What happens when government aid doesn't go where it's supposed to?
We may live in an era of mass-produced, disposable “stuff.” But a growing community of artists and craftsmen are thriving on the web and at local markets, plying their handmade wares and avant-garde art directly to consumers. We meet the local artisans behind “Crafty Bastards,” the city’s biggest craft fair.
- Jeffrey Everett Designer and Illustrator, El Jefe Design
- Tina "Seamonster" Artist and Owner, Tina Seamonster
- Kimberly Dorn Executive Director, Hello Craft; Co-Creator/Organizer, Crafty Bastards
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. You could call it the era of mass-produced stuff. Almost every T-shirt and poster and kitchen gadget we use in our day-to-day life comes from a distant factory on the other side of the world. But what if there was a handmade alternative? What if you could buy the same product from a local artist or craftsman? Or better yet, what if you made it yourself?
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIt's an idea at the core of a new arts and crafts movement, selling book binders made out of Lego, handmade textiles and creepy, crocheted monsters. And joining us in the studio is Kimberly Dorn, executive director of Hello Craft and co-creator and organizer of Crafty Bastards, the annual arts and crafts fair. And, Kim, thank you for joining us.
MS. KIMBERLY DORNThank you very much.
NNAMDIAlso with us is Tina "Seamonster" who's an artist and owner of Tina Seamonster, a craft company that makes cards, bookmakers and T-shirts. Tina "Seamonster," befriending zombies since 2005, thank you for joining us.
MS. TINA "SEAMONSTER"Thanks for having me.
NNAMDIAlso in the studio is Jeff. Jeffrey Everett, he's a designer and illustrator with El Jefe Design. He produces silkscreen posters and art for music and other events. Jeff, good to have you along.
MR. JEFFREY EVERETTPleasure to be here.
NNAMDIYou would like to join the conversation, call us, 800-433-8850. Are you an artisan? Why do you craft? 800-433-8850. Or would you, or do you spend more for arts and consumer products if you get to know the person who made it? Where do you look for your favorite crafts? Kim, let me start with you. We live in the era of global trade and mechanized production. Lots of really smart people have figured out how to make our home furnishings, our clothing and our gadgets on one side of the world and ship them over here for the cheapest price. However, some people, like you, in the studio, are pushing in the other direction. What is this craft movement? And where did it start?
DORNWell, I think it's a lot of people my age and younger -- I'm 33. And, you know, at a certain point, people just started getting sick of having to buy mass-produced goods for their home, their clothes -- everything like that. And they just wanted to be able to get what they wanted and get their -- buy their goods that they could know were economically good...
DORN...were eco-friendly, that were made with sustainable products. And I think when you buy stuff from indie crafters, you kind of -- you're able to get that information from the seller, and you're able, from there, to take part in the whole buying process.
NNAMDIWhat's your take on it, Tina?
"SEAMONSTER"I think, also, I like the idea that when I buy something from the person who made it, I know that the money I'm spending is directly affecting that person. Like, I know that my customers -- most of my customers know my story, and that's another part of it, too. You know, I'm a mom with five-year-old twins. And they know that after my twins go to bed, I go into my little office. And I have this machine that I make these zombie refrigerator magnets with. And that's so much better than thinking, oh, I really want this thing, but I don't know who in China made it. And I don't know what committee in the Target headquarters or wherever -- sorry -- has decided that this is what people want to buy. And so it's two-fold. It's -- you know where your money's going, and then you know the person behind it has a story to tell about it.
NNAMDII was about to say there's often a narrative behind what we do. Is there not, Jeff, a story to tell?
EVERETTOh, yeah, especially with doing concert posters. I'm amazed at how many people come up to me and go, oh, yeah, I totally know where that image comes from. I totally get it. Or they come up to me and go, where did you come up with this weird picture? And then I tell them, and they go, oh, that's genius.
NNAMDIAnd that's what our guests are saying that people really appreciate about indie artists. You can talk to them, find out, A, who they are, B, know exactly where your money is going and, C, hear the narrative behind whatever image it is that you happen to be supporting.
DORNCrafty Bastards started -- it's actually produced by the Washington City paper, and it's an event that promotes that the city paper is part of this local community. And the event was created to promote its classified section and to show that the city paper is a great place for people to buy and sell goods from for free. And seven years ago, we were trying to figure out what type of event we were going to do. And one of the original ideas was a giant yard sale where the community could come and buy and sell goods. And then it was kind of at that moment that the indie craft movement was kind of taking off. It was kind of growing its legs.
DORNAnd there was a festival called the Renegade Craft Show that was starting in New York City, and we were like, let's do something like that instead of a yard sale. Like, there's nothing like this in D.C. There weren't a lot of retail stores open that were selling handmade goods. And we just decided, let's take a chance, let's do it and let's see what other crafters are out there who want to participate. And then it just kind of went off from there.
