Good Faythe efforts
While you were sleeping Faythe Levine mastered another art form
Between co-owning Paper Boat Gallery And Boutique in Bay View, being a member of local rock band Wooden Robot, and coordinating the popular Art vs. Craft festival, Faythe Levine is doing more than her part to put Milwaukee on the culture map. Now the artist-curator-musician can add two more titles to her resume: filmmaker and author. Levine is finishing up her documentary Handmade Nation: The Rise Of DIY Art, Craft And Design, which explores the burgeoning underground national art-craft movement Levine has helped to nurture locally with Art Vs. Craft. She also has a companion book coming out in November from Princeton Architectural Press. Levine recently sat down with Decider to talk art, crafts, and her various projects.
Decider: Handmade Nation is your first film. How did you go about filming?
Faythe Levine: The best way to schedule our production was around these craft fairs because I wanted to make sure I got footage of all these different fairs happening all over the country. We would have a table at the show and sell stuff to raise money for the film. We would shoot at the show. And then we would also do studio visits in the greater Boston area and interview people at the show.
D: Who is “we”?
FL: Myself and Micaela (O’Herlihy). Michaela shot 90 percent of the film herself. We traveled everywhere together. She has her own experimental film career already established. She’s been in Sundance. Basically, I approached her and was like, “Are you interested or available to shoot this film? I can’t pay you, but I’ll pay to fly you around.” She’s a single mom and this amazing working artist, and she was like, “Yeah, sure.”
D: You recently screened a 20-minute edit of the documentary in New York. How did it go?
FL: It was about 100 degrees in the gallery. It was really successful, and we had a great response. People stayed for a 30-minute Q&A afterward and we even had to cut that off. We have a screening of the short coming up in Chicago at the Hull House Museum. Then there will be a screening in October at the Kohler Art Center.
D: You also have a book coming out in November. How did that come about?
FL: When we put up the 8-minute clip of Handmade Nation on YouTube a year ago, it received a massive amount of attention. I was contacted by three different publishing houses that had seen the clip and wanted to know if there was a book being made along with the film. One of the publishers was Princeton Architectural Press. They asked us for a book proposal, and at that point I asked Cortney Heimerl to jump on board. We put together a book proposal, and it was approved. It was a really quick turnaround time. The book features 24 people that we interviewed in the film, and includes visuals of their work and parts of their interviews. Everyone is hitting on different topics. We have four essayists who write about different aspects of the community to break up our chapters. The chapters are organized by region.
D: How has working with so many people from so many different creative backgrounds affected you as an artist?
FL: I wish I had more time to work on my own art, so any little opportunity I get to do something with my hands that’s not on the computer, I try to take advantage of. But I think what’s really exciting and important, is I’m someone who is like a hub. I know all these different people spread all over the place. I now get people who are like, “Do you know someone who can draw a snake in a top hat and letterpress it and also do an edition of silk screen posters?” And I’ll be, “Well this person can draw this and then you can take it to this person.” I’m really setting the foundation for what’s going to come in the next 10 years, with my own art, but also as a curator and events’ organizer. Also, I’m realizing the film is my artwork right now. This is my first film, and I still don’t really embrace the title filmmaker, but that is another title now that I have. I have this new medium that I’m kind of learning to utilize and embrace