Master Makers Shine on New Series, “Handcrafted America”

Craft & Design
Handcrafted America

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Artisans and the Maker Movement are celebrated in the new INSP original series Handcrafted America, which will debut on the family-entertainment network on Tuesday, March 1st at 8pm ET.

In Handcrafted America, you’ll meet fascinating people from all across America who are dedicated to their crafts.  In each half-hour episode, host Jill Wagner (Wipeout, Teen Wolf, Christmas in the Smokies), who seems as genuinely comfortable inside a Makerspace as she is on a movie set, introduces us to three Makers who show how they create their master works, from start to finish, using time-honored methods — and tools that are sometimes even older. Along the way, viewers learn the history and cultural heritage that inspires and influences the artisan’s work.

We got a preview of the show’s first episode, which mesmerized us much like our own Jimmy DiResta videos — they manage to arrest your attention with the pure magic of making.

Handcrafted America
Iron forger Maria Cristalli: Her work commands as much as $40,000.

In episode one, we meet Nathan Bower and his wife Jennifer of Traverse City, Michigan. He’s a former jeweler who fixed the town clock and found his life’s passion. Now he crafts all the parts himself for his “skeleton clocks” (all the workings are visible) and Jennifer does the ornate engraving.

Then we head to Spruce Pine, North Carolina, where Woody’s Chair Shop has been making chairs without nails or glue since 1797. Woody’s chairs, now being built by the family’s seventh generation, have become legendary. The Smithsonian has devoted exhibits to them, and they’ve been immortalized in photos such as the one showing President John F. Kennedy rocking his children on his lap.

Handcrafted America
Wayne Henderson: He made Clapton wait seven years.

While they used to make the chairs entirely by hand, now they use modern tools — if you can call a mortise machine that dates back to 1878 modern, that is.

And, finally, we visit Maria Cristalli, an iron forger who lives in tiny Cle Elum, Washington, 80 miles east of Seattle. Her ironworks bridge the gap between an ancient material and modern forms, and can fetch anywhere from $200 to $40,000. The city of Bellevue, Washington, features her creations as part of its urban landscape.

Other episodes spotlight similarly accomplished Makers, such as cowboy Grady Douglass who handcrafts fine leather products, luthier Wayne Henderson who made Eric Clapton wait seven years for one of his guitars, and Annie Mohaupt who walked away from a career as an architect and into one making custom shoes.

These artisans may also be at the forefront of a budding taste trend,  or so says Craig Miller, INSP’s original programming VP.

The show “taps into the exploding number of makers who are rejecting the soulless nature of mass-produced products in favor of handcrafted goods,” he observes. “After profiling nearly 40 makers across the country, it’s obvious that they don’t choose to make products by hand because it’s easier, faster, or cheaper; they do it because it’s better.”

For many of the same reasons, consumers want their works, along with the emotional attachments that come with them — pride of ownership, and a keepsake embodied in something unique, lasting, and beautiful.

Whatever the inspiration, Handcrafted America stands for something else: It’s the latest indication of how our Movement is spreading — from garages and basements to thousands of new Makerspaces in schools, universities, and towns, not to mention the more than 170 Maker Faires coming to a place near you this year.

Handcrafted America debuts on Tuesday, March 1st at 8pm ET on INSP. 

For additional information, including information on where to watch in your area, please visit

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Patrick Houston is a veteran technology editor and online publishing executive. He is a former editor-in-chief of CNET, and he led the team that launched Yahoo Tech. He is also a media entrepreneur who believes the Maker Movement is at the cutting edge of a new economic epoch that will thrive on inventors, startups, and the 'micro-enterprise.'

View more articles by Patrick Houston


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