We have been fans of designer/illustrator/author Lena Corwin for a long time so when we received her newest book Made by Hand, we were thrilled. It is a collection of beautiful projects based on classes that she held at her studio. If you haven't seen her other books Printing by Hand and Maps, and the artist books and journals published by her design collective with Maria Vettese, Lines & Shapes, you should check them out. Her blog, where she posts about design, fashion, food, crafts and more, was one of the very first that I ever followed and still feels as unique and original as ever.
Lena has answered some of our questions about herself and the book!
Can you tell us about your background? Did you study art? Did you like making things as a kid?
My mom is very artistic and I grew up making things by hand instead of buying store-bought. We always made our Halloween costumes. As long as I can remember, art has been my main interest. In elementary school I loved rain days because I could stay inside during recess and draw.
In college I focused on Art History and Women’s Studies, but the University I attended wasn’t a great fit for me and I impulsively moved to New York City before graduating. My plan was to take time off and then return, but I started working in graphic design and I was learning a tremendous amount. My first real job was in the Empire State building and I loved being in New York and working.
After several years being a graphic and textile designer (for Calvin Klein and Jill Stuart), I decided to leave fashion to try other areas of design. I started a line of my own printed textiles, began working in book publishing, and then started teaching classes in my studio.
I love the idea that this book includes a curated group of work by different designer-teachers. It’s fun to read about them and see their varied styles. How did you get the idea to put a book together this way?
The book is based on the classes I held in my Brooklyn studio for several years. I taught different methods of textile printing, and I asked designer friends to teach in their areas of expertise. The classes were so much fun– we offered patternmaking, jewelry casting, tie dye, and lots more. I stopped hosting classes when my son was an infant and I couldn’t keep up. I knew the classes would be of interest to an audience beyond New York City, so the idea of a book formed.
There is such a nice range of project types (home, wearable, baby, etc.), techniques and materials, and levels of difficulty. Was it hard to balance all that out when planning the book?
The book includes "classes" I would have loved to offer had I continued. The first step of planning a book, mapping out the content like a puzzle, is very fun for me. I thought it was important to include varying levels of difficulty– I hope even experienced crafters find something new to them.
Do you have a favorite gift to make? Or a favorite medium to work in?
I like to crochet cupcakes– they make sweet birthday gifts for children and adults. Screen printing on fabric is one of my favorite textile techniques.
Thank you Lena...and congratulations!