Doing it yourself, together
A Tulsa couple catches the DIY wave and encourages other local crafters to jump on board.
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Entrepreneurs make things to make money. Craft artists make things to make friends … and to help other people make things so they can make friends. It’s not about getting rich. It’s about getting together.
It’s called the handmade or DIY movement, and it uses the Internet to create communities of like-minded and like-talented people. In Tulsa, that’s a group called make:Tulsa. These are “local crafters, artists and designers who host art and crafts classes, workshops and other social crafting events for makers of all kinds,” according to the make:Tulsa website.
The group’s founders, husband and wife team Thom Crowe and Christine Sharp-Crowe, wanted to encourage creativity locally and establish an outlet for hobby crafters to create together. Make:Tulsa came about in 2009 when Tulsa Craft Mafia, a similar organization, folded.
“We missed the community aspect,” Christine says. “We wanted to get together to talk to people in the business.”
The group functions like a Facebook group, except friends meet in person, not in cyberspace. Members use digital resources — websites, blogs and forums — to spread the word.
Christine is the designer in the family.
“I grew up spending summers with Grandmother, who taught me her skills — sewing, knitting, baking,” she says. “Many crafters are reverting to things our grandparents did. I turned my creativity into a business right out of school.”
Christine and Thom started out making candles, but she wasn’t all that passionate about wicks and wax. She turned her attention to sewing, embroidery and folk screen-printing; now her artwork appears on tea towels, pillow covers and other home goods.
The couple own a retail shop, MADE: The Indie Emporium Shop, which sells handmade items from many of the vendors who set up at Indie Emporium, Tulsa’s first indie art, craft and fashion event — organized by Christine and Thom — which is now in its seventh year.
The shop also showcases work from makers the couple has met at other indie craft events. MADE is at 501 S. Boston Ave. and recently opened a second location at East Sixth Street and South Peoria Avenue.
Christine’s favorite creation is an illustrated hot air balloon carried by birds, printed on tea towels with these laundering instructions: “Linen is softest when dried in the sweet Oklahoma breeze, but machine dryers on the gentle cycle are OK, too.”
Christine is impressed at how quickly Tulsa’s handmade movement has grown.
“When the recession hit, people were looking for a way to save money,” she says.
Artists also wanted to connect. At a recent make:Tulsa meeting, 80 people gathered to tackle projects such as Oklahoma map magnets, keychains and dreamcatchers taught by Oklahoma artists, including crafting blogger Holly Embry. Another reason for the movement’s growth spurt is Pinterest mania.
“Pinterest is a four-letter word for crafters — a place for ripping off ideas,” Thom says of the online bulletin board.
Christine sees Pinterest as a resource for inspiration and ideas, but is wary of posting her own pieces.
“It’s not unusual for artists to see their own work pinned,” she says, using “pinned” as a euphemism for “duplicated.”
Her advice: “Just make sure if you post something, it’s something you don’t mind being recreated.”