune in and see. Check local listings here for your area. Or check here to see if the museum exhibit will be traveling through a town near you.

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Functionality Friday: Let's Party!

Marimello's packin' the sticks and hittin's the beach this holiday weekend. And we promise you this is not going to be the weekend we work on the t-shirt rugs, shopping bag bags or the massive miter afghan. We're packing light and we're packing something sexy.
And we figure nothing says sexy like a girl in a knit bikini, working on a crossword, cozied beer in hand.
The bikini at left is from Naughty Needles Knitting. (Delicate readers may want to avoid just googling Naughty Needles, or you will wind up where we just did.) Ther's another bikini pattern on Get Crafty or try this one on DIY Network. Note the french manicured fingers modeling the process.
If you're feeling lazy or like the look of hand made with out the hands having been yours, Verao's got a really swanky new design up on Etsy.
But boyfriend beware, Marimello gets sick of the small projects easily. Once we're back we might start up something a little larger...a motorcycle cover, say.



Free Press and Craft: Like Mainstream Only Funnier

Rachel Smolkin recently published an article in American Journalism Review about how Jon Stewart has changed the way we view the news. For the love of all things academic, read the whole article here.
What on earth does this have to do with craft? A whole lot. Despite our major crush on Stewart himself, we have to admit his Daily Show changes nightly news nightly not simply because it is funnier. Smolkin, as part of the mission of AJR, questions the import and influence of "silly riffing" on a nightly news program, because the "real" news of late has frequently turned out to be fake or at least doctored. Insert Jayson Blair joke here.
The discussion she has is an important one and one we crafters should be having on the import of our own so-called revolution. The Daily Show presents us with just another nightly new show--only funnier and more pointed. Similarly, crafters present the world with just another source of, um, well items for consumption. The Daily Show succeeds because it allows whimsy and irony into and arena where both qualities are usually frowned upon.
Whimsy and irony have come to the front of this most recent craft movement. Maybe because what we're making is not being made out of necessity. Sure there is a crafty itch in many of us that cannot be scratched with anything but a knitting needle, but Marimello doesn't make warshrags because we can't more easily get them somewhere else.
Craft these days can mean trying to find a greener solution, by turning one man's trash into another man's treasure for instance. But a growing part of the craft movement holds more stock in turning one man's treasure into another man's trash. We're not talking trash like that slaved over, but gawdafwful holiday sweater gift trash, we're talking Stephanie Syjuco's crocheted Chanel bags and knitpro on microrevolt. It's cute and sassy to take back from the Man this way, and hey, it's cheaper than couture too!
Like Jon Stewart's newscast, personal opinion is an essential part of the product. And only by the existence of a more traditional opposite are his comedy and subversive crafting possible. But Stewart doesn't have to turn around a hug Katie Couric or give her the finger either way. As crafters our subversion must carefully consider its history and tradition. So run over there and hug grandma for us. And be sure to wear the sweater.

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Gocco: What Is It and Why Don't We Have One?

The beloved (but alas hard to find) printing machine may be coming back to the states according to the reliable sources of Savegocco.com. Which is great news for serious crafters and dabblers alike.
Gocco print, when it was introduced in the 70's, offered an easy in-home color print system. Because all you need is an original image, the uses of the printer are limited only by its user. Gocco print uses the heat from flashbulbs within the printer to create a master from the original. Similar to silk screening, the user then sandwiches ink between the master and a plastic to transfer the image onto paper, fabric, wood, and almost anything else.
Initially, gocco print was THE way to make invitations and cards at home, but as with many in-home creative products, its popularity declined as computers provided easier methods of creating complex images at home. You can read the whole history of Riso, gocco's parent company, here.
Interestingly the home computer may be the reason for the little printers' current resurgence in popularity though. This is not to say that we do not love our own little computer/printer set up, but it lacks a little something when it comes to generating images we'd write home about, or on.
It is this little something bringing back gocco printing--but what is it? Gocco prints are somewhat unique and usually only a finite number are made. Many of the gocco prints you find available are individually designed by the person who made them. But the exact same two statements could be made about anything printed from a conventional home computer. So, identify this little something that makes gocco prints different and you identify the difference between wearing a sweater your mother made you and wearing a sweater your mother gave you. Identify this and put your finger on the pulse of millions of crafters.
Gocco, translated loosely, is the make believe and play we participate in to learn rules and common knowledge. The originator of the print gocco system, Noboru Hayama says "this 'gocco' play is a source of intellectual education and its spirit is, I believe, an important national heritage. Therefore, I decided to use the word gocco as part of this product name."
Thus a gocco print is, like any craft valued equally as the efforts of the printer and the image or message of the card.
Read more about the gocco print system here. Or get your gocco on with crafters online at flickr, or with a kit from Felt Cafe.

