Hands on Deck

SOMERVILE, Mass.—The Boston Handmade Show in Union Square on July 13 is one more event in a string of many that gives Somerville its reputation as a community of makers. This was not an ordinary craft show; every handmaker there had fascinating tales to share along with their wares.

The Lady Dye, from the eponymous Lady Dye’s Fiber Arts and Design, spun a chronicle of her adventures in highly illegal yarn, storming while customers perused her colorfully felted covered soaps, cowls that transform into hoodies, and rainbow-hued skeins—all organically dyed. An example of her outlaw art was draped and intricately tied snugly over one of the square’s benches. You can get patterns and help from her blog, Knittywittyivey . . .

A member of the Common Cod Fiber Guild was spinning too. She turned wool into yarn while her fiber mates were busy double knitting and crocheting the same into wearable works of art. Guild member Alasdair Post-Quinn can also design patterns for those who have an idea they’d like to make but don’t know how to materialize.

In addition to pottery and kitchenware, Karen Mahoney’s City by the Sea Ceramics makes ingenious yarn bowls which keep balls of fiber in place and feeding neatly onto a knitter’s needles, as well as eminently wearable clay jewelry. Cody’s Creations offers collars and leashes for your best pet friends, if you go that way, in cool color and image combos. The skulls and bones, which are not what one would imagine them to be, were especially effective when putting a smile on people’s faces. Abigal Leigh’s iPad cases are bright fabric pockets that turn into sturdy stands for viewing screens.

Lush Beads Industrial offered a variety of ingenious pieces fashioned from abandoned manufacturing parts, which are surprisingly elegant given the origins of the elements used. Liz’s “Morse Code” line is aesthetically magnetic and makes customers daydream possible custom phrases they’d like to order. I inquired about “SOS”; it wasn’t available, but stay tuned.

Lithographer Carolyn Muskat’s Muskat Studio offered prints, bound journals, artist books and a great on-the-fly art production set up. They also supplied large, cut-out “stamps” that attendees could arrange and attach to a sheet and then use to ink and print their own design. Susanne’s Enchanted Hue offered shibori and hand-painted silk scarves, home decor and fabric dyed with natural inks such as indigo and coffee. The red cabbage hue was represented in both pale lavender for a throw pillow and deep purple in a delicate scarf.

The Boston Paper Collective had a covetously beautiful backdrop going on. Melinda Kate Cross, Regina Schroeder and Daniela Thomas displayed a distinctive range of papers, alongside prints on handmade paper. They are based in Sullivan Square in Charlestown, behind the Schrafft’s building, and they hold open studios, classes, and book visiting artists. Definitively a valuable local arts spot. Here’s hoping they make their Edible Book Show an annual production.

Monkey Chow, Linkouture, Aron Leaman’s Custom Art Glass, the Patterned Peacock . . . by the time the show was over, my pocket was full of cards, and a story for every one. What stood out most about the work shown was that, no matter the media, the artisans took their material and ideas further. New manifestations, applications, designs and collaborations abounded. Everyone was generally passionate about producing something genuinely fascinating—and often, unexpectedly so, with their hands. Most of them had a wealth of erudition and expertise in their chosen field. Even the music—provided, during my visit, by Nowhere Lights—brought the word “original” to mind. (They have a new vinyl EP out now.)

Jessica Burko was a lovely host, dispensing pins and blowing kisses freely.

Thanks go to the Mass Cultural Council and the Somerville Arts Council for sponsorship. Boston Handmade: good show.

–J. Marechal

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