Lisa Calle made her first quilt seven months ago. She now has a Web site, an Etsy shop, and a booth at this weekend's Urban Street Bazaar in the Bishop Arts District along with more than 85 other crafters and designers for whom the ability to make what they love has given themselves -- and those less crafty -- inspiration to find meaning in the stuff of everyday life.
Folding fabric in the studio where she learned how to put basic sewing skills to work, Calle tells us she never imagined her hobby would become a fledgling business. As she endured six weeks of intensive sewing instruction and Project Runway-style challenges at Project Make, a program offered at Make Shop and Studio by owner and self-taught seamstress Julie McCullough Kim, Calle heard her classmates chatting excitedly about what they'd make to sell. She drew a blank, emerging from the class with one idea: a plan for the perfect mother's day gift for her quilt-loving mom.
Like many of the women Make's classes serve, Calle didn't grow up choosing patterns for dresses she wanted or watching her mother thread bobbin after bobbin. Her mom didn't sew.
"My grandmother made lace," Calle says.
"It really does skip a generation," Kim pipes in. "For our mothers, sewing was a chore. They were empowered by making the choice not to sew, and they sort of went away from that. The way we think of it, we have the power to choose all this, to sew and create."
So Calle made her first quilt, a marriage of funky fabrics with scraps of richly colored, Victorian prints -- her style and her mom's taste combined. When Calle presented the gift, it was a total surprise.
"She cried," Calle says. Calle was hooked.
She finally had something to do with all the fabric that amassed at her house, a project for all the projects never started. After arriving home each day from her technical writing job and feeding her two miniature pinschers, Calle sewed for hours until her husband came home for dinner. And then some nights she sewed some more, bouncing into the living room to announce finished pieces she'd post on her Etsy shop, Sophia Aster, under their given names, like "Summer Picnic." A complete stranger requested a custom piece.
Few artists behind the new-handmade movement work with such a literal canvas. Calle makes old treasures like 1930s-style string quilts new with modern geometric prints and bold colors. But crafters are making new things new, too, and perhaps, it's our generation's connectedness that drives them to market what they create.
About the same time Calle was finishing her first quilt, we were almost done with mall stores. A year of buying gifts on Etsy and a stunned discovery of shops like Make and Parts and Labour in Austin had put a bad taste in our mouth for the Target quick fix -- and even made us cross at our beloved Anthropologie, with its enticing displays and near-perfect imitations of the handmade aesthetic. Material for our semi-regular Buy Indie Wednesday features was becoming easier to come by. We decided to try buying our clothes (and gifts, when registries allowed) only from independent sellers or second-hand shops.
What did this mean for our normal routine? More thinking, more looking, and less frequent buying.
What has it meant for our wardrobe and gift-giving? Well, both started to mean more. A fiery orange dress in crinkled silk by Austin-based designer Meline, bought at Make for around $80, took us to two formal weddings feeling as proud of how we looked as how we'd spent our money. Two perfect tank tops at $12 each (now on sale for $10) from Katherine Mcconnell's Etsy shop made us feel close to the Northwest and edged out the ribbed tops from Old Navy in our drawers that never quite fit around the top. We wear a headband from Tara to the T that looks like Kurt Halsey's art weekly at least, and we gave our mischievous two-year-old a spot-on tee to commemorate his first week of preschool -- a screen of a paper airplane on organic cotton by Dallas' Free Lisa.
On the quantity front, we have less than we would have if we'd spent our summer ordering from Delia*s or reveling in the sale racks at Urban Outfitters. But we have a grandmother who wears a "great-grandmother" keychain we found on Etsy around her neck. We have a new favorite dress. And we have stories, lots of stories.
For us, this weekend's Urban Street Bazaar is all about choices. There will be scores of booths to browse -- a handmade patrons's dream -- but that's not what we mean. Sellers are choosing to do what they love -- many times, just because they love it. And patrons are choosing to support that kind of joy, to take a piece of it home with them.
Make's Urban Bazaar Modern Craft Faire is in the Bishop Arts District on Saturday from noon to 8PM and on Sunday from noon to 4PM. The Animal Rescue of Texas and the Richardson Humane Society will be there with pets to adopt on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. For more information on Project Make and other classes offered by the studio, visit the Web site. To learn more about the Buy Handmade movement, click here.