Each Wednesday throughout the summer we’ll hear from a designer about a pattern or book that caused them to head in a new direction and helped form their career. This is the second post in the series. You can read all of them right here.
Diane Gilleland is one of my favorite craft bloggers of all time. She’s incredibly smart and has a thoughtful approach to everything she does. I’ve learned so much from Diane’s blog, Craftypod, over the past nine years.
Diane is the author of Kanzashi in Bloom and the co-author of Quilting Happiness. Her third book will be coming out this spring. She has a new CreativeLIVE class that you can catch in August on creating t-shirt quilts. She loves all kinds of crafts, but is especially fond of plastic canvas and English Paper Piecing. Today I’m very excited to share Diane’s story about the pattern that changed her life.
The book that changed the trajectory of my life is called Retro Revamp: FUNky Projects, from Handbags to Housewares, by Jennifer Knapp. It came out way back in 2000, when I was living in the Bay Area in a very dark chapter of my life. At that time, I was pushing away pretty much everything that was authentically me, and trying to live someone else’s existence. I had stopped making things, and hadn’t so much as looked at a craft book in years. The less said about this era, the better – it just sucked.
Anyway. I found myself in the Kinokuniya bookstore in San Francisco’s Japantown one day, and lo and behold, there was a tiny craft book section. (This was before the explosion of U.S. interest in Japanese craft books.) I started idly browsing – what do crafts look like these days? Well, Retro Revamp is covered in an irridescent blue-green foil, so it caught my eye immediately. And thumbing through, I could feel a long-subdued part of me start sputtering to life.
The premise of Retro Revamp is “urban folk art,” or crafting with found objects in a loose, don’t-worry-about-craftsmanship way. The projects are exuberant and goofy and loaded with color. In many ways, they seem to be a precursor to the whole circa-2004 indie craft movement.
To me, this stuff was a revelation. I’d been raised with Home Ec classes that stressed perfection and rule-following, and I’d mostly crafted from kits. And, since there was no crafty internet in those days, I had no visibility into any other kinds of craft. So to see this crazy, gem-bedecked, off-center-and-proud-of-it crafting lifted me right out of that background, and made me realize, “Heck, I could do that – and it would be super fun!”
I snapped the book right up – and I still remember the excitement I felt in the pit of my stomach as I stood in the checkout line. I went to a craft store and bought a whole bunch of bits and bobs. And I started gluing and stitching them together. I no longer have any of the things I made back then, but they were pretty wild and bling-encrusted. It was liberating – and indeed, super fun! And I couldn’t stop. I started making things every weekend. I started visiting craft and beading stores regularly. And little by little, I started to come into myself again.
That tiny reconnection with myself was the pinpoint catalyst that eventually gave me the courage to get out of someone else’s life and come back home to Portland. And it was a thread that kept growing stronger over the years, leading me eventually to my current adventure of being self-employed in craft. I absolutely credit Retro Revamp with helping me reclaim my identity as a creative person.
These days my crafting looks nothing like urban folk art, but I always keep my copy of the book nearby – a reminder that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. If I love something, that love is valid and important and really, really worth focusing on.
Retro Revamp is the book that changed Diane Gilleland’s life.
What is the book or pattern that changed yours?