TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Kai Ryssdal: For all its efficiencies, never having to leave home, not paying sales tax — depending on where you are — shopping online for the holidays is so impersonal. There’s just nothing about it that says, “Hey, I took the time to really put some effort into getting you this present.” Which brings us to crafting — the making of things at home — and also to writer and comedian Amy Sedaris. Just as her show “Strangers with Candy” parodied those after-school specials we know, her new book skewers the wholesomeness of the DIY crafting culture. Parody being the key word here.
Amy Sedaris, good to talk to you.
Amy Sedaris: Thanks for having me.
Ryssdal: “Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People” is the title of this book. Were you a crafter when you were a kid?
Sedaris: Yes, I was. Girl Scouts, Junior Achievements and my family, we were crafters. We would turn the basement into a Santa’s workshop and make crafts for the holidays.
Ryssdal: We’re in the middle of this recession.
Sedaris: We are?
Ryssdal: Just getting out of it. Economy’s terrible. Do you think more people are crafting?
Sedaris: That’s what I hear. A lot of people, they’re spending a lot more time at home. And they’re getting back to an old hobby, just so they’re not so depressed listening to the news.
Ryssdal: Let me ask you this though: What’s the difference between a hobby and a craft?
Sedaris: I think of a hobby like maybe making beer and wine. But I have a chapter on sausage-making in the book, and I put that in a craft book.
Ryssdal: But for some that’s a hobby.
Sedaris: Yes, I think that would be a hobby, making sausages. But I use it as a craft in here; I knitted some sausages.
Ryssdal: So the line is blurry then.
Sedaris: It’s very blurry.
Ryssdal: Who is the crafter these days? It’s easy to say Martha Stewart and all that.
Sedaris: Well, ugly people. I always say ugly people are crafting, pretty people are having sex.
People I guess who just want their mind to just wander. They just want to do stuff with their hands, so they can just think about whatever. A lot of lonely people, you know? A lot of crafters, they’re shut-ins.
Ryssdal: You know where to send those cards and letters, folks: Letters@marketplace.org.
When you are doing crafts, when you’re sitting around your apartment and making drawer pulls out of string, what are you thinking about? Is your mind just going blank?
Sedaris: Endless possibilities. I like to just make things… If I have the TV on, I’m not just going to sit there. I want to do something with my hands; I’ve always got a project. Or I get a small group of people over, and I say, “Let’s make these things today.”
Ryssdal: Yeah. What if you want a craft and you’re just not good at it? You’re just not good with your hands?
Sedaris: You can get a kit, and it’ll help you. It’ll teach you. Like I use those potholder kits from Klutz, and I’m really good with that. It takes my 20 minutes to make one potholder and I’m so happy when I accomplish it. And I sell them on the road. I always have to have something to sell if there’s an audience.
Ryssdal: And so, what does an Amy Sedaris potholder go for?
Sedaris: Well, this time, I was selling them for $10 a piece.
Ryssdal: That’s a little steep.
Sedaris: Yeah. I don’t know, I wanted to make it expensive. And you know, a lot of times crafts are expensive, because of the time. And then it’s just crap. A lot of it’s just crap nobody wants and you certainly don’t need it. That’s why I like crafts that you need them — like a pincushion or a potholder.
Ryssdal: Speaking of stuff nobody wants or needs, we’re actually going to do a little crafting here, OK? So we are going to make, what are we going to make?
Sedaris: A rusty nail wind chime. I have a chapter in my book for people have some sort of disability, like crippling long fingernails, chronic back pain, poor eye sight. So this is a craft I’m recommending for people who are bipolar.
Sedaris: Because what they can do is when they’re low, all they have to do is take a fistful of nails and throw them in their backyard. And then on an upswing, you can go out to the backyard, and by then, all the nails are going to be rusty, so you gather those rusty nails and you’re going to take some embroidery string, colorful embroidery string and you’re going to take the flat part of the nail and you’re gonna wrap the string around it and you’re going to attach it to a hanger that you have shaped into a spiral shape.
Ryssdal: Alright, so we’re going to try it here. We have a bag, not of rusty nails, but galvanized, in this case, screws. And what are we doing?
Sedaris: Colorful string…
Ryssdal: We have red, you’ve got yellow.
Sedaris: I’ve got yellow, you’ve got green.
Ryssdal: So what are we doing? Are we just tying the screws on?
Sedaris: Yes. You’ve got it.
Ryssdal: Alright, here’s my screw.
Sedaris: Oh my god, you did it so fast. Nice job.
Ryssdal: I’m no dope. Listen it’s a wind chime.
Sound of screws hitting each other
Sedaris: I think that sounds nice. I think you should have that on your radio show all the time.
Ryssdal: Maybe, we’ll instead of the gong we do at the top of the show, we’ll just do these. I don’t know if it has as much oomph though.
Amy Sedaris, her new book is called “Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People.” We’ve got her 10 commandments for crafting and photos of this galvanized screw wind chime. It’s all on our website. It’s on our new book blog called “The Big Book.”
Amy Sedaris, thanks a lot.
Sedaris: Thank you very much. Enjoy your chime.
Ryssdal: I will.
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