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Making A Life: Book Review

This year marked my very first Rhinebeck. In the days leading up to the festival, I sat down to my computer and in a very Leslie Knope way typed out exactly what booths and lectures I wanted to hit. I had every second mapped out to precise precision. Feeling fairly confident I stepped off the bus and was instantly overwhelmed. That day became a lesson in letting go and realizing the value of that. I attached myself to a wonderful group of makers and let the day go where it went. Throwing away the plan and saying yes to every suggestion that came my way.

I eventually made my way to the book barn set up by Merritt Books. My friend and former podcast guest, Jessica Culliganan, was at the Cocoknits table and I knew that if everything else went out the window that was one stop I couldn't miss. After talking for some time, Jessica pointed to a table across the room. She told me that before I left I absolutely had to talk to her friend who had just published a fantastic book. Normally, I'm a fairly skeptical bordering on cynical person. I tend to take recommendations with a grain of salt. But I made my way across the barn and after five minutes of talking to Melanie Falick and flipping through Making A Life I was completely sold. Jessica, you were right.

Later, while reading my copy of the book I would fall deeper into love with it. I'm REALLY into the little details. For me, a good book is not only about the content (Which I'll get to in a second. Feel free to skip to the next paragraph if you just want to get to it!) it's also about the level of care that went into the book. The love that Melanie put into this book is evident before you even open it up. You can judge this book by its cover, endpapers, table of contents, photography, and stories. Maybe Melanie's background in publishing played a part in these decisions. But you instantly know what kind of book you're getting into when you crack it open.

Making A Life delves into a question that I wasn't aware I had for myself, but it rattled around in my brain for a long time after it was posed, "why do we make". Over the course of the book, Melanie walks us through her own relationship with her craft. We also get the chance to explore this question through a series of interviews with crafters from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines. Why do we make with our hands? Where does the connection to crafting come from for makers? She explores these questions by breaking the book down into five sections Introduction, Remembering, Slowing Down, Joining Hands, Making a Home, and Finding a Voice. My personal favorite of the five being Joining Hands. This is mainly because of her feature on African American Quilters in Oakland titled "Each one teach one".


Something that I really want to commend Melanie for is the amount a diversity represented in this book. Sadly it was one of the first things I noticed as I read through the book. I say sadly only because this is how more books should be. This should be the rule and not the exception to the rule. It didn't feel forced. It didn't feel like tokenism. It was natural and effortless. It reflected a closer version of the crafting community I know than any new craft book I've recently seen. It was the community I saw a Rhinebeck, the one at my events, and at my local yarn shop. Everyone featured had their own unique story to share, but the through-line was their love of making. I hope that others will follow in this example and take it even further going forward.

This book features diversity in crafts too. There are stories from weavers, dyers, leather crafters, fiber artists, and ceramists to list a few. I particularly loved Windy Chien's chapter. I'm a big fan of her work and my review of her new book is coming to the site this month. Her work is striking. So, of course, that is a plus for this chapter. But I also loved learning more about her journey as a maker and connecting with her art in a new way.



Ok, let me try to come up with a criticism for this book so that I can appear unbiased. This book doesn't contain patterns or traditional how-to's. But it will add to your list of makers to research, spark inspiration, shift your perspective on makers you think you know and widen your view of the crafting community. In my opinion, it doesn't need the other. But if that's what you are looking for in your next crafting book I want you to know what to expect.

I was lucky enough to meet Melanie a second time, at her book signing at the iconic Strand Book store in NYC. Strand has always been one of my favorite spots in the city and I was more than a little excited to be in there at night surrounded by books and twinkle lights. By then I was about halfway through Melanie's book and had already become a big fan. I waited in line after her talk to get my copy signed. I was so focused on the points brought up in her talk that I realized, at the last second, I hadn't come up with something clever to say to Melanie about the book. As we chatted all I could think to say was "I love it" over and over again before I had to let the next person get their book signed. But even now I think that's the best way to sum up Making A Life because it's true. I love this book. If you're like me, skeptical bordering on cynical, and you are only going to trust my advice one time I recommend giving this book a chance. You won't regret it.


Making A Life: Working by Hand and Discovering the Life You Are Meant to Live by Melanie Falick is officially Bobble Approved. You can pick up your copy at Strand, ask about it at your local yarn store, and online including at MasonDixonKnitting.com.

Until next time, Happy Crafting!

Comments

  1. For me personally, this book has propelled me forward to deepen my thinking into my own creative life ~ what it looks like, the various roles it plays, and how important it is to making meaning in my day to day. I am compelled, called and inspired to bring forth more creativity into my days, and what a fantastic feeling that is! Thank you Melanie for this magnificent piece of art.

    Luzia
    Hail Claims

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