In 2008, the Baltimore Sun put out an ad searching for bloggers. Amongst those chosen was Christy Zuccarini, who had a taste for the crafty. Her blog, Baltimore By Hand, detailed the work of Baltimore’s crafters. Jewelry, sculptures, textiles and stuffed animals were amongst the many works covered. Photos were posted and paired with quirky interviews with the artists. Within weeks, people were reaching out to Christy. They wanted her coverage.
When the Sun ran into financial issues, they were forced to drop the bloggers they were so keen on gathering. Baltimore By Hand was shut down. “So much got lost in that first blog. Everything got lost with it.” But Christy was perseverant. With the Sun’s permission to stick with the original name, she relaunched the blog in January 2010. “And since then, I’ve really been trying to fill it up again.” From the looks of things, she’s been doing just fine on her own.
Image courtesy of Kathryn Myers
The existence of Baltimore By Hand is due in large part to Zuccarini’s own artistic talent. “I’m a bit of a crafter myself,” she said. “I had an Etsy shop, so I was pretty familiar with the Baltimore and Maryland community.” She spoke to the way in which the city lends itself to such work. “Baltimore’s a really affordable city and, you know, if you’re trying to make a living independently, the cost of living can’t be too high.” She also noted that Baltimore are full of people who “appreciate a sense of creativity,” that “Baltimore has a very down to earth quality about it.”
Christy features a variety of local crafters, but common threads can certainly be found. “First and foremost,” she said, “everything is handmade.” She discussed the ways in which “the line between fine art and craft is blurred and keeps blurring, so sometimes I guess I’ll cover fine artists who use traditional craft media. Basically, it’s people who are making good work and doing it by hand.” Christy’s also taken a specific interest in “people who haven’t really been promoted elsewhere.” She targets those who are “either up and coming, or don’t have the opportunity to fully promote their work…people work day jobs.” (If this is you and you have decent pictures of your work, hit her up at firstname.lastname@example.org. She rarely turns anyone down.)
Beyond their technical similarities, crafters on Baltimore By Hand often adhere to a certain vein of aesthetics. Quirkiness, whimsy and DIY style are valued. Amongst Christy’s favorites, for instance, is the Specks and Keepings collection. Their necklaces and bookends and odds and ends in bright shades of pastels are pretty in a strange, intriguing way. Matt Muirhead is another one of the blogger’s favorites. “He’s actually a neighbor of mine. I’ve been to his studio [Headspace] a bunch of times. I own some of his work.” Matt’s into mixed media painting and screenprinting. And his work is affordable. Understandably, however, Christy was pretty hesitant to mention who her favorites were. She really believes in the innovation and craftsmanship of everyone she covers.
The future of Baltimore By Hand looks bright. “I’m working on creating a book,” said Christy, “and potentially opening a small brick and mortar space in Station North.” Both of these steps fit well into her ultimate goal, which is to build community. “I have a background in community art. In some ways, this is a community art project…one of the reasons I ask those [personal profiling] questions is that sometimes it helps people, when they don’t know what steps to take next, to see someone who’s maybe one step ahead of them”
The personal tidbits that color the blog are perhaps the most charming aspect of Baltimore By Hand. “I certainly don’t think you need to know every detail about an artist’s personal life to fully appreciate their work,” said Christy, “but I mean, they can help spark curiosity.” Along with standard questions on media choices and background checks, artists will dish a bit about their personal lives on the blog. “I can fit my entire fist in my mouth,” shared Kathryn Myers, who makes hats from trinkets and feathers and “dead animal stuff.” Christy and I agreed: her work is badass.
Baltimore By Hand is more than a standard local art blog. It has much more to offer than grainy photos of found object sculpture. Both its format and the work it features are clever, interesting, and fun. These artists know just how much two hands can do.