Book Review: Material World – The Modern Craft Bible

Material World: The Modern Craft Bible is the new book from lifelong crafting enthusiast, journalist and editor, Perri Lewis.

“I like to think of this as the Jamie Oliver approach to craft. Whack in a bit extra of what you fancy, cut back on the elements you don’t like, or don’t have handy.” she says.

Perri Lewis has enlisted the help of some the best fashion, design and craft experts to share their experiences, wisdom and tricks in a book which sees Philip Treacy give advice on how to make a hat along with tips from the likes of Grayson Perry and Emma Bridgewater. The book covers 15 different techniques including screen-printing, jewellery-making, leather work, decoupage, encrusting, knitting, paper-cutting and quilling. The books aims to be a one-stop shop to get your crafting inspiration juices flowing with useful tips for beginners and old hands alike.

Perri Lewis writes with authority and experience which is comforting to a newbie like myself. She believes that everyone and anyone can be creative, it is just a matter on unlocking that creativity.

“The only difference between so-called creatives and the rest of us is that they know not to panic and where to start.”

inside Material World

Interestingly, she also argues that one of the main reasons for the resurgence in popularity for crafting is not due to the global recession as many media outlets have proposed. Instead it is the therapeutic nature of crafting that has lead to this 21st century boom.

“Making really isn’t that thrifty unless you’re using toilet rolls and sticky-back plastic. Craft is, however, a fantastic way to boost your mood and combat stress.”

The book looks very useful indeed. Each craft technique has both a beginner’s introduction alongside a pro explanation. These succinct explanations include pointers to common mistakes or problems and after each ‘how-to’ for a craft there is a section of insider tricks from professionals who specialise in that craft offering more knowledge and inspiration for your own projects. For example, the screenprinting section has insider tips from Lee May Foster-Wilson of Bonbi Forest who uses screen-printing techniques for her scarves, tees, cards and accessories.

There are also sections of the book dedicated to discussions about the modern-day craft movement, interviews with craft-activists (craftivism), and some fun tongue-in-cheek article such as ‘How to avoid a Craftastrophe’ which is reminiscent of the infamous Regretsy website (which has closed down just a few days ago). There is a lot of material (arf arf!) squeezed into this book that will fill your brain with ideas. But it is so readable you will lap it up in no time.

inside Material World

I have tended to think of craft as a dichotomy of sorts. There is the craft that is knitting your own scarf, making your own Christmas cards, or embellishing your boring old t-shirts. Then there  is the craft that takes years and years of practising and honing and skill such as leather-work, glass-blowing,  tailoring or blacksmithing. The latter is the age-old craft that my lil bro is currently studying for his degree. He is an Artisan Blacksmith. Until he joined his course, which is part of a wider Contemporary Craft faculty, I considered craft as the do-it-yourself at home with your Granny kind of thing. More recently though my eyes have opened to the sheer scale of talent and skill that so many contemporary craftsman display. I think that is where this book really comes into it’s own. Perri Lewis manages to bridge this dichotomy and say, actually there is a long spectrum of crafting and every single one of us can take part. Some might think it’s cheeky to call this book ‘the modern craft bible’ and at first I was dubious. A bible? Really? Could it really be that definitive? But in such a relatively short space of a book so much is shared that I think newbies, amateurs and professionals can all glean some inspiration or reignite some passion for craft.

My 20-year-old cousin in Australia just started her new course in Interior Design this week. It has taken her a few years to work out what direction to go in and her high school was terribly unhelpful in guiding her and she has just followed her instinct with this decision. She is completely new to the world of design and inspiration, and I know she is about to have world of new thinking and skills thrown at her. And as I read this book I kept thinking about my cousin in Oz and imagining how excited she would be by the all these different crafts. I think this is a good sign when reading a book – halfway through and I am already imagining somebody else enjoying it.

As for me, I think I might start off by following the decoupage tutorials. I have some furniture that could do with some sprucing. And following that I might make a patchwork cover to update my thrifted ottoman. See? I am already brimming with ideas.

Material World: The Modern Craft Bible by Perri Lewis is RRP £18.99

My copy of this book was sent to me for review purposes.