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What You Should Know About D.I.Y. Guru Faythe Levine

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Faythe Levine is hard to categorize. She is a published writer, filmmaker, lecturer, artist, and a curator. But most importantly, she is a beautiful spirit who has helped create, push, and explore individual creativity and has brought it to the attention to anyone who is willing to observe. Her site www.faythelevine.com documents her travels, work, and adventures.

Faythe has recently moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where she has “no idea what’s in store after being in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for 13 years.” Her studio still remains in Milwaukee, for the moment, she says. “I’m taking time to see what unfolds over the next few years.” For now, BrokeAssStuart.com is taking time to show you how this independent artist has thrived.

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How did you become a prominent figure in the independent artist community?

My position in the art community has come with 20 years of being a participating artist, networker and organizer. Embracing all of these roles has allowed me to build a foundation—mutual respect with folks that I not only respect, but have developed life long relationships with. Creativity is at the core of my being and I’m so thankful to have access to so much talent connected with so many amazing people. Art has brought me around the world and will continue to perpetuate and inspire my daily life choices.

If you were to advise someone who was looking to become an independent artist or craftsman, what would you tell them?

I try to give advice that I can back up with my lifestyle choices. What’s worked for me so far is a steady diet of following my heart, finishing things I start and sharing my process—both failures and success stories.

You’re an advocate for D.I.Y. arts and crafts. You have been noted as saying that it’s not just a trendy lifestyle, but it’s the alternative to mainstream consumption. Why do you feel so strongly about D.I.Y.? Is creative freedom and self-expression the reason you prefer it over traditionally manufactured goods?

My passion for D.I.Y. is that there are no rules. As much as I respect the long tradition for the way things are done correctly, I believe that the empowerment that comes through doing things in a non-traditional manner can lead to happy accidents. Also, keeping in mind that the feeling one gets from creating can be much more important than the actual final results of the work.

A preference for handmade work over manufactured goods is mostly rooted in my aesthetic choice for wanting something unique, something that has a story and roots in process. That energy isn’t found in most store bought goods, but usually is when you are supporting a maker.

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It appears that the D.I.Y community is primarily dominated by women. What does that mean to you, as a woman? And is it important for female entrepreneurs to be able to express themselves creatively, while maintaining a business-savvy foundation?

Women are definitely at the forefront of the D.I.Y. community, we have established a network with one another that, for some of us, goes back to our punk roots. As an alternative or other to the male-dominated (everything) art world, I think that a lot of us created a supportive space for our work to thrive, being blanketed under the D.I.Y. label and often with the word craft being at the front. I’m all about people making work and supporting one other, not concerned with the definition—art or craft. I think it’s up to the maker to define what they create. I’m interested in a community regardless of gender that supports itself with trust, networking and viewing one another on a level playing field. You know we can all rise up together if the support system is there—my interest in supporting women specifically and why this community holds importance to me in that regard, as a woman, is that we are traditionally shoved aside, paid less and not recognized in the same way our traditional male creators are. It’s bullshit. But we create our own reality and that’s what I’m about; what I’m interested in perpetuating—regardless of gender, but it has to start somewhere and ladies have to feel empowered in order to get the footing to realize we are all the same. That is where the D.I.Y. community has played a vital role for me, personally. It’s a constant reminder that if we have compassion for one another, support one another then we can create a community that we feel is empowered within, creatively but also extending into all parts of our life.

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You founded the Art vs Craft fair in Milwaukee, which ran for 10 years. What happened?

Art vs. Craft was a wildly successful event in Milwaukee that brought folks from all over to sell their work in the Midwest. What happened? Well, what I think happened was many life-long relationships were formed, people saw the impact they could make by buying from a person instead of a large retailer, and we inspired one another and created a community of makers that is a part of a larger international community. And, after 10 years I was ready to move on to other projects and put the show to rest. Now it’s a really exciting time to see what will unfold in the area filling up that space.

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You have two documentaries under your belt: Handmade Nation: The Rise of D.I.Y. Art, Craft and Design and Sign Painters. Do you have a third one in the works?

I’m currently taking a break from making documentaries and looking at my personal art practice that has been set to the side for the past six years. However, I am working slowly on a book research project based with Cris Siquiera about Mimi Garneau (www.theamazingmimi.com). Not to say this won’t change if some incredible opportunity gets set in my lap; plans are always flexible.

What are you currently working on? How does the creative process differ between projects (i.e. filming a documentary, writing a book or creating art)?

Aside from the Mimi Garneau project, I am currently exploring what my art looks like after making films for six years. It seems to be rooted in creating ritualistic objects that hold malleable meaning, collages and wearable items built out of treasures gathered while I travel. My creative process is difficult to separate at this point since everything overlaps at some odd point or another. The main thing that can tie everything together is my constant photo documentation of my movement. Photos are my lifesaver for inspiration, remembering and cataloging my constant travel.

If you do what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” In your experience, is this true?

In my life work isn’t a bad word. Even if I’m sitting still relaxing for a week it’s a part of my work. I have created a life where, for better or worse, there isn’t a pattern, so it’s all work—it’s life. It’s surviving and making and building. This is just my experience, I don’t project this on to anyone else—I don’t have kids, I don’t have pets, I’m in a constant state of not knowing where my next paycheck will come from and I love it. So I think the answer for this question for me is no.

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In August, you had a blog posting titled “Paradise is a Garden.” It caught my attention because of the picture of a sign that read: “Please Empty Pee Jug before It Overflows. Thanks!” Can you tell us who Joe Hollis is and what your experience at Mountain Gardens was like?

Joe Hollis is a visionary that has built an incredible diverse garden and community on his land that reflects his beliefs about lifestyle choices, food and medicine. That space is open for anyone to visit but getting a tour by Joe himself was a total treat. His endless knowledge of plants is awe-inspiring. And hearing the history of the community there was so inspiring. He is one of my role models, living by example in a way that demands respect even if you don’t agree with his choices. It’s awesome.

Did you empty the Pee Jug?

Nope, it wasn’t full yet!

Photo Credit: Faythe Levine via faythelevine.com

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Enrique Grijalva - Mr. Minimum Wage

Enrique Grijalva - Mr. Minimum Wage

My father came, my mother saw...and I conquered. I encourage children to do drugs, I buy alcohol for teenagers, and I drink beer with the homeless. In my spare time, I attend art galleries for the FREE booze while rubbing elbows with modish elephants. I also hammer six-inch nails into small penises. Stuart knighted me as Broke-Ass King of New York. You've been warned.

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