NNAMDIWhere'd the name come from? I'm not trying to offend those...
NNAMDI...who are more sensitive to the name in our listening audience, but where did the name come from?
DORNWell, we actually wanted to come up with a name that, where if you heard it, you wouldn't think traditional craft fair. You know, we wanted to have a name where we could put it out there and that sort of these indie crafters would get it. And they'd apply, and people would come to the fair because it has sort of this different name. And we put the call out to all the city paper employees, and it was actually -- Crafty Bastards was a name that was given by one of the writers at the paper at the time. And our publisher, Amy Austin, she actually put it out to a bunch of different parents and said, would you bring your kids...
DORN...to an event called Crafty Bastards? And they said, absolutely. And that's how the name kind of came about.
NNAMDIWell, here is Katie.
KATIEHi. Yeah, I just wanted to comment that it's really nice to be a part of this community. I am reasonably new to the D.C. area -- I've only been here for two years -- and also that it's really great to hear people talk about the sustainability of this and the fact that there are people, you know, in the Washington, D.C. area who are taking things and ideas and coming up with these great products that you can't buy anywhere else. And it's just a really fantastic community to be a part of.
NNAMDIWhat do you do, Katie? What do you do? What do make?
KATIEI -- well, what do I make? I make pressed plastic shopping bags into little wallets. I do a small amount of short-run silkscreen stuff, and I make trash leather into wrist cuffs and headbands.
NNAMDIHow long have you been doing this?
KATIEAbout 10 years.
NNAMDIAnd what brought you to D.C. two years ago?
KATIEI actually work for one of the local theaters. I'm a costume craft manager for one of the local theaters, and so my -- actually, I'm calling from work right now.
KATIEMy full-time job is that I make hats and dye fabric and make beautiful costumes for a theater, and this is actually what I do for fun.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Katie. You sound a little bit...
NNAMDI...like Jeff because Jeff is a graphic designer by day. And, Jeff, art and music have always gone hand-in-hand. Back when we listened to music on vinyl, and even CDs, the artwork that adorned those albums was part of the experience. But today, in the era of MP3s and items, that link isn't as strong. Tell us about your posters.
EVERETTWell, it is one of those things where I remember growing up, I would have my little CD or my vinyl sleeve. And while I listened to the music, I'd always hold it up and say, what is going on in this picture? I still have nightmares about the Eagles' "Hotel California" sleeve. Like, what is up in that window? And that's really disappearing. So what I like to do -- you know, bands will hire me, or I'll volunteer services. And I'll create that connection, that tangible connection to the music that seems to be disappearing. I don't know anybody who has their iPod tacked up on the wall, so this is a good way to replace what seems to be missing.
NNAMDIAnd you are also in the business of silk-screening, aren't you?
EVERETTYes, I am. Yeah, I actually now -- I used to do it all myself. I actually work with a wonderful printer named Team Eight down in Richmond, and we silkscreen. And...
NNAMDIBecause back in the day -- my day, silkscreen...
NNAMDISilkscreens were big. Silkscreen was big. It's an old process, but it's largely died out as a manufacturing technique in the era of digital printing. Why'd you go back to silk-screening?
EVERETTIt seemed like an affordable way to print. And a lot of times, you'll see those glossy fliers that are done at Kinko's, and there's just not that wonderful tactile quality to them that you can get with screen printing. You can do it on so many different types of paper. You can use all these little printing tricks where you just can't do, you know, at Kinko's.
NNAMDITina, your name is "Seamonster," but you're known for zombies.
"SEAMONSTER"I personally love sea monsters, and I'm afraid of sea monsters. But I find that not as many people react to that. What people really react to are zombies. And seven years ago, when I did the first Crafty Bastards, I arrived with a pile of weird junk that I had made. And in the past seven years, it's been this amazing process to find my subject matter and find my medium. And it's zombies. And I actually have a line of zombie Christmas cards, and that's really what started me on zombies, is sort of like I want to subvert Christmas with zombie Christmas cards. And I have all these customers that love doing that.
"SEAMONSTER"And what happened recently was a big -- a bookstore chain contacted me because they wanted zombie bookmarks, and no one else in the world was making them. And they found my Etsy shop. They Googled zombie bookmark, and they found my Etsy shop. And they said, we want to order, you know, 7,000 zombie bookmarks. And then they began to ask me for refrigerator magnets as well, and I had to make a decision. Do I go to China and have these things made and change my business? Or do I buy the machines and do this myself in my house? And that's what I did. And so I make thousands of tiny products about zombies and send them all over the world.
NNAMDIBut that's an important decision you had to make because your...
"SEAMONSTER"It was hard.
