Craft in America Rolls Out ‘Industry’


Craft in America Rolls Out ‘Industry’
By Wayne Countryman
July 1, 2014

The connection between consumer and maker, and the freedom they find, is explored in Industry: Handmade in the Creative Economy, which opens the sixth season of the Peabody Award-winning series Craft in America. The new episode, which premiered May 2, shows American artisans keeping the past alive.

In San Francisco, fiber artist Joe Cunningham can sit for hours at a time, silently stitching his work by hand. “It makes me feel like the luckiest guy in the world,” he says. But he’s happiest when he visits the quilters of Gee’s Bend, who carry on the skills of their ancestors on what once was an Alabama plantation. There he has the privilege of joining the women as they work together, sewing one quilt at a time.

“Quilting looks better done by hand than by machine because you have to take your time,” says quilter Lucy Mingo. “It’s like medicine,” adds Mary Ann Pettway, manager of the Gee’s Bend Collective. “I don’t have a pain in the world” despite arthritis, she says.

In Amesbury, Mass., Graham McKay returned to his childhood neighborhood to build wooden dories in the 220-year-old Lowell’s Boat Shop. He says that “keeping this industry and the shop alive” are his “passion” and “mission.” McKay relies on his economics degree from Harvard to build boats “in the minutes between phone calls and emails.” “We’re now a museum, but a working museum” that supports itself, he says.

In Hendersonville, N.C., The Oriole Mill is helping to revive the region’s textile industry and its early settlers’ self-sufficient way of life. Bethanne Knudson, an artist, leads the startup and its staff of versatile workers in emphasizing quality over quantity.

And in Brooklyn, N.Y., Shane Yamone uses traditional techniques and modern technology to create and market his jewelry on his website and through the online craft marketplace Etsy.

PBS stations will replay this and other episodes, which can be watched DVDs also are available.