Excerpted from Making a Life by Melanie Falick (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2019. Photographs by Rinne Allen


Melanie Falick has been a friend of Alabama Chanin and The School of Making since our earliest days and, through her former imprint at Abrams Books, edited five of our Studio Books. Her dedication to crafting by hand and sharing the importance of doing so made us compatible and complementary partners throughout the years. As part of her most recent journey, she has written a beautiful book called Making a Life: Working by Hand and Discovering the Life You Are Meant to Live. In it, she highlights inspiring makers—including Natalie and other friends Kristine Vejar from A Verb For Keeping Warm and Jack Sanders from Design Build Adventure—from across the globe and celebrates how they are both embracing traditional techniques and innovating to ensure those skills will last for many years to come. 

Excerpted from Making a Life by Melanie Falick (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2019. All photographs by Rinne Allen except top center by Elysa Weitala

Through her journeys, she met artists and artisans of countless disciplines and skillsets whose work spoke to age-old questions like: what does making offer the maker, how does creating connect people and generations, what opportunities can we embrace to express our needs and feelings, and how much power is there in slowing down to produce things with our own two hands? Part of what Melanie does so well through Making a Life is to demonstrate that what we do with our hands and our skills impacts our wellness and brings out our most human elements.  

She writes, “I realized that, in a circuitous way, during the last few months, I had been attempting to connect to my own survival. Even though I didn’t need to make my own clothing, boxes, or bed – or much of anything – to stay alive, I needed that bond to feel whole, competent and grounded, connected to my heart and soul, to my community, to my ancestors, and to the natural world around me. And, as a result of giving myself time to wander and to make, I no longer felt lost: I understood myself better and found a new course.” 

Melanie takes a detailed approach and delves into ideas that we have espoused as part of our discussion of the living arts – that creating has been a part of human culture from its earliest days. Handwork was essential to our survival and it has, for a number of reasons, fallen by the wayside. Her approach focuses on interviewing and learning about the processes of over 30 individual makers across many disciplines. Her subjects range from fiber artists to ceramicists, to furniture makers and metal workers – from locations ranging as far as Appalachia, England, Austin, Texas, India, and Oakland, California. They are from wide-ranging backgrounds and all started making at different moments in their lives. Every artist included has found affirmation and strength within the act of making with their own two hands. As part of the book, we were honored to welcome Melanie to The Factory last year for a discussion on hand-making, craft, and slow design.

Our planet is currently facing a time where things remain uncertain. A mere few weeks ago, the whole world was at our figurative fingertips and we could obtain almost anything we wanted in a click. But, as we are forced to slow down, perhaps it is a good time to follow Melanie on her journey and learn why it is still important to rely on our own hands for comfort and to meet our needs. Use your literal fingertips to feel out materials and techniques. Use online resources to learn crafts you have always wanted to know about while you can. Making a Life can guide you on your journey of what you want your days to look like when we all come together again. 

Images excerpted from Making a Life by Melanie Falick (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2019. Photographs by Rinne Allen and Elysa Weitala.

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3 comments on “MAKING A LIFE

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  1. Betsy

    Wow! Gorgeous! I want a copy!
    A HARD copy!🥰
    Amazon has Kindle only, would love to k ow if you are selling this at A.C.
    Can’t seem to find it!

    1. Alabama Chanin

      Hi Betsy,

      At this time, unfortunately, we are not. When we check on Amazon, 17 hardcover copies are showing as available, however. Maybe they’ve updated stock! Melanie’s website (https://melaniefalick.com/) lists that books can be found at the following places: BN.com, IndieBound, and Powell’s. Please let us know if this helps!

  2. Brenda Weaver Owens

    The last few weeks I started leaving again after years being away from it. I learned how to weave on a rigid heddle loom out of total boredom one summer while living in Alabama. I always wanted to learn how to weave because my maiden name is Weaver and felt it would be natural for me and it has been. I drove over an hour once a week for 4 weeks for my weaving lessons in Georgia. When my classes were done I decided to make a baby blanket for a special friend who had just given birth to a baby girl. The woven baby blanket turned out beautiful to my amazement and became a favorite to the baby as she was growing. My weaving project kept me grounded, kept my mind busy and helped me through a very difficult time.
    I realizeed trying to cope through this extremely stressful pandemic that I needed something to concentrate on, to take me away from a situation I had no control over. I decided to start weaving again, something to give me joy in my life and a purpose. In the last two weeks I have woven two beautiful scarves from alpaca fiber that I purchased locally. For my next project I am thinking about another baby blanket for my great-grandson that will be born in another month.
    The inner peace that I experience while weaving and creating takes me away from the outer world helping me to find inner calmness and joy.
    Thank you for your post sharing how important it is to be centered in creative inner joy.