NNAMDIYour whole operation was based on your notion of rewarding the artist, and so when people started ordering large quantities of materials, you say, okay, now do I betray my principles here...
NNAMDI...in order to make some money? Or do I make them myself?
"SEAMONSTER"It was a really tough decision. And also, you know, I had another mom -- 'cause I have -- like I said, I have five-year-old twins -- another mom say, do you really want your kids to feel like they live in a sweatshop?
"SEAMONSTER"And I said, no. And so we moved to a house...
NNAMDIWe call it home.
"SEAMONSTER"Right. We moved to a house where we have an office -- where I have an office, where I have my big machine, my big -- it's a manual press that I make the refrigerator magnets with. And I go up there every night, and I do it. And it would've been much easier to get them made somewhere else.
NNAMDIWould you describe the refrigerator magnet that I'm holding up, please?
"SEAMONSTER"This is our Obama versus zombies refrigerator magnet, which is quite popular. And this is actually an illustration by Christopher Peers, who is one of my illustrators, and we had a lot of fun with it. Obama's hitting...
NNAMDIIt's an illustration of President Obama punching out the zombie.
NNAMDIThe other one that I like -- I saw this on sweatshirts and T-shirts -- all of them, also.
"SEAMONSTER"Yeah, zombies hate that you are so awesome.
NNAMDIThe zombies hate me.
"SEAMONSTER"It's sort of for when you're in the middle of the post-apocalyptic zombie plague, and you're winning -- that's the shirt you're going to wear.
NNAMDIYou see the imagination that drives these refrigerator magnets and T-shirts and posters and artwork? Here's Katelyn in Mount Rainier, Md. Katelyn, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KATELYNIt's been amazing since starting to be a full-time artist how much it's changed my perception of the value of handmade goods and what I will now spend my money on. I can look in my closet and see all this cheap clothing I bought from Target or, you know, whatever, you know, Gap -- mass-produced places. And it's just not exciting, and it doesn't make me -- it -- I don't have that thrill that I can look at something that I spent 10 times more on that was made by someone who I've seen at craft shows and followed them on Twitter and read their blog and know all about them, and all the love that they put into their work.
KATELYNAnd the value of that piece of clothing is so much greater than just the money that I put into it. It's really bits of people's lives and the love that goes into everything that they make that makes it so much more special to own and really makes a big difference.
NNAMDIKatelyn, when did you decide to become a full-time artist?
KATELYNIt sort of happened by accident. My business is Rebound Design. I make purses out of old books, and I started selling them in eastern markets. And about three months after I made the first one, I realized that I stopped doing my other job. I just wasn't really -- I wasn't participating in my previous job. I sort of quit my job by accident and started doing this full time. And ever since then -- that was about six years ago. It will be six years ago this weekend, actually, that I quit my job officially.
NNAMDIOh, Katelyn, thank you very much for sharing that with us because it allows me to raise this issue with all of our guests. When a young woman or man decides to go to, oh, business school or law school, he or she can reasonably expect to make enough money at their chosen profession. But when you decide to go to art school, you're choosing a lifestyle known for tight finances. Some people like Katelyn, who just called, seem to be figuring out a way to make a living or at least a good supplemental income doing this, Kim.
DORNYeah, you know, I think a lot of people -- when they go into running their own sort of handmade business, a lot of people, I don't think, go into it saying, this is definitely going to be my full-time job.
DORNBut I think there's sort of that glimmer of hope where you're making your own things, you can sell on sites like Etsy, you can go to craft fairs and sell your wares. And I think it's a very accessible job for people to have. And you can go out, and you can make money for yourself. But I think, you know, there is that glimmer of hope that maybe one day you could quit your 9 to 5 and do it full-time. But I don't know that a lot of people go into it with, you know, that reality.
NNAMDIThe intention of doing it full-time. How was it for you, Tina?
"SEAMONSTER"I think that more people go into it as an obsession. At least for me, it was -- for me, making has always been stress relief, and so it was sort of an obsession. For me, it was a little easy for me because I gave birth to twins, and any mom knows how much daycare costs. And so it made sense for me to quit my regular job and stay home with them and work my regular -- I have contracts at night and then do this on the side. But in the past year, since I got an account with a major bookstore chain, it's totally exploded, and it's become a real business. And that has been really amazing.
NNAMDIJeff, in the eyes of a lot of people, D.C. is a city of professionals, a city of lawyers and politicians and federal workers, the kind of work that, in the view of some people, crushes any kind of creative impulse we might have. But in some places, in some respects, I guess, the beleaguered office worker is the prototypical crafter, the kind of person who spends their evenings and their weekends on arts and craft projects. A little different for you -- you are balancing a day job with a night hobby, but your professional life is not that far removed from this.
