... less an examination of traditions and techniques than a blow-by-blow chronicle of this country through the lens of craft, from the European settlers to the maker movement and so-called craftivists of today. That no one has ever previously attempted this may be because when we bother to think about craft at all, it is usually through a gauzy haze. Yet Adamson manages to discover 'making' in every aspect of our history, framing it as integral to America’s idea of itself as a nation of self-sufficient individualists. There may be no one better suited to this task ... This is, however, no feel-good quilting circle of a book. Craft aims to reckon with the shameful way we have treated and viewed those who handbuilt the country: Indigenous people, African-Americans, women and the working class.
With an academic’s eye for detail, Adamson examines the ways that crafts like needlework or carpentry provided opportunities for many Americans to achieve a measure of independence. But he also expounds upon the dark side of that trade: When a product that originates in individuality is subsumed by industry, it often leads to the exploitation of workers, including children ... And while Adamson delineates the tension between crafts and business, including the destruction of natural resources and other challenges that persist today, he highlights the effectiveness of crafting within social movements.