Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Interview with Miriam of Crafter By Night

I really admire people who maintain vast resources on their web sites. The Craft Calendar is really an homage to people like Miriam of Crafter By Night because these resources take time and are no easy thing to maintain. I would eventually like to make Craft Arsenal a better resource, but then I though why bother when Crafter by Night is such a GOLDMINE of indie shops and craft charities. By day Miriam works for the People's Community Clinic in Austin, TX (posted a couple of weeks ago), which works to provide individual and families with high quality medical services at a reasonable cost. Not too shabby huh? I got a chance to interview this keen lady and talk about her perspective on the intersection of indie, craft and charity.

I guess I should start by addressing the fact that I posted about a benefit for an organization you work for AND contacted you for an interview about five minutes later, without knowing that you worked there. It makes the world feel like such a small place, but then the craft community is kind of like that.

It was fun to see my workplace referenced when I went to look at your blogs. The world in general is a small place - 6 degrees of separation! Cause for Drinks was pretty successful, too, by the way.

Tell me about yourself...your crafts, your blog.

I've been a crafter forever … I enjoy figuring new things out, and I enjoy the process. Most of the time I like the end result, too. It's been fun watching more and more of what I make take over my house. But mostly, when I find something to do that I enjoy, something that really captivates me, I can get lost in the feeling of creating, and I love that feeling.

I blog for a lot of reasons. Mostly I'm something of a computer nerd and I love writing. I write about crafting because it just makes sense … it's what I do. The idea of "craft" is a big part of my life in many ways, aside from the obvious – the crafts I make. But it's also the idea of learning a craft, of honing a skill. Craft as artistic expression. A craft as someone's professional pursuit. Also randomly, the Arts & Crafts movement, which I love.

You write about and work for charities. Can you tell me a little about your causes, professional and personal?

Yes indeed … my professional "cause" is the People's Community Clinic, where I work in development – fundraising, public affairs, etc. The Clinic provides healthcare to people in central Texas without health insurance. It's really an amazing place to work. I'm impressed every day with the dedication and compassion of the people I work with. Our patients get better care than many people who have insurance. It's definitely work I'm proud of, and committed to.

Despite that, thinking of myself as a "cause" person is funny – I don't think of it that way. I do this work because in my life, what I do has to have some kind of meaning. I am not a person who can work only for a paycheck. Leaves me feeling empty, burned out and depressed. Maybe it's my background? My family has a number of social workers and teachers in it.

I choose the nonprofits I work for carefully - not all are great. I find that working at places that are really making a difference in the world spreads the enthusiasm for that kind of work to all areas of my life – my blog posts, for example. Being around passionate people is incredibly inspiring, and it lets me hold onto the idealism and passion that, I think, too many people lose. The people at the Clinic believe they can help relieve suffering and care for people in their community. Being in an environment like that makes me believe that anything is possible, and that cynicism is just giving up, accepting the way things are, accepting your own limitations and your own lack of ability to make a difference. What fun is that?

What's the best thing about what you do? And the worst?

Making myself be creative at work and at home, every day, all day – that's the best AND worst. Sometimes I just want to be a vegetable. Sometimes I get burned out. Sometimes it's too much work. But I think I'd go nuts without so many outlets for creativity, probably start making trouble! I like being busy and having so much stuff in my life that means something to me.

I love your Index of Indie! Suuuuch a good resource. You write on that, "Indie means lots of things, but mostly it means being out there on your own, doing it yourself, being creative, doing what you love, and if you're lucky, doing it for a living."

Supporting indie crafters/artists/designers/etc and supporting charity causes seems to go hand in hand. Certainly people have been knitting socks for the troops for quite some time, but lately there seems to be a proliferation of these craft for charity opportunities. How does Indie figure into all of this?

Let me see, indie and charity is not the same thing, obviously. How do they go together? First, I think lots of crafters like to support charity … don't know why! But it's true. Look at the Crafters for Critters website, for example, or Etsy for Animals …

For me, they go together because my interest in charity work and my admiration of independent artists both stem from an unwillingness to accept the status quo, and the belief that anything is possible. Independent artists, crafters and designers are following their dreams, they're doing the impossible thing. They're out there on their own being one woman/man creating, producing, selling, managing machines. It's impressive to even do it, much less succeed at it.

So, that's what the Index of Indie is about – supporting the artists. The Index was a natural sort of development as I got into being a consumer of handmade creations. I plan to keep working on it, making it better. I originally put it together because I had a hard time keeping track of stores and resources …

Really, "indie" anything can be overwhelmingly confusing and intimidating, whether that's indie art, crafts, music, film. With independent artisans, all the sales venues are decentralized, there aren't huge marketing budgets to appeal to consumers, and there are a huge number of artists and makers involved. To the casual observer, getting into buying indie is overwhelming. Maybe I can provide a resource to help wade through it all, maybe help encourage people to purchase from independent artists and designers. That's the idea anyway.

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