EVERETTWell, yeah, I do professional design work logos, websites and reports at a place called Graves Fowler Creative. And it's always funny. I always kind of compare them to the day job and the night job. You know, doing the logo for the Pope's visit to Maryland and then going home and doing, like, a heavy metal concert poster.
EVERETTI'm like, oh, yes. I'm definitely going to purgatory at best. So it is one of those things where I'll be sitting there typesetting or whatever and be thinking of funny ways to draw rabbits or things like that.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. If you craft, why do you craft? You can call us, 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet @kojoshow or on e-mail to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWe're talking with indie artisans. Kimberly Dorn is executive director of Hello Craft and co-creator and organizer of Crafty Bastards, the annual arts and crafts fair. Jeffrey Everett is a designer and illustrator with El Jefe Design. He produces silkscreen posters and art for music and for other events, and Tina "Seamonster" is an artist and owner of Tina Seamonster, a craft company that makes cards, bookmarks and T-shirts. On to the telephones, here is Marlissa (sp?) in Bethesda, Md. Marlissa, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MARLISSAHi, Kojo. I am a potter, and I also have four children who go to the Washington Waldorf School. And all four of them, from first grade, have learned to knit, which, through the curriculum, we believe it's very good for left brain-right brain connections, you know, which start in -- you know, at that age, six or seven. And then they go on to do a lot of woodwork, so that's all part of the curriculum which, you know, I feel is so important for the children to have this hands-on experience.
MARLISSAAnd they get such satisfaction and this pride on these things that they've made. And I just wanted to say how important and how happy I am there's this awareness that the handmade -- you know, being a potter, you know, I'm appreciating a larger market for products. And, you know, I just was also happy to hear that in the White House they have -- hello?
NNAMDIYes. We're listening very carefully to you, Marlissa. That's why the silence.
MARLISSAMy phone looked blank, so I apologize. Anyway, I was happy to see that the Obamas have some lamps that are pottery -- you know, handmade lamps that, you know, I think I saw that in The Post maybe two weeks ago.
NNAMDIWell, Marlotta, (sic) as a potter, you'd be interested in this comment from Tia that was posted on our website. "I just rinsed beans in this great, little ceramic berry bowl that I bought from a potter almost 15 years ago. It fits my hand, works beautifully, practically glows with deep greens and teals and makes me think of lovely Del Ray, Alexandria, where I met the student who made it. I suppose a crummy, plastic thing from Wal-Mart would work as well. But, yuck, that could never put a smile on my face as I'm making lunch."
MARLISSAYes, I know.
NNAMDISays it all, huh?
MARLISSAYeah, the handmade is just quite beautiful.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Marlissa. We move on to Paula in Arlington, Va. Paula, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PAULAHi, how are you all?
PAULAI'm sorry I'm not good with names. So my question is probably directed to the zombie lady.
"SEAMONSTER"That's me. Hello.
PAULAYou said that when you decided to go into more mass production that you decided you needed to get your own machine.
PAULASo I was curious to know where -- what would be a good place for a home crafter to find professional tools and machines?
PAULA'Cause I do jewelry, and there are a lot of things I find that, like, I'd like to put a hole in. But I have a Dremel.
PAULABut even, you know, the drill bits of the Dremel isn't small enough, as small as they are.
PAULAAnd I Googled jeweler's drill and was not very successful.
"SEAMONSTER"For me, I -- definitely it was a lot of Googling to find out, how am I going to make this to the, you know, specifications the store wants them? And it was a lot of work. I don't know anything about jewelry making, but I know who does. If you go to etsy.com and check the forums, you will definitely find someone who can help you, who has already done it, and that's part of what's awesome about this community, is that many, many people can help. We can all help each other.
"SEAMONSTER"There are so many people who I have helped with information about how to do what I do. And, you know, I've invited people to my house to come and see, you know, with varying degrees of -- if that was a good idea, to come and see my workshop. And so, yes, I would definitely check Etsy and look for jewelers who are doing what you're -- already doing what you want to do.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Paula. And, Kim, you mentioned Etsy earlier. Much of this movement may be a rejection of high-tech, machine-made stuff, but this is not a Luddite movement. Most people actually credit Etsy with helping lay the foundation for recent growth. Tell us about Etsy.
DORNEtsy is basically -- I guess, it's like an eBay for crafters...
"SEAMONSTER"And handmade goods, yeah.
DORN...in sort of a sense -- yeah, for handmade goods and vintage goods as well. You can go as a seller, as somebody who makes something. You can go on to Etsy. You don't have to know anything about how to create a website.
DORNAnd you can go on there, and for a small fee, you can launch an online shop. And then that shop is listed on Etsy. It comes up in searches, and you can add photos. You can sell your goods. They use PayPal. And you can get on things like the Etsy forums to learn more information about techniques and tools and fairs. And it's just a great way to make your products accessible to a large audience.
