Handmade Conversations: Criminal Crafts with Shawn Bowman

Posted by on Aug 28, 2012

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Criminal crafts offer an irreverent take on DIY with such unique crafts as a crime scene gingerbread man cookie or a shiv-inspired holster for your sewing scissors. They refuse, however, to veer into that creepy territory of morbid or maudlin. Shawn Bowman, author of  "Criminal Crafts: Outlaw Projects For Scoundrels, Cheats, and Armchair Detectives," creates illicit crafts that offer a humorous take on vintage noir and classic jailhouse movie props. We interviewed the author (a.k.a. Miss Demeanor) to learn more about her unique style and also how to bring these cheeky criminal creations into our own repertoire.

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How did you get started with criminal crafts? What keeps you attracted to it?

The whole idea behind the book started with a rivalry between a girlfriend and myself about who could out-craft the other. I ended up blogging about it and criminal crafts become more elaborate.

Criminals & crafts — what’s the connection?

If you think about, all these movies we see about people who spend huge amounts of time in jail — they are resourceful, knitting a sweater out of discarded socks, breaking out with teaspoons, making shivs with dental floss. That is just like me, I’ll make something out of anything if left alone for more than 10 minutes.

What are some challenges of making criminal crafts?

I wanted to make sure each project was lighthearted, more of an allusion to noir and funny Hitchcock movies, not psychotic. Finding a balance between having a good laugh and not being too creepy, or things that shouldn’t be glorified, is important.
crime scene gingerbread man
What are your favorite trends in criminal crafts? Any you'd rather not see?

I hate ombre. How did this become a thing? And wonky and bold, I'm done with those words. And whimsical.

How can someone get started with criminal crafts?

Start with a couple of stiff drinks, open up a craft box and imagine your escape plan. These are fantasy projects all about having that moment of coming up with an alias, and asking, "If I were a master criminal, what would I make?"

What advice would you give to aspiring craft authors?

It’s overdone, but finding a niche is big. There are so many general craft books out there, and finding that thing that you’re passionate about that nobody else has done is important but hard.
cover of criminal crafts
Shawn Bowman is the author of "Criminal Crafts: Outlaw Projects For Scoundrels, Cheats, and Armchair Detectives," published by Andrews McMeel Publishing. Images by Shawn Bowman, Laura Sams and Robert Sams.

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(1 comment)
  • by andrew dewar
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    andrew dewar

    Fascinating! You've found a great niche; hat's off! But I'm thinking, maybe we all need rivals to help us try the kinds of things that turn out to be fresh and ours alone.