I’ve been following the glittery footsteps of one, miss Perri Lewis for a while now. Famed craft specialist for the Guardian, Lewis even headed up features for Psychologies magazine (great for some new year motivation!) – Lewis has finally released her highly anticipated ‘Modern Craft Bible‘ for the masses.
Lewis’ ‘how-to’ debut is stocked pretty much everywhere, from Waterstones, to Foyles, to Amazon and even Anthropologie, Regent Street, London! This book does no fluffy skirting around; here you will find sterling craft techniques and expert advice from in the industry’s top designers. You’ll learn how to employ classic craft skills to decorate your modern world!
Let’s catch up with the main woman herself…
Your personal style in 3 words…
It rarely matches.
What influenced your journey in to a life of arts & craft?
Like plenty of crafters my Nana and Gran taught me how to make when I was about eight. I put my knitting needles down for a bit until I was in my late teens and was desperate to make clothes that were more alternative than you’d find in Topshop. By that time craft was starting to become big. I was pleasantly surprised, because knowing how to knit/sew/make already meant that I had a bit of head-start
I like craft best when it’s mixed with a bit of fashion, politics, current affairs or something else that makes it more than just a bit of stitching. Craft that aims to change the way people think -whether it’s intentionally or not – is where it’s at for me.
When is crafting not just fun but useful?
When you make something that you actually want to wear/use/display, rather than something that hangs around in the bottom drawer, unfinished, because really it’s actually a bit rubbish. There are craft books/blogs/shows that are full of stuff that might be super-fun to make, but actually, are you ever going to use a penguin-shaped pan holder, or a hat made from shells? My craft box is full of stuff like this – I spend two weeks making it, but then I never actually use it.
You’ve written a fabulous craft book: ‘Material World: The Modern Craft Bible’ how did it happen? What is it about?
Thank you, I’m glad you like it. I’ve been so nervous about people seeing it. When I wrote it I didn’t actually think that anyone except my mum would get a copy. Which is a bit ridiculous really, but when you’re holed up on your own for six months (I wrote it in my evenings and weekends with a full time job), you lose touch with what you’re doing it all for.
It’s different to traditional craft books – it’s not full of 50+ projects designed by me to follow step-by-step. Instead, I introduce people to 15 different techniques: How to do the basics, then we see some of the world’s most awesome designers and makers offer their insider tricks for making it really brilliant. There’s a project based on the technique, and lots of ideas for other stuff you can make once you master the method. I love the idea of not being too prescriptive so people can put their own spin on things. I’ve written around 15 features on the amazing world of craft, it’s about so much more than just making something on your own in your bedroom.
Autumn/winter are fabulous seasons for craft – any upcoming projects? Top tips?
Get knitting quick. You might see it all over the spring/summer catwalks but I don’t think it’s as easy to rustle up something that’s wearable when it’s boiling hot outside. This is your chance to stay in, watch boxsets and dive into your craft box. Start making a double quilt now and that’ll keep you busy until spring.
Three essential things that you’ve needed to be successful, in craft and journalism?
Fearlessness - I’ve emailed super-high profile people, CEOs and grand editors asking for help/a meeting/an interview and some of them have actually said yes. Sure, plenty of them never replied, but if you don’t take it personally then there’s no harm done and potentially a lot to gain.
Twitter - has been really useful. It’s a way of meeting people who already do what you wish you did, and I’ve found so many of them are really willing to engage with others on there.
Fuel – realising that I’m no good to anyone when I’m hungry. When I finally realised that, I got a hell of a lot more work done.
Proudest career moment?
Writing a small piece about a Barack Obama cross stitch for guardian.co.uk on day of his inauguration. It stayed at the top of the Guardian homepage for a couple of hours, which is BIG, because it meant people were clicking on it. I know I wasn’t exactly a massive part of that momentous day, but it felt pretty great to have been part of the news package of one of the world’s biggest liberal newspapers.
Advice for aspiring journalists and creatives?
Be nice and work hard.
Everyone I know who has succeeded in craft or journalism – hell, in life – does those two things. And I’m sad to say you will have to do things for free at the beginning – again, whether it’s craft or journalism – because it’s a great way to get your name out there. Just make sure you’re picky about the things you do for free. Always think: ‘how is this going to help me in the long term?’ or ‘is it giving me experience in an area I didn’t have?
It’s also important to ask whether you’re associating yourself with a smart brand/organisation/set of people that reflects really well on you? Are you getting a chance to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet? Yes, it’s cheesy, but if you think of all the unpaid stuff you do as an investment in your future, it makes it easier to swallow. That’s what I did anyway, and it hasn’t gone too badly for me.
Do you think interest in crafting is still as strong as ever in the UK? Or has the fad passed?
I think it is. There’s proof in the fact that Mollie Makes is now one of Future Publishing’s best selling magazines, and was only launched last year. This autumn loads of amazing craft books are coming out even though we’ve already had couple of years of really strong craft publishing: Katie Allen’s Just Sew Stories, The Merchant and Mills book of sewing, Momtaz’s 101+ Things To Do With Glitter, Cassandra Ellis’s Quilt Love, the list goes on.
What’s next for craft?
God, no idea. Although what I hope happens is that more people recognise the incredible effect craft has on our wellbeing. So you don’t fancy taking up yoga? Well, craft can be just as de-stressing.
Perri’s seriously smart book: ‘Material World: The Modern Craft Bible’ was released for purchase November 1, 2013 by Virgin Books. Londoners can pop in to Anthropologie, Regent Street to find ‘Material World’ nestled amongst crafty loveliness. For everyone else, head to British book retailers: Waterstones or Foyles.
You can also find Perri blazing the craft trail in the following places:
Make & do with Perri (blog)