"SEAMONSTER"Well, to the entire world, I mean.
DORNYeah, mm hmm.
NNAMDIIn case you are just joining us -- shame, shame -- but Tina "Seamonster" is with us. She's an artist and owner of Tina Seamonster, a craft company that makes cards, bookmarks and T-shirts. Jeffrey Everett is a designer and illustrator with El Jefe Design. He produces silkscreen posters and art for music and other events. And Kimberly Dorn is executive director of Hello Craft and co-creator and organizer of Crafty Bastards, the annual arts and crafts fair taking place this Saturday, Oct. 2. Back to the telephones with Sidney in Upper Marlboro, Md. Sidney, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SIDNEYI was just wondering as (word?) moved from doing crafts as an interest into it becoming something that generates income, how do you start adding layers of marketing and sales and more business things that we traditionally don't think of as creative in with your creative work?
DORNWell, I think -- oh, do you want to?
NNAMDIWell, I know Kim puts on something called a Summit of Awesome. What is the Summit of Awesome?
DORNThat is a three-day crafting business conference that Hello Craft produces once a year, and we basically teach creative types the ins and outs of marketing their wares, their craft. And, you know, that is kind of one of -- it's a very big question in the craft community because a lot of people in this handmade movement, they started out, you know, making maybe 20 to 30 things in their basement by themselves. And then as they started going on to Etsy and started going to more and more craft fairs, you know, now instead of making 20 to 30 things, you're now making 100 things. And then all of a sudden you have stores wanting to pick up what you're selling, and then you're making -- like, Tina, you know, like, a thousand things.
DORNAnd I think it's kind of this interesting -- these growing pains that a lot of the creative community is going through because we never had to think about -- you know, when you're an artist in your own basement, making your stuff, you don't have to think about taxes. You don't have to think about hiring people to help you and paying them. And, you know, all these sorts of -- also legal questions, like, the bigger you get, you might get into some trademark and copyright issues. But, I think, if you're looking for some basic help with the business or marketing side, you can go to hellocraft.org and get more information. You can also go on to the Etsy forums, which is a great resource for that sort of thing, and just put some questions out there, but I don't know if you have any...
NNAMDIWell, here's a tweet we got from (sounds like) Absent Mammoth, "I do collage work with found magazines but worry about selling them due to copyrights. Any advice?" Jeff, you do a lot of work with stuff that may be copyrighted.
EVERETTWell, one of my best friends in the world is a guy named Frank Martinez. He's my lawyer. And he always says to me, the first thing you do when you start any type of business is get an accountant and get a lawyer to protect yourself from people and to protect yourself for what you're doing. He always said to me was if you have any questions to yourself, don't do it. And always be very confident with what you're doing. If you don't really care what people think, go ahead and do it. But if you're worried about losing your house, consult a lawyer.
NNAMDIHere is John in Silver Spring, Md. John, your turn. Go ahead, please.
JOHNHi. We -- my wife and I come from artistic families, so our children are doomed.
JOHNBut my wife applies it directly 'cause she's a work-at-home mom, and she makes felted, woolen bags with semi-precious gems on them. And she makes jewelry with the same semi-precious stones. The problem we have with it -- they're gorgeous. They're absolutely gorgeous. We go to the opera, and people are, you know, amazed and ask her questions about it. It just seems that when she tells them, I need $300 for this because it has these Swarovski -- these crystals. It has some rubies. It has pearls, and it's taking me 30 or 50 hours to make it. People feel like, well, that's way too much money, but they'll walk out and spend way more than that for a Gucci bag.
EVERETTYeah, I mean, I've had this issue with selling posters, and people will come up to me and be like, dude, that's not punk rock. You're saying $20 on that? Man, what's wrong with you?
EVERETTAnd then I go, why, I have some $5 ones right over here -- $5? No matter what, people -- you know, you're never really going to get paid what you think is worth -- you know, if I could, I'd sell all my posters for $100 'cause I got two kids trying to, you know, save up for a college fund. But there are a lot of people out there who get it and will pay that extra money. My wife hates it because her birthday is always after Crafty Bastards, and so I get all of her presents there. And I know how much good stuff is there, and I'm willing to pay a little bit extra so she has that something special that nobody else is going to have.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, John. We're getting a lot of calls and e-mails. So you can send a tweet @kojoshow, or you can go to our website, kojoshow.org. I want to go to Ben in Columbia, Md. Ben, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BENYes, I'm a jeweler. I make chainmail-based jewelry, so lots of jump rings and things like that and all sorts of materials. But I find that when I went to set up an Etsy store -- of course, I went and looked at all the competition -- there are always people out there that are making similar items. They undercut majorly. They don't charge for labor, for instance, and I just don't know of any way to combat that. I'm looking for any advice you can give, and I'll take answer off the air.
