A true Utah busy-bee, Princess Kennedy embodies the pioneer DIY spirit by crafting her own daytime tote. Photo: John Barkiple
Along with some of the damage that comes from being raised Mormon in Salt Lake, we’re also set up with gifts that are unique unto us. We are usually very driven and successful with what we are passionate about, like the busy bee that is the mascot of the Beehive State––we do it without even thinking.
We have a long history of creative and talented people hailing from our background. Whether or not we care to recognize our shared past, it is inevitable that if you’re passionate about being a musician, a tattoo artist or belly dancer, it was probably your parents that first encouraged (or in most cases, forced) you to take piano, sing in choir, take art classes, dance, etc.
One thing that is certainly not unique to Utah yet is an area we excel in, is the gift of arts and crafts. We’re steeped in the talents of furniture making, sewing, stitching, jewelry—you name it, we have a friend who does it. I’m certainly not saying you had to be raised Mormon to have retained these gifts, but with the influence so prevalent in our culture, everyone seems to be in on the game. The best place to see all this talent is at next month’s Craft Lake City, held Aug. 9–10 at the Gallivan Center.
For those who haven’t been, I can safely say it is one of the largest festivals of its kind—at least in Utah, anyway. It’s two jam-packed days of music from very talented local musicians, food from very talented local cooks and crafts of hundreds of different kinds from very talented local artisans. Whether you want needlepoint Motörhead tea towels, giant portraits of pin-up girls, handmade clothes, jellies, jewelry … My column isn’t large enough to name all that you can find at CLC, so go for yourself and plan on finding a few treasures.
Last year (and this year), I was lucky enough to MC the stage. I walked around soaking in the atmos’, and it awoke in me that need to create that I had forgotten, or let go, or whatever had happened, and I promised myself I was going to reconnect with that which I had lost.
I wrote once that I did wigs for the San Francisco Opera (a totes cray craft in itself) and while on tour, I was taught to sew by the costumer. I spent years after that making all my own clothes, costumes and gowns. As a child, I had an aunt with a shop in San Diego called The Yarn Loft, and every summer while visiting, I was allowed to pick out a new embroidery project. It’s how I remember coping with the endless road trip through California with my six other siblings without offing myself.
Of course, I procrastinated pulling out the sewing machine, but eventually did when I needed a new purse/bag. When it comes to a daytime tote, I have few rules: It has to be big enough to carry everything, but not so big I actually try to. It has to be over the shoulder, since I only bike, and it can’t look like a bike bag cuz they are too masculine. I realized that the only way to solve the dilemma of not finding this bag was to make it myself. The first was made out of some really crazy brocade drapes that I found. My satchel turned out to be the best bag I’ve ever owned, and since then, I vowed never to buy another when I can make the perfect one myself. I actually have about five now.
My current project is a beach bag, since my summer has shaped up to hanging out at a lot of America’s best beaches, and it needed to fit the bohemian style I’ve been sporting lately, so I decided to revisit my childhood love of embroidery. Like a true, overachieving ex-Mormon, I chose the most difficult and time-consuming project.
The bag itself is made of repurposed denim, in the most amazing shade of turquoise. But upon this fabric so blue, I’m embroidering a giant peacock in brilliant colors of chartreuse, bronze and navy. I sewed light reflecting on the top of the bird with sparkle thread (a son of a bitch to work with), and aside from the bird itself, I need to embroider the branches of flowers it sits in. I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking when I took it on—I won’t be using it as a beach bag at this point, but as a project I work on at said beach.
Oh well—I have thoroughly enjoyed rediscovering this craft and forgotten how much it calms my mind, harnesses my ADD and makes me feel like I am doing something productive while sitting on my couch for hours. Whether or not I ever do it again, this bag will definitely be a conversation piece I’ll have for years of beach parties to come.
Make sure you come to Craft Lake City Aug. 9–10 and see my bag (I plan to sport it), peruse and buy some wares from the incredibly talented people of our region, and if you’re lucky, be inspired yourself. Go to craftlakecity.com
for more information.