Crafts With an Edge: 4 Alt-Craft Artists

By Lavanya Ramanathan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 2, 2009

You can trace its roots to the Great Knitting Craze of 2001.

That's when hip 20-somethings began to dust off Grandma's knitting needles -- then her sewing machine, her embroidery thread and kitschy ceramics -- and marched forward (or some might say backward) into a new movement that celebrates the handmade and the one-of-a-kind.

But make no mistake: This ain't your Grandma's craft.

This generation of do-it-yourselfers -- who call themselves alt-crafters or indie crafters -- cranks out cheeky mittens; clever T-shirts; cute, plush breakfast toast.

Washington has one of the most prolific alt-craft communities in the country, and if the crafters had a mecca, it would be Crafty Bastards. Every year, hundreds of applicants vie for a spot to sell their weird wares in the juried art and crafts fair, set for Saturday in Adams Morgan. Expect 150 vendors, concessions and an all-day break-dance competition.

"When you buy something from a fair, you get to talk to an artist, and then . . . you have a great story about something you bought," says director Kim Dorn, explaining the success of the fair, which is in its sixth year.

So we at Weekend are giving you a preview: On the pages that follow, we profile four local artists you can meet tomorrow. And if their stories motivate you to get crafty, they're also sharing some of their favorite crafting-community events, blogs and even craft-supply shops.

"Our generation is taking the meaning of the word craft and just redefining it," explains Faythe Levine, 31, a documentarian who chronicled the phenomenon in her film "Handmade Nation" (which will be screened free at the Renwick Gallery on Nov. 21). "It's not just about starting your own business . . . . It's very empowering. When people complete something they've made by hand, they feel very good about it."

To read profiles of four crafters you'll find at the fair, click the links in the This Story box above.

Crafty Bastards Arts and Crafts Fair Marie Reed Learning Center, 18th Street and Wyoming Avenue NW. (Metro: Woodley Park or Dupont Circle). Free. For a full list of vendors, visit http://www.washington

© 2009 The Washington Post Company