NNAMDIKim, any advice for Ben?
DORNWell, I think Tina might agree with this. For trying to form a customer base is really good.
DORNPutting yourself out there and trying to -- you know, if you have a blog, that usually helps because you can share your techniques with folks. You can share -- like, I spent 20 hours, you know, making this thing, and people appreciate it more. And, I think, when you can form a community based around your own work, I think you'll have people who will not only buy from you, but they'll promote your stuff as well.
"SEAMONSTER"Yeah, for -- this is the big difficulty with doing this because everybody wants to do this. Nobody wants to sit in the office and be unhappy all day long. And they're...
NNAMDIUnless you're being paid handsomely to do it.
"SEAMONSTER"Right. But there are so many people who want to do this and want to use their hands to make a living. And for what I do, I started out making jewelry, which -- like, seven years ago. And I had no idea, no idea that this is what I would be making now. And I think you just -- in my mind, I never think that there -- I don't have any competition. That's the way I see it. And maybe that's mentally ill, but I just feel like there's no competition for what I do. And, of course, there is, but I think you have to go into this being completely ready to know that you're awesome and work on creating your customer base that is specific to you. And the world is huge, and there are so many people who will react to what you do.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. If you call, stay on the line. We'll try to get to your call. If the lines are busy, send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or a tweet @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWe're talking with indie artisans. Kimberly Dorn is executive director of Hello Craft and co-creator and organizer of Crafty Bastards, the annual arts and crafts fair. Jeffrey Everett is a designer and illustrator with El Jefe Design. He produces silkscreen posters and art for music and for other events. And Tina "Seamonster" is an artist and owner of Tina Seamonster, a craft company that makes cards, bookmarks and t-shirts. Jeff, I'd like to talk about how D.C. pops up in your work.
NNAMDID.C. has some iconic images, like the Capitol or the Lincoln Monument, but in your work, you play with a different set of icons. The poster for Liars has the l'enfant plan. It also has the points of a famous conspiracy theory. Tell us about how you come to these iconic images yourself.
EVERETTOh, D.C. is wonderful. Everyone always thinks of D.C. as being very straight-laced, but there's this really kind of -- I won't say nefarious culture underneath -- but just this real punk rock kind of nice vibe to it. The one for the Liars, which was originally going to be for a Norwegian death metal band called Mayhem, comes from a freemason's conspiracy theory that the devil is the one who designed D.C. That's why there's a pentagram with the point being at the White House. I'm a...
NNAMDII've heard that one.
EVERETTYeah, I'm amazed at, you know, how people kind of come out of the woodwork to find this stuff. Like, one of my favorite posters is a take-off of when you're driving around the Beltway, and you'd see...
EVERETT...surrender Dorothy written on the overpass right before you hit the Mormon temple. I loved that imagery, and I made it into a poster, which seemed to really upset a lot of people in Utah. So I got some interesting phone calls from people, but the people in D.C. get it. They know that kind of humorous prank that someone pulled that's very endearing. But, you know, if you're not from D.C., you don't understand it, and you can get offended.
NNAMDIBut here, Kim, might be one of the problems with D.C. In past shows, we've talked to the organizers of Fort Reno, the summer music series dedicated to local artists. And one of the things the organizers said is that it's getting harder and harder to find truly local bands because it is now so expensive to live in D.C. Is it possible to be a full-time struggling artist and still live in D.C. anymore?
DORNWell, I definitely have to say it's very difficult, and I actually moved up to Baltimore.
NNAMDIIndeed, Baltimore has really become a major hub for this kind of art. Why Charm City?
DORNI think because it's an affordable city, and living there really affords me the luxury of being able to be creative. You know, when I was in D.C., I was definitely spending a lot of my money on a place to live and just -- you know, metro and everything. And I just think that, you know, in Baltimore, I can eat for cheap, drink for cheap, and that way I can save money to do more of the creative things that I like to do.
NNAMDIAnd that's why Baltimore seems to be becoming such a hub for this kind of activity.
DORNYeah, there's a lot of D.C. (word?) in Baltimore right now.
NNAMDICome back, y'all. Here's Jen in Washington D.C. Jen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JENHey, first, I wanted to tell the woman who was looking for jeweler's drills to go to Lap Craft, L-A-P, like Lapidary, Craft. That's -- I ended up having to do the same thing, kind of search around to find that, but -- and that actually brings me to my other point, which is really kind of directed to the people who are maybe not the artists and the crafters, but the people who would be, you know, worried or cheap to -- too cheap to spend the money on something that somebody spent 100 hours making. And that's that, you know, craft is old.
