“Home sweet home” is a phrase that denotes grounding and comfort inside and out. For many, the phrase inspires images of driving up to a house after a family road trip, or cozying up to a fireplace. Yet for others – from US service members to recent graduates chasing employment opportunities – home can be less of a place and more of a feeling of belonging. Perhaps a quilt that reminds one of family is what makes a home; perhaps it’s having lots of plants to care for. For many, home is wherever friends, like-minded people, even pets are. But whether one chooses to define it by location, objects, or community, the fact remains that the home is a highly personal space.
This issue of American Craft attempts to expand and complicate popular narratives about “the home” and craft’s role in creating one. We learn about the legacy of enjarradoras (women adobe builders) of the Southwest and hear tales ingrained in a historical cabin-turned-artwork. We also profile several makers who create custom pieces for living spaces, and we provide tips for those intimidated by the commission process.
In “Flower Cloth: A Storytelling Textile," May Lee-Yang demonstrates how paj ntaub, a textile tradition, traveled and evolved with the Hmong through multiple forced migrations. The craft is just one example of the way hands carry stories from home to home across generations.
Hmong American sister duo Youa and Wone Vang of Third Daughter Restless Daughter know this well. The sisters remember stitching with their grandmother, who taught them about paj ntaub, as children. Years later, the pair took up needle and thread again, joining what they learned from their grandmother with their own artistic interests. Now they create humorous and subversive cross-stitches that buyers hang in rooms big and small, homes permanent and temporary.
Like the Vang sisters, many of us have stories and skills passed down to us that inform who we become. They’re often what help us feel at home.