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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Amy Sedaris on Cheeseballs, Cupcakes, and Couture Cat Cosies

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2011 at 12:00 PM

  • Amy Sedaris

Amy Sedaris will celebrate the paperback release of her book

Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People at the Roxie on December 4 with a special evening of crafting and taking questions from the audience, followed by a libation-and-snack-assisted reception and sale of books and her personally crafted items. The $100 ticket price benefits the non-profit theater.

We spoke with the Strangers with Candy star and playwright via phone from New York about crafting, cheeseballs, and why you'll never accidentally bump into her at one of her movies.

Tell us about this event you're having here in San Francisco; we're excited!

Me, too. I never do things like this! I mean, an hour to fill by myself; it'll be fun.

Will there be a crafting component?

I thought I'd talk about my craft book -- it just came out in paperback, and the funny thing is that I keep forgetting it came out in paperback. I've been doing a lot of press for Puss In Boots, and I keep forgetting to mention the book. Usually I do a Q&A when I talk about the book, but no one ever really asks me specific questions about specific pictures. So I think I'm going to go through the book and talk about different photo shoots that we did, behind the scenes. I'll do a craft, and then I'm going to show my craft videos that I put on YouTube myself, and then I'm just going to do some questions and answers.

I wonder if it might end up functioning as a bit of a support group for some of us?

Uh-oh! Go on, what?

Sometimes it's hard to be super-public with one's crafting. There is a lot of discrimination out there toward crafters. Do you ever feel that?

The truth is that the crafting community has accepted me because I think I've brought some awareness to crafting, but I'm not really that good at it. I think I have really good ideas of what I want, and I'm really good at bringing people who can make it happen. But I'm not the kind of person that will spend eight hours doing seed art, you know?

click to enlarge AMY SEDARIS
  • Amy Sedaris

After doing a book about crafting, I can see why some crafters get a bad reputation. They're little shut-ins, usually, because it takes so much time to make stuff and all they want to do is talk about the process of making what they made, and a lot of people don't tolerate that. And you have to charge a lot for the craft because it takes so friggin' long to make something, you know what I mean? I totally get it, and I grew up in a crafting family, so I'm used to it, but I can see where it comes from.

There's also sometimes a bit of ageism in crafting. Here in California, we have these "craft mafias" . . .

[laughs] I like that!

They're these young women crafters, and if you're a little bit older than that, sometimes there's an attitude like, "You're still crafting?"

Oh, you mean that people think it's odd that 40 or 50-year-olds are still crafting? I think once a crafter, always a crafter. I like older crafters because they've really honed their crafts. Like, really, seed art people have those rickety necks and they're all bent over. Like my sister Gretchen, she's a really good crafter and works with nature and she's so beat up. Physically, it takes everything out of you, so I always like it when I meet an older crafter. It's the young people that take up knitting and do these little things, but it doesn't seem to last long. I like the old people that stay with it.

It's kind of like the folks who are in the trenches with it. They're not felting little wool creatures. They come from a time before crafting was so easy.

Right, right. What do you make?

I do a lot of collage-type stuff. I get the découpage glue out and start collaging on boxes and notebooks. I'm not a scrapbooker, though, I don't like the connotation.

I don't consider scrapbooking a craft at all.

What do you consider it?

I don't know. I think it's something that somebody came up with to have an excuse to take over megastores, you know? Scrapbooking, I never got into it and I'm not into it at all. I just don't think of it as a craft. Do you?

I don't. I kind of find it like this frightening sort of subculture cult thing. But I will admit to feeling some of the little tchotchkes and things that are marketed to scrapbookers and want a piece of that flair sometimes, you know? I don't even want to lie to you and say I haven't bought some of that stuff.

Hey, I'm with you. I think, "Oh cute!" And then I find out it's a scrapbooking thing, and I think, "Aw, that's cheating!" I don't go to Michael's [craft department store]. There isn't one here in New York, so I don't go to those megastores, but I have been to them and they're no different than the little hobby shops we had growing up. They have kits, they're already done for you. It's cheating.

My niece is eight and when she does crafts in school, it's like, "What? This isn't how you do it!" Like, in one class, they learned how to make chocolate chip cookies, and they literally went to the grocery store and bought the refrigerated roll of cookie dough and then they took it back to class, sliced it, baked it, and that's how they were taught how to make chocolate chip cookies. That's sooo bad.

It's a world of shortcutting, so being a real crafter is like being a cartographer or something. It's an old world, unnecessary endeavor, some might say.

Well, a lot of it is just shit nobody wants. That's all it is. It's crap and nobody wants it. When somebody gives me a homemade gift, I'm just like, "Ohhhh." But I rotate things a lot in my house so if it's not out, it maybe didn't make this round when I rearrange things. But if it's not useful or practical, then I really have no need for it. It's just ugly, and it's in the way, and it's just usually hideous.

What's your best craft?

What I can do really well, I feel, is I can make potholders from those potholders kits. I didn't discover that until I was in my forties. I'm so good at it, and I'm really fast at it, and I get obsessed with my color combinations. For the San Francisco thing, I'm going to bring 'em all and then sell everything. I've got that and cat cosies and granny caps to sell for five dollars each. Everything must go! Everything's going to be five dollars.

Might you bring cupcakes or cheeseballs?

No way I will because I don't have a place to bake, and I won't have any time to do that. I don't make those anymore anyway. I would on request, but I don't sell 'em anymore.

Do you enjoy the voiceover work, like you've done for Puss In Boots? Do you plan to do more?

I like doing it a lot. The only thing I don't like about it is constantly having to go back and redo stuff. The recording sessions are so far apart; it takes like 2 1/2 years to get a movie made, and you forget what you did. I really enjoy it a lot, then you can actually watch the movie and not criticize yourself, because you're not really seeing yourself. It's the only time I can really enjoy watching something that I'm in. Usually I don't see stuff I'm in.

Is it because you're too hard on yourself when you see it?

No, I'm more like a process person. I remember the process very well, and I don't necessarily need to see the finished product. That's how I am with most of my projects. Especially with a movie, I have no desire to go and watch myself in a film. There's no way I could possibly enjoy it. I was there 100% for the process, so I don't feel guilty when I don't go.

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