JENAnd it was driven by function that we -- people needed things to carry things in. They made baskets or pots or whatever that is. And that impetus to create, you know, brings us to things like refrigerator magnets, which are also functional if you want to hold something up on your refrigerator. You want something beautiful to do that, not just a black magnet. And so, you know, definitely telling people to go to the craft fair, and when they're thinking about what they're spending their money on, you know, go watch a couple of episodes of "Antiques Roadshow," and they bring on a, you know, a hundred-year-old Indian basket or even a painting that someone has made.
JENThe value is in the function that drove that impetus to create, but also in the uniqueness of the individual who creates that piece and puts whatever embellishments or enhancement on an original design. And, you know, if you're going to spend $250 an hour to see your lawyer, which -- yeah, we all need the lawyer, that's important. But $250 to spend something -- on something that took more, you know, $250 an hour versus $250 for a hundred hours, you're getting a lot more bang for your buck to buy a beautifully handcrafted one-of-a-kind item that you will have and be able to pass down for generations.
NNAMDIYou know, Jen, I'm glad you took us back to the past. Because, Tina "Seamonster," people have always done this, as Jen pointed out.
NNAMDIBut they haven't always had a name for it. Your grandfather, it's my understanding, was a huge influence on you and your artwork. How so?
"SEAMONSTER"Yeah, I watched him my whole life make things. When I was really little and he was strong and young, he made furniture for the house. And I have one piece of his, actually, in my office that I always look at when I am in the middle of, you know, slogging through this. And then when he was old and dying -- he was blind from diabetes -- and I would watch him make dozens and dozens of -- not refrigerator magnets, that's what I make -- of Christmas tree ornaments. And he would make them from wood, and he would cut them from wood and paint them. And I would sit with him, and it's just -- it was this impulse to create no matter where he was.
"SEAMONSTER"And after he died, we went into his room, and we found these amazing pieces that he had actually made in the jungles of the Pacific during World War II. And on the back, he actually wrote, you know, I made the paintbrush to paint this with out of my own hair, and I made the paint out of blood and berries. And he wrote all the pieces he had to make this little plaque. And when I saw that, it really made me figure him out. Like, why did -- you know, you see your crazy old grandpa won't stop making stuff. Well, that's because he's using it to relieve stress. And he wants to be important, and he wants to leave something important behind.
"SEAMONSTER"And it totally -- I connected to that. And whenever I'm in the middle of having to fill an order for a thousand pieces, I think about him. And I think about how important it is that I'm doing this with my own hands, even if the end result is a refrigerator magnet about Obama killing -- or hitting a zombie. It's still really important.
NNAMDIWe got this tongue-in-cheek question for you posted on our website. "I wonder if Miss 'Seamonster' found that her name caused her problems when she was in elementary school. Children can be so cruel. I myself experienced derision from my first grade classmates until I discovered my secret hidden power of making voodoo dolls."
"SEAMONSTER"Tina "Seamonster" is my -- not my real name. But Kim was reminding me before this that we've been friends for a very long time, and you had a hard time remembering my real last name. It's just...
NNAMDI'Cause now you think of her as "Seamonster."
"SEAMONSTER"It's just what people call me, and it's the name of my business. And so it's who I am, so...
NNAMDIJeffrey, tell us a little bit about your creative process. How does it work? How do you come up with the ideas you come up with?
EVERETTA lot of it comes from what would I like to see on my own wall. That's where I get the inspiration from 'cause I work with a lot of bands. Right now, I'm doing a lot of work for the Gaslight Anthem, which is a -- I think they're playing in Baltimore on Thursday. The lyrics are so illustrative and inspiring that I'll pull little tidbits out here and there and use those. And, you know, what's interesting is that I'll use these really obscure references, and people will come up to me and be like, oh, yeah, that's totally from this song, you know. She's all spitfire. Uh huh, I totally get it. And I'll be like, thank you. And that's why -- you know, that's what kind of draws people into concert posters that I do.
NNAMDIKim, we got this tweet, "My proudest achievement as a crafty parent, my daughter asks, who made this, instead of, where'd you get it."
NNAMDICrafty Bastards is one of the biggest indie craft fairs in the U.S., but it's not like any crafter can just come by and set up. The folks who are there actually had to apply to be there.
DORNYeah, it's interesting, too, because the first year we did Crafty Bastards, we didn't know who would apply. And we basically got a hundred something applications, and almost everybody who applied, got in. And now, you know, we have about 150 booths, and we get over 450 people applying every year. And every crafter goes through our jury process, and our jury is made up of seven different creative folks from the...
NNAMDIAnd Jeffrey's the -- and Jeffrey's been displaying at Crafty Bastards for a few year. He said it's kind of like applying to college.
EVERETTEvery year, I'm like, oh, please let me get in. Please let me get in. And my wife is like, calm down, you got in. I'm like, no, but what if I don't?
