Craft is experiencing an unexpected renaissance these days. Amid the digital flood of information—a 24-hour news cycle, social media, and streaming video—a quiet but committed group of weavers, knitters, glass blowers, metal workers, furniture builders, and other artisans have created vibrant cottage industries of handcrafts.
What's most interesting about these communities of makers are the dynamic ways in which knowledge about their craft is passed around. Not only are there amazing digital resources like online basket weaving forums and how-to-knit videos on YouTube, but there are also non-traditional educational institutions that are sharing their handcraft expertise on a person-to-person level.
Arts instruction conveys knowledge in a unique way. Both creative and analytical skills are developed together. Levi's and Intel's collaboration, "Friends of MOCA," is inspiring creative learning in new and innovative ways. The two brands have brought together leaders in music, new media, art, and film to bring awareness and funds to The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles' education program. Levi's stores around the world will sell limited edition T-shirts, designed by Gael García Bernal and the artists Mariko Mori and Xu Bing. MOCA's programs offer teachers the opportunity to supplement art curricula through hands-on education at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
At the Textile Arts Center in Brooklyn (TAC), inside a sprawling warehouse on the Gowanus Canal, throwback techniques like dyeing and weaving are emphasized.
What binds the organization is the belief that making fabric by hand is a fundamentally human pursuit. To that end, experts offer courses to adults and children in weaving, fabric dyeing, knitting, printing, hat-making, felting, quilting, upholstery, and more. There are also artist-in-residency programs, open studios for textile artists, and interdisciplinary courses including a nine-week class on the history of fabric called "Textiles for Teens."
TAC keeps their by-hand ethos at the core of everything they do, even when taking advantage of technology and social media. The TAC blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed all play incredibly useful roles in helping TAC showcase unique by-hand work, such as knitting performance art and new methods in natural dyeing, as well as inform their community about upcoming classes, events, and grassroots initiatives. If you're ever in New York, be sure to stop by the Textile Arts Center's Manhattan store-front annex to meet a vibrant collection of innovators on the cutting edge of crafts.