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Maker Friends at Maker Faire

Well-rested and bright-eyed we were not when the Mari-wagon rolled up to Maker Faire on Saturday. But our eyes sure did pop out of our heads when the very first person we talked to was Melissa, from the Sacramento Craft Mafia, who coincidentally attended elementary school with us. Like whoa Scoob.

All around it was a great weekend for making online connections tangible. We saw Dayna The Crafty Scientist and one of the great minds behind our bff craft zine CROQ. We spied the luscious beer cozies of Karrie (as featured on May 4th) snuggling between the books on the Chronicle books table.
We met Sandy Drobny whose really gorgeous aprons woven from plastic shopping bags put the most recent Functionality Friday to shame.
We met Narumi Ogwa from Mr. Funky and fell in love with Tito there on the left.

We chilled at the Etsy table and got ourselves some cute schwag though to our surprise though more Etsy sellers are not listed as having been at the Faire.

As things were winding down on Sunday, we were dreading the drive back to lalaland until we saw Tsai-fi who made this completely rad brooch. Now who wants to be Marimello's date for the prom?

Check out some of our other new friends too:
Matt from Custom Industries, a great street clothing company with graphics inspired by his worldly travels.

Andy from Plastigami, who makes, well exactly what plastigami sounds like: origami out of plastic. Only this is big and you can sit on it. Cool.

Heidi from My Paper Crane who really needs to make us one of those bananas with the big googly eyes.

Deborah from ChicCosas who crosstitched the really cute pillow on the left.

Michael from Todo Monthly, a pocket sized mag that covers all things cool to do in SF.

Thea from Green Light Magazine an online magazine covering the green life.

Let's not forget our trip to Mary Jane's Attic where the yarns and fibers and felt glow. Eat your heart out Ma.

And while the crafts and crafter consumed most of out weekend, it would be impossible to highlight Maker Faire without talking about the machines. Power tool drag racing, wooden bicycles and robots robots robots. Our favorite of course was the life-sized talking giraffe blaring techno as it shuffled through the fairground. Click here for the video if you don't believe us.

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Functional Friday: It's in the bag

Pack up the Mari-wagon! It's time for Maker Faire! Marimello has had no trouble filling a bag for the Swap-O-Rama-Rama, but finding a bag big enough has been a problem.

Speaking of bags, San Fransico's recent ban on plastic shopping bags opened a void for knitters and crocheters out there to fill. No doubt some one you know out there needs and eco-friendly alternative.
Check out Lion Brand for free patterns for your basic stretchy string bag.

Or Crochet Me, or My Recycled Bags if you feel like giving new life to the old plastic. Goodness knows we have enough of it laying around here.



Snail Mail Gets Slimier

If you love your real life inbox as much as you do your inbox online, you need to know the postal rate hike affects you too! Big time. While we were madly untangling yarn from our cat's clutches, our good friend PR Couture was trying to remind us that the postal service is providing big discounts for big publishers, and laying the brunt of the cost on smaller magazines.

Obviously if you’re reading this, you’re not paying postage, but our Mari-sense says you subscribe to a mag or two from a smaller press. Now while the USPS monopoly on your indie faves' ability to deliver, might make your fist start to curl, you might consider that this monopoly has not always been a bad thing. By keeping rates uniform for both indie mags and big publishing houses, USPS has actually encouraged competition from smaller presses. For hundreds of years, they have wanted everyone to have the same ability to disseminate information with their service. Now thanks to a suggestion by Time Warner, not only do smaller publications have to struggle a little more with their postal rates, but fewer might enter the market.

For more information on what is facing these smaller magazines and how to help, check out the little stamp on your right, visit The Nation’s EIC blog post Big Business Invades Your Mailbox, and sign the petition.

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Marimello hearts CROQ: interview with Heather Mann

To be fair, we here at Marimello heart all magazines. But, our newest fave is CROQ, a fairly new, independently published zine devoted, and we mean devoted, to the new crafts scene and indie business. We also had the honor of chatting up Heather Mann, editor and publisher, about CROQ and about zines, magazines, promotion and why it’s OK for DIY not to mean DI-all-Y

Like most great ideas, CROQ is the child of necessity. Two years ago that Dayna Mankowski of CraftyScientist.com popped up on the Sampler LiveJournal voicing a need for a collaborative print zine about crafts and the crafty lifestyle. There simply wasn’t such a thing in existence. Heather says, “The idea for CROQ came out of the excitement of the crafting community that had emerged online -- we wanted to use that excitement to create something that wasn't just an online thing, but an actual print zine. Also, there weren't really ANY magazines out there at the time that focused on the hip/indie craft crowd, so we wanted to make the magazine that we all wished existed.”
“A zine is basically just a self-published magazine. We do everything ourselves, thus the distinctive "zine" instead of just the ubiquitous "magazine." And, we are an actual in-print on-paper publication, not just an internet-only publication therefore, we're not the same as a blog. We wanted to be on paper, not just in cyberspace.”

M: Agreed! What’s the significance you see in moving from online to print. How is that important/significant? Why not just start another Web site? There’s been some hemming and hawing about the decline of print media.
H: A magazine is a self-contained work that is put into print, and then becomes the definitive version of itself. CROQ #4 will always be the same in future print runs as it was when the very first print rolled out. A website is more amorphous. The look gets updated, the content is edited. Things are tweaked. If a print publication is a still-life, then a website is a temporary art installation. Here today, gone (or different) tomorrow.

M: Do you see CROQ growing from “distinctive zine” into a ubiquitous” magazine? Do you think that is a natural progression, or something different?
H: Yes, CROQ has the potential to grow into a magazine. We have a unique point of view, and we are covering some topics that nobody else in magazine publishing is covering. Our potential audience are the young crafters who are on the internet looking for the next big inspiration. So hopefully what you said about some people rejecting print media for the internet exclusively isn't true of those young crafters out there who are our potential readership! I think a jump from zine to magazine would help older readers (those who aren't familiar or comfortable with the sassy 'zine, or who don't find info on the internet) find our publication. So, zines are "distinctive" because they are much more specific and narrow in focus. Magazines become ubiquitous because in order to appeal to a larger audience, they broaden their focus.

M: You use the word integrity in reference to growth. We think integrity is a huge word. For whatever definition you use, integrity is something to maintain. We too think it is possible to maintain that integrity, voice, creedo, whatever too, but we sense an implication that integrity can be lost through the process. What are your thoughts on this in relation to CROQ's and in the larger picture, the craft culture's growth?
H: It's the age old punk rock argument of "selling out" versus being "punk rock." If you maintain any measure of success, those who are still stuck in obscurity call you a sellout. In reality, if the same team is planning, writing, and designing CROQ, then does it really matter if we staple it ourselves? It doesn't fundamentally change our voice or our message.

M: So then what of self-promotion? Is self-promotion DIY—like DI-all-Y—an essential part of the process, or it is something you can farm out?
H: Well, we're getting to the breaking point as far as doing it ALL ourselves goes. Our staff is located around the country, and nobody is close enough to team up to do the physical labor part (printing, stapling, folding, packing orders). Order volume is getting to the point where it might be nice to farm some of it out - either have it printed somewhere else, or just hire someone to help with the assembly. I think the publication maintains its integrity regardless of how much of the physical labor is done in-house.

M: So with all this growth, how are you promoting CROQ now?
H: Right now, we advertise on the internet, we sometimes sponsor events (like the Indie Craft Experience in Atlanta), we swap promos with other indie businesses, we receive press coverage from magazines and websites, and we do craft shows. At the moment, that's all we can do.
Plans for growth include a better compensation plan for our writers. We would like to increase our circulation, too. I would love to tap into some of the 85,000 registered members of Craftster.org. Do you hear me, girls?

We hear you, Heather. Here are some CROQ submission guidelines. Submit to it. Subscribe to it. Love it. Read it three times before you go to bed like Marimello.



Functionality Friday

The nice thing about these pillows is that Marimello's mascara will blend right in as she crys herself to sleep tonight thinking about how she could be going to Maven Fair up in the Bay Area, but is not.
In fact there are a lot of crafty events for Marimello to miss out on this weekend. That doesn't mean you shouldn't go though:
Providence RI will be the home of the Providence Open Market
Baltimore MD's got Squidfire's Spring Art Mart
Pittsburg PA's got Craft Factory
And there's even a new Craft Festival in Brooklyn. Where all know everything is cooler than in L.A. Snivvel.
Looks like we may need to bust out the beer cozy from last week and dab our eyes with these fab new Hankies from Mud Flap Grrrl.



Adorn hearts Etsy hearts Adorn

Listen up Etsy peeps! Adorn Magazine is offering up a discounted subscription price! Just the sort of thing Marimello likes to hear. Adorn frequently features Etsy products so give the love back with a subscription.

It would be remiss of Marimello not to point out that Adorn is published by SoHo Publishing Co, the very same publisher of Vogue Knitting whose association with subversive knitting we so recently questioned.

Where Vogue Knitting is your best friend's ever-glamorous older sister, Adorn might wear doc martens one day and stilettos the next. But that is not to say that she is particularly subversive either--just quirky. Adorn branches out into other crafty veins and offers as they say in their most recent editor's letter "projects that [are] fun and fashionable, that would appeal to your whole lifestyle, not just keep your hands busy."

But even if you are looking for a little something to keep your hands busy, Adorn is there for ya.
Marimello dares you to say no to the bunny.

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Radical Crafting with Mainstream Sponsorship

Now through June 17th the New York Museum of Arts & Design is exhibiting Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting. Where is a teleporter when we need one, eh?
Marimello is certainly not the first to mention this awesome exhibit of surprising, fresh, engaging, craft, but has anyone else but Knitty Two-Shoes noticed that the exhibit's media sponsor is Vogue Knitting? Sure, Vogue's got the money bags, but the exhibited works are not likely designs to appear in Vogue Knitting.
So first of all props to Vogue for bringing craft as art to the mainstream. It would be difficult for Marimello to argue that this type of sponsorship will not benefit the entire art/DIY/craft community.
Vogue knitting has not only reformed the world of couture knitting (and also our other secret obsession with mainstream fashion) but has now allied themselves with a radical knitting world in a way that is an interesting parallel to the NYMA&D exhibition. Both the exhibition and Vogue knitting are well within the skill set of the avid lacer/knitter. The likelihood of crafters' interest in both complex formulaic patterns and out of this world art design would be easy to document.
But are the goals of the sponsor and the crafter the same? Admittedly, Vogue Knitting may not be the aspirational knitting guide for the DIY crafter yet oh how we want to crank these capes out by the thousand. Ne c'est pas?

So, while Vogue Knitting co-opts the subversive culture of crafting in its sponsorship, thus making it not perhaps the best sponsor for the project, the benefit to the craft culture might just outweigh the corporate sponsorship. Weigh in. Marimello is wildly interested.

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Functionality Friday

Here at Marimello we like to craft with purpose. Wee hats for baby noggins, Afghans for Afghans, etc...
But this Friday we feature something a little more, um, dare we say useful?
Thanks to Karrie of Girl on the Rocks for this awesome beer cozy. Let's see how many I can make before I go completely cross-eyed manana!
Happy Friday and happy early Cinco de Mayo everyone!