DORNWe hear a lot of that, and I -- you know, it is heartbreaking to have to reject folks. But it is a strict jury system that we put people through, and we do it so we can keep it fair for everybody. So it's not just a craft fair with our friends, and it's not just a craft fair with -- you know, just t-shirts or just screen printed posters. You know, we want to have a lot of variety of different types of goods, so it is a very crazy jury process that every vendor goes through.
NNAMDILet's hear some more testimonials along that line, starting with Elaine in Silver Spring, Md. Elaine, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ELAINEHi. Thanks for taking my call, Kojo. I met Jeff at the Artscape this past summer in Baltimore, and that was one of the highlights of my, you know, experience there. But I was really in awe the whole time 'cause it was my first time at Artscape. I did not know that kind of creativity existed anymore. And I was so excited when I was in Chicago at the Renegade Festival, and she -- and someone there told me that Crafty Bastards was an even better craft festival in D.C., and I just wanted to point out what a gift a festival like this is to a city.
ELAINEI mean, I cannot stress enough that if you think that you know all about D.C. and you, you know, have been there, done that, and now you don't need to see anything, then, I mean, you really need to check out Crafty Bastards because the creativity there is inspiring. And I just want to thank you, the organizers of the event, you know, for being here in D.C. I'm so excited.
NNAMDIElaine, thank you very much for you call, and on to Katie in Alexandria, Va. Katie, your turn.
KATIEYes. Hi, Kojo, thanks for taking my call.
KATIEI just also wanted to sort of sing the praises of Tina, Kim and Jeff. It's an amazing show that Kim puts on, and I'm humbled to be a vendor this year. My name's -- you know, Moonlight Bindery is my business, and the only problem is there's never any time to see the other vendors' work.
"SEAMONSTER"Yeah, we need a presale, I think, for us.
NNAMDIKatie, are you the one who does the Lego binding?
KATIEYes, I am.
NNAMDIHow did I know this? Could you explain exactly what that is to our listeners?
KATIEI take -- so up-cycled -- recycled really, Lego plates that I find. And I sew them in a Coptic binding, which means I drill through the plates, and I individually fold and pierce the sections and sew them together. It's a very ancient technique, but it's very sturdy, and I just love using materials that are recycled.
NNAMDIThank you very much for sharing that with us, Katie.
NNAMDIWe got an e-mail from Sally in Washington, who says, "Your caller with the question on legal concerns about collage art and other artists should know about the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. It's a national organization with local chapters and is a great resource for artists." The website of the New York chapter site -- we are going to have to give you a link to that website on our website kojoshow.org -- but it gives a lot of resources and directory of other chapters around the country. For the VLA of the D.C. area, the website is thewala.org, and you can find more links at our website, kojoshow.org. On now to Daniel in Washington, D.C. Daniel, your turn. Go ahead, please.
DANIELHi. I've been trying to find veneer wood in the D.C. metro area, and I can't seem to find a store that has it. So I was wondering if any of your guests buy...
NNAMDIWhere do you get your art supplies? Veneer wood is what Daniel is looking for at this point.
NNAMDIWe have no veneer wood experts here.
DORNWell, that's actually one of the -- going back to why it's difficult to be a creative person in D.C. There's just...
"SEAMONSTER"Nowhere to buy.
DORN...nowhere to buy supplies. You know, you have to drive out to Virginia or Maryland to even get to a place like Joann's or Plaza Artist Materials or Michael's. But there's not really any sort of independent craft supply places in D.C., which makes it very difficult to actually be an artist, especially if you want to support the local community and buy local and use supplies that are local.
NNAMDIThank you, Daniel.
NNAMDIOn to Sharon in Baltimore County, Md. Sharon, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SHARONAs everybody probably knows, if you have a small or emerging business, a lot of times the money or the financing for that comes out of your grocery bill as does mine.
"SEAMONSTER"Yeah, mm hmm.
SHARONSo I'm looking for ways to market at a price that I can afford. Where would I go? I am on Etsy. Though I have my items to be sold there, I have not gotten on the forums yet.
SHARONBut it's mostly, how do I market? There are people who want to market my things because they claim...
NNAMDII'll let Kim Dorn give you that information one more time because we are down to less than a minute.
DORNIf you just go to hellocraft.org -- if you actually become a member, you can have access to all of our written materials from this past Summit of Awesome. But hellocraft.org and Etsy forums, I think, are going to be your best places.
NNAMDIAnd you'll find links to all of these things at our website, kojoshow.org. Kimberly Dorn is executive director of Hello Craft and co-creator and organizer of Crafty Bastards. That's the annual arts and crafts fair. Tina "Seamonster" is artist and owner of Tina Seamonster, a craft company that makes cards, bookmarks, and T-shirts, and Jeffrey Everett is a designer and illustrator with El Jefe Design. He produces silkscreen posters and art for music and other events. Thank you all for joining us. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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