Craft has the potential to enhance our lives.
It is important that we keep craft traditions alive and invent the next iteration of the handmade using our own skills and talent. The things we make and the things that are made by professional craft artists speak to who we are as a people. They will remain after we are gone, telling future generations about us. While we are on this earth, handcrafted objects contribute to a life well-lived.
Living the crafted life is an experience filled with satisfaction and meaning.
–Carol Sauvion, owner Freehand
Were headed to LA today to visit Freehand. Like all the shops we visit, this one thrives by celebrating all things handmade.
I had to begin with this wonderful quote from Carol off the top because it truly some up the passion, commitment and importance of what we all do and love. Carol is an extraordinary woman who is supporting all things handmade, as well as educating the public on its value through her series on PBS Craft in America.
Our venture is actually three ventures with one mission: to get the word out about craft; it’s importance; its place in our history and its meaning in contemporary life.
People often lament the fact that we have lost touch with the making of our world: our food, our shelter, our clothing, the tools of our lives. Craft is an antidote to that.
Whether we are talking about home-based, traditional, ethnic, production or studio craft, the importance of the handmade and the skills involved in handwork cannot be overestimated. The satisfaction that goes along with making, using and collecting the handmade, on whatever level, is profound. Craft is often countercultural, a way to express individuality in an increasingly homogenized , sanitized, impersonal world.
The first venture to achieve this mission is Freehand, the gallery/shop I opened at 8413 West Third Street in 1980 to sell my work and the work of other craft artists throughout America. Freehand has evolved over the past thirty years, but it still has its original function: to put the handmade into the hands of people who want that special experience.
These consumers want to feel the attachment to the makers and that elevated tactile sense that craft gives us. We have a web site that shows what we sell, but we feel a bricks and mortar location is an oasis that offers our visitors an opportunity to experience craft with their own hands.
The second venture is the Craft in America documentary series that airs on PBS. I started working on the Craft in America project in 1996 after a trip across the United States that took me to artists’ studios and craft centers.
I realized during that trip that craft is all around us, hiding in plain sight and that it deserved to be more accessible to the general public. The series was intended to increase awareness of the handmade and it has. Season 1 aired in 2007 and won the Peabody Award. Season 2 aired in 2009 and was seen by 800,000 households when it premiered nationwide on PBS. To see the first five hours of the series, Season 1 and 2, go to PBS.org. For more information about our work and the artists and institutions that make and promote craft, go to our web site, www.craftinamerica.org.
We are now in production for Season 3, which will air on PBS in 2011!
The third venture is the Craft in America Study Center on West Third Street, right next to Freehand. The Study Center is a public platform for the Craft in America project, it holds our library and film library, it hosts exhibitions and artists presentations and it provides a meeting place for craft students, makers and lovers.
The shopper at Freehand is more than a shopper. He or she is part of a family of appreciators (often makers themselves) who treasure the pieces they see and touch and buy here.
Los Angeles is a huge city with inhabitants from every culture, income level and walk of life. To be able to offer a unique experience to the people who visit Freehand is our purpose. We want the visitor to understand the difference between commercial object and handmade objects. Once the customer understands the power of craft to influence the way we live, it becomes important for him or her to take pieces home and enjoy them.
Freehand is like a small community. Because we have been in business for thirty years, our clientele is our “family.” The babies who were brought into Freehand in the early eighties are now adults who have lived with the handmade all their lives. They are setting up their own spaces and for many of them, the handmade mug or necklace or jacket or goblet is a must.
Yes, handmade pieces cost more than manufactured objects, but they are purchases for a lifetime in what is sometimes viewed as a throw away culture. Freehand is a meeting place for those who want to experience a familiar and beautiful environment.
Craft tells us so much. The lessons it imparts are subtle and lasting. I cannot imagine a life without these precious objects. They may be humble, or they may be grand; they are always interesting. They are the link to their makers, some of the most creative people we will ever meet. People who have taken the road less traveled and used their creativity to live the crafted life.
8413 West Third Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048