To get to the in-home studio where designer and artist Jess Marie Griffith guides customized leather through an industrial-strength sewing machine, you pass about a dozen locally made paintings. There’s a maplike nature study by her husband, Cable Griffith, a black-and-white watercolor on the mantle, and a thick, pensive abstract puddle above the table. The Beacon Hill duplex where Griffith fashions tote bags and pouches has a finders-keepers vibe: A collection of neatly spaced rocks lines the picture window sill; painted canvas squares are pushpinned to the wall.
“I’m not interested in an exclusive club that pushes away crafts,” says the Stanwood native. “I love the handmade pine-needle basket as much as the contemporary art.”
Under the old rules—say, from the Renaissance Era or the ’90s—there was tension between what was framed and carefully lit and what was constructed for everyday use, but Seattle makers like Griffith reject the divide—and the line that separates craftsmen from crafts lovers too.
As part of the summer class series at the Frye Art Museum, she’ll share her techniques for hand stitching the sorts of locally sourced leather accessories that make up her line Pine and Boon—Pine for the local landscape, Boon for what Griffith calls the area’s “abundance of community.”
Griffith and other popup-happy, workshop-friendly artisans are to fashion and design what farmers in their market stands are to the food revolution. “The more we educate,” she says, “the more people can understand that their expectations of fast fashion or luxury brands just do not apply to what we are doing.”