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Artist Profile: Martha Latta



Martha Latta exemplifies the handmade ethos when it comes to both her crafts and her approach to life. As a crafter, she reuses -- or "upcycles" -- existing materials, while reaching out and connecting folks through collaborative ventures such as her popular series of Indianapolis zip code T-shirts.

Latta coined the tagline "Indy loves Indie," a slogan made popular when she galvanized her own Windsor Place neighborhood, on the city's near east side, to march in opposition to closing some of the city's library branches.

While Latta does have a part-time day job with Ivy Tech Community College, she sees the crafting side of her work as a major focus, one that has extended into her popular how-to e-books and blog (see her web site).

 She's also at work on a documentary about the crafting community -- along the lines of Faythe Levine's Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design (2007).

As a poster child of the DIY movement, Latta explored the indie ethos early on through a 'zine called "Sunday Afternoon Housewife" she co-crafted with Jessica Halvorson. "I started creating it right after I moved to Indianapolis [from Kokomo] and it contained information like recipes, household tips, as well as interviews with local bands, things about gardening, and lots of random stuff," Latta recalls.

The 'zine morphed into a short-lived all-female band, which then morphed into her craft business. As Latta puts it, "the name actually originated from a conversation with a few friends about how the only time I had to be a housewife with all that I did was on Sunday afternoons."

Latta's current crafting includes, among other items, her eminently popular Scrabble tile jewelry. "I buy Scrabble tiles in bulk off E-bay and I make necklaces out of them," she explains. The letter is on the back, and there's a picture on the front. Latta has come up "hundreds of different designs," she says.

"I like doing it because it's fun," Latta adds. "And people like it because it's fun. It's a little piece of art, you can wear it, and it's not going to break the bank." (Latta's Scrabble necklaces are $9.)

In addition to the Scrabble tile necklaces, Latta makes bracelets and earrings, magnets from repurposed bottle caps, and glass tile pendants, which sport pithy advice such as "Freak out and throw stuff" or "Get excited and make things."

Because Latta travels the contemporary craft circuit fairly extensively, she's in the know about what's hot and what's not; what works and what doesn't. She's able to share this insider information with both seasoned and wannabe crafters on her blog.

One of the best aspects of the craft shows -- "now every city has one," she says -- is the face-to-face contact. "A lot of people see a value in handmade that they can't find at Walmart or at Target... They want to know about you, about your story; they want to know why and how you make what you make."

At this Saturday's INDIEana Handicraft Exchange, nearly a hundred handmade artisans, some from as far away as Canada, will accompany Latta. And the momentum is showing no signs of up letting up.

"As long as people are willing to sit behind their booths and be friendly and talk to people who want to buy from them, it's going to keep happening," Latta says. "It's a lot like farmer's markets... they're not dropping off, and I don't think crafters are dropping off either. Local and handmade and handcrafted: People appreciate it."



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