There is a summit of craft going on in DC next week. It is a collection of crafters, shows, speakers, and a documentary screening. Today I was on the website and I tried to call to get tickets to the screening of Handmade Nation. Somehow I was routed to voice mailbox where they are collecting "handmade stories" for a podcast as part of the event. I decided (and who knows why) that I should write my handmade story. Maybe it's because I've been in a funk lately, or maybe it's because I don't really know what my next goal in life should be, but this is my handmade story I'm submitting....
My handmade story:
My name is Katie and I live a handmade life. God, that sounds like something you say at a crafter’s anonymous meeting. Anyway, a little background: My handmade life… I work full time as a costume craftsperson and theatrical milliner. I make my living creating armor, hats, accessories of dress, puppets, puppet clothes, leg wear, leather goods and painting and dyeing everything from fur pelts to silk stockings. My work has been seen (by my count) in over 70 theatrical productions in 6 cities and 2 countries. I’ve worked in some of the largest and most well respected costume shops in the country, and I make my living solely by making things. I have a 100% handmade income, in my spare time I have an etsy.com shop, and I make and sell things at indie craft shows and artisan markets in 5 cities and 3 states. By many accounts I have a dream career. A dream life. I am living the crafts dream.
But that’s not really a terribly unique thing. The thing I think many people forget about when they hear things like my income is from completely handmade sources is how difficult that life can be. I work 8 to 10 hours a day at my theatre-day job making beautiful and interesting things, then I come home and make more things. I find some days that my brain is so busy and so creative that I simply cannot think, sleep, or even concentrate on the banalities of life. I’ve spent many days hammering rivets into leather to make armor only to go home and knit baby socks. But again this is not that unique, or even really that interesting.
What I think is worth noting is that I’ve managed to give up almost all the normal and regular things that make modern people happy. I rarely watch television, I don’t love to go shopping in big box stores, I abhor regular fashion magazines. My bookshelves are lined with how-to books, instruction manuals and visual research. I given up many deeply intimate relationships to move from city to city, state to state and follow my dream career. The really interesting thing is: The things that make me interesting are also the things that challenge me. Daily. I find myself almost unable to relate to people who sit in an office and stare at a computer screen all day. I cannot go out on a date with a “regular” guy and tell him what I do for a living without some strange remark about how much I must love Halloween, or renaissance festivals (I don’t really enjoy either). I’ve ditched and left best friends, lovers, roommates, my family, and even a few pet fish.
But here’s the crazy thing, and I want to make this totally clear: I’m not unhappy. I am in fact a mostly happy, joyous person. I’m pretty content with my life, but I do wonder what it might be like to be able to turn off the creative side of my brain and just veg-out on the sofa. I wonder what it might be like to be able to sit on the train and not notice every knitted garment and pattern it in my head. I wonder what my life would have been like if I’d not left one of those cities, or I had followed my boyfriend instead of my career. I wonder how it feels to come home after a day of sitting in front of a computer and sit in front of the television. But then again, I don’t really want to find out what it would feel like to have a normal life. Because then it wouldn’t be my life, it would be everybody’s life. I’d just be living it.