Alt-Craft Artist: Rania Hassan
Specialty: Illustrated moleskin notebooks and multimedia "knit paintings"
Price range: Notebooks, $12 to $22. Neoprene lunch bags, $20. Paintings range from $320 to $600.
When you imagine a "crafter," maybe you envision a frizzy-haired marm in a den of glue, ribbons and tacky buttons. A cat lady.
What you don't expect is Rania Hassan, a warm and open-faced 30-something graphic designer -- who practically apologizes for being an "older" indie crafter -- showing you around her meticulously organized dining room/workspace in the District's Bloomingdale neighborhood. The walls are a vibrant chartreuse, the curtains covetable; it's all so artistic and bohemian, like her work.
Hassan studied art in college in Lebanon and moved to Washington in 2000 to work for the White House creating posters and exhibits. But it was her work designing the White House coloring books during the Bush administration that seems to have had the most impact on her notebooks, some of which bear little stories and doodly, pen-and-ink drawings.
More recently, Hassan has been getting attention for her "knit paintings," small oil-based works of laboring hands from which weblike knit pieces are draped. "What I'm really showing is how knitting connects us to the generations that came before us," she says of the works. In May, she received a craft award for her paintings from the James Renwick Alliance, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery, and from Oct. 17 to Nov. 14, she'll feature them in a show at Gallery Neptune in Bethesda.
Hassan has kept her day job working for the government through it all but finds herself devoting every spare moment to her craft.
"What people don't realize [is] it's fun, but it's also a lot of work," she says. "The making of it is maybe 25 percent. Just the other day, I was talking with my husband [glass artist Sean Hennessey] . . . and we were talking about 'If I went back to school right now, what would I want to study?'
"And I said I would probably want to study business. Or public relations."