The Urban Craft Center — hereafter referred to as the UCC — is hidden away in Edgemar, the Frank-Gehry-designed complex on Main Street. You would never know it was there unless you happened to get a cup of coffee at Peet’s, and strolled back to the patio to sit and read. Then, you’d spot a shop with mod orange couches, a space filled with verbs.
The UCC opened last November. Owner Angharad Jones dreamed up the space after moving from Seattle, a city with a thriving Do It Yourself (DIY) scene. She discovered that Santa Monica lacked a place where crafters could get together and feed off of each other’s creative energies.
Jones wanted to give people a space to stitch, purl, hot glue, and decoupage. She also wanted to provide crafters with equipment they might not be able to afford, or might not have room for in their cramped apartments, such as die cutting machines, spinning wheels, and sewing machines.
Sewing is the reason I have come to the UCC. I haven’t used a sewing machine in 10 years, and I have forgotten how. I’m not ready to run out and buy my own Singer, but I would like to be able to make some of my own clothes.
The UCC offers group classes and private lessons. When I ask about the Intro to Sewing group course, manager Jamie Wong says, “After your first sewing class, you can definitely make a tote bag,” but, “It has a ridiculous waiting list.” The wait-list is as long as the number of people enrolled in the class, and the slots are pre-paid.
One of the UCC’s classes grabs my attention because of its name: Camp Pluckyfluff. “Pluckyfluff” makes me, a person completely out of the DIY loop, think of a brave baby duck, or a little lamb with moxie. But Camp Pluckyfluff is guest teacher Lexi Boeger’s class on creating art yarn.
If there were anyone who really could spin straw into gold, Lexi Boeger would be that woman.
“She spun steel wool,” says Wong, “into yarn. And knit it. Into a purse. And used a steel chain as a shoulder strap. She says it’s the ultimate clubbing bag,” because, in an act of self-defense, a girl can literally club someone in the skull with it.
“It’s insane,” Wong says with a cross between reverence and crafter’s envy. “I’ve never seen anything like that before. She took the tape out of a cassette, and spun that too.”
In addition to creating purses that double as weapons, Boeger has spun doll parts, coils of wool that look like beehive hairdos, and felt sushi to fashion items like scarves and shrugs.
This isn’t your grandmother’s knitting.
While knitting, crocheting, and quilting may seem old fashioned to some, Wong explains, without the slightest hint of irony, that people like Boeger “put their own spin on it.”
A person might come to the UCC to make her own soap, and sitting next to her is a woman making her own wedding invitations, and next to her is a crafter using contact paper to die cut vinyl stickers. Wong calls what occurs, “a cross-pollination of ideas.”
As studio coordinator Rhea Tepp shows me around, my vocabulary is reduced to words like “cool,” and “beautiful.” Yarn dyed with Kool-Aid, a machine for screen printing T-shirts, jewelry made from Shrinky Dinks, wire-wrapped earrings, bolts and bolts of fabric printed with everything from matryoshka dolls to vintage Vespas, possibilities.
Before long, I am convinced that I, too, can — with enough patience — do just about anything. What girl doesn’t need a good clubbing bag?
Mariel Howsepian digs black coffee, fairy tales and a man in coveralls. She lives in Santa Monica and can be reached at Mariel_Rodriguez@